When asked how he won his battles, General Nathan Bedford Forrest said, “I always make it a rule to get there first with the most men.” Whether he really said it that way, or whether he said “git thar fustest with the mostest,” as he is more commonly quoted, is not important. In good English or colloquial, Forrest’s rule of thumb embodies a fundamental principle of war. It is just as valid today as it was in 1865—or, for that matter, in 1865 B.C.
There are some who say the next war will be just a missile duel at long range—merely a matter of lobbing some appallingly destructive warheads neatly over the nervous folk of Europe between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. This is foolish counsel indeed. As Korea, Suez, Lebanon, and Quemoy confirm, wars may be small or localized, or limited in objective, as well as global and utterly destructive. And in any event they require the deployment of military forces in remote theaters of conflict. Neither the A-bomb nor the ballistic missile has repealed the tactical principle so succinctly phrased by General Forrest.