“How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence…and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable “patriots,” and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.
“My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls…I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realize just what a blundering thing Great War must be.
“Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game all out of proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realization conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.”
--H.G. Wells, Little Wars, 1913
Sadly, the world did not learn Wells' lesson, as the catastrophic Great War he feared struck the year after he published. This is the centennial of of the publication of Little Wars, and that century has seen more military deaths and catastrophe than any other. My holiday wish is that we all learn his lesson and do our damage in Little Wars rather than Great ones.