The Angry Staff Officer

Classic Military Quotes Brought into the Modern Era

December 1944, Probably England, UK — General Eisenhower Behind the Wheel of a Jeep — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Military doctrine is updated every few years, to reflect the changes in technology, tactics, operations, and strategy, as well as to keep several thousand doctrine writers employed. Next to military doctrine, famous quotes from past military leaders are the most commonly cited source when two strategists are arguing.

But although we update our doctrine, we never update our quotes. In an effort to assist the military in transitioning into the 21st century, I have very helpfully taken classic military quotes and brought them up to date with the digital age so that young service members can better relate to them.

“It is well that PowerPoint is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”
– Robert E. Lee, J-3, CENTCOM

Image courtesy Wikimedia

“I regret that I have but one SHARP briefing to give for my country.”
– Nathan Hale, S-2

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without taking your Cyber Awareness Challenge.”
– Sun Tzu, Commander, ARCYBER

“You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will just be in Iraq forever.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte, Plans Officer, FORSCOM

“The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by well-articulated decision point briefings and excellent slide backgrounds.”
– Otto von Bismark, Political Affairs Adviser

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither run out of ice cream at the FOB DFAC nor heard the groans of Soldiers unable to get wings at the Bagram Pizza Hut, who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman, Commander, Task Force Burnitalldown

Quote is not mine, sadly. I wish I knew who made this.

“There is no avoiding a mandatory briefing; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli, S-1, Public Affairs Officer

“Only the dead have seen the end of resiliency training.”
– Plato, Professor, Navy War College

“I have not yet begun to brief!”
– John Paul Jones, Commander, 10th Fleet

“Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without their reflective belts.”
– Euripides, Joint Staff, Pentagon

“There never was a good MRE or a bad RipIt.”
– Ben Franklin, J-4, CENTCOM

“Next to a lost battle, nothing is so sad as a battle that has never happened because we drone strike everyone now.”
– Arthur Wellesley, NATO Liaison

“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Send drones out as soon as you can. Dither about sending in ground forces as hard as you can, and keep passing the buck to someone else.”
– Ulysses S. Grant, National Security Adviser

From the Life and Times of U.S. Grant

“Cry,’Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of limited, low intensity counterinsurgency.”
– William Shakespeare, Poet Laureate for MARSOC

“In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. Well, actually just one thing: the lawyers at the Department of Justice have to bless off on it.”
– Thomas Aquinas, U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps

“It is fatal to enter into any war without the will to keep creating PowerPoint presentations.”
– Douglas MacArthur, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“The backbone of surprise is fusing mandatory briefings with a urinalysis drug test…War is merely a continuation of politics through PowerPoint.”
– Carl von Clausewtiz, Command and General Staff College

“A good spreadsheet violently tracked now is better than a perfect spreadsheet tracked next week.”
– George S. Patton, G-3 Plans

If you haven’t visited Lady History at her blog, you need to.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving Congress’s infatuation with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”
George Washington, President of the United States

“God is not on the side of the heavy battalions but on the side of the people who complete their Accident Avoidance Course.”
– Voltaire, Army Safety Officer

Have you own favorite military quotations that you have updated into modern parlance? Feel free to share them in the comments section.


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