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A General Must Know his Enemy's Character

And in making these calculations Hannibal showed his
Hannibal correctly judges the character of Flaminius.
consummate prudence and strategical ability. For it is mere blind ignorance to believe that there can be anything of more vital importance to a general than the knowledge of his opponent's character and disposition. As in combats between individuals or ranks, he who would conquer must observe carefully how it is possible to attain his object, and what part of his enemy appears unguarded or insufficiently armed,— so must a commander of an army look out for the weak place, not in the body, but in the mind of the leader of the hostile force. For it has often happened before now that, from mere idleness and lack of energy, men have let not only the welfare of the state, but even their private fortunes fall to ruin: some are so addicted to wine that they cannot sleep without bemusing their intellects with drink; and others so infatuated in their pursuit of sensual pleasures, that they have not only been the ruin of their cities and fortunes, but have forfeited life itself with disgrace. In the case of individuals, however, cowardice and sloth bring shame only on themselves; but when it is a commander-in-chief that is concerned, the disaster affects all alike and is of the most fatal consequence. It not only infects the men under him with an inactivity like his own; but it often brings absolute dangers of the most serious description upon those who trust such a general. For rashness, temerity, and uncalculating impetuosity, as well as foolish ambition and vanity, give an easy victory to the enemy. And are the source of numerous dangers to one's friends: for a man who is the prey of such weaknesses falls the easiest victim to every stratagem, ambush or ruse. The general then who can gain a clear idea of his opponent's weaknesses, and direct his attack on the point where he is most open to it, will very soon be the victor in the campaign. For as a ship, if you deprive it of its steerer, falls with all its crew into the hands of the enemy; so, in the case of an army in war, if you outwit or out-manœuvre its general, the whole will often fall into your hands.

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