From the Preface to "Sherman: Soldier, Realistic, American" -
To place the position of battles and trace the action of battalions and batteries is only of value to the collector of antiques, and still more to the dealer in faked antiques. Those who believe that exactness is possible can never have known war, or must have forgotten it. And even if by supernatural means we could recreate the action in such detail, it would be historically valueless. For the issue of any operation of war is decided not by what the situation actually is, but by what the rival commanders think it is. Historically and practically, it is far more important to discover what information they had, and the times at which it reached them, than to know the actual situation of the "pieces." A battlefield is not a chessboard.
Emphasis added. "For the issue of any operation of war is decided not by what the situation actually is, but by what the rival commanders think it is."
"The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battles is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men. The best history would be register of their thoughts and emotions, with a background of events to throw them into relief."
-- B.H. Liddel Hart, quoted in the introduction to Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American
I still feel vague, morbid surprise every time I get on the subway. Don’t people fall off the platform? Get hit by the front car? Land on the third rail? I’m fascinated by the garbage between the rails, by the rats. It amazes me that in this world where consumers are cautioned that bags of peanuts contain nuts, where playgrounds are padded and cars have upwards of four airbags and onboard maps, that I just walk through this turnstile and am expected to watch out for my own safety. There’s no guardrails, no guards, no attempt to keep people back other than the rough yellow floor panels. Every time I get hit with the whack of air pushed aside by the front of the car roaring into the station (which I try to not inhale), I check to make sure I’m back from the edge. I imagine London. Madrid. Die Hard: With a Vengeance. What will I do when catastrophe strikes? [It may be worth noting that I have exceeded my lifetime allotment of Law and Order, as recommended by the Association for Propagating Realistic Fears Through Television Council.] This continued fascination with the subway is probably one of the things that will give me away as a non-New Yorker, even if I spend the next thirty years here.
New Yorkers are supposed to be unflappable. Callous. They’ve seen it all, they don’t notice insanity or weirdness. New Yorkers just want to get where they’re going and not be bothered. People commented, after September 11th, how unusually nice everyone in New York was being to each other. When I moved here, wanting to witness this in action, I watched people watching weirdness—the drunks and the buskers and the beggars and people yelling at each other. I’ve decided that New Yorkers are just as put off by insanity and weirdness as people in Denver. But, like abused spouses who only want to avoid conflict whenever possible, subway riders employ the strategy of disengagement. Ignore it. It’ll go away. Ignore it. It’ll confine itself to ricocheting off the walls, it won’t splatter on me. There’s only three stops to go. It’s not worth the trouble.
I watch the people watching. We keep a close eye on the weirdness, all of us. We need to know the precise moment when Operation Ignore must escalate to Operation Mandatory Evacuation.
On the A train from JFK, two little black boys are arguing over how best to do the Moonwalk. One has the backward slide down. The other has noticed how Jackson would kick his knees forward just a little. They each have half the formula, they just need to combine it.
I make the mistake of opening my mouth to tell them this. They stare at me, stunned, unblinking. I have invaded their privacy.