Paulucci, who did not know German, began questioning him in French. Wolzogen came to the assistance of his chief, who spoke French badly, and began translating for him, hardly able to keep pace with Pfuel, who was rapidly demonstrating that not only all that had happened, but all that could happen, had been foreseen in his scheme, and that if there were now any difficulties the whole fault lay in the fact that his plan had not been precisely executed. He kept laughing sarcastically, he demonstrated, and at last contemptuously ceased to demonstrate, like a mathematician who ceases to prove in various ways the accuracy of a problem that has already been proved. Wolzogen took his place and continued to explain his views in French, every now and then turning to Pfuel and saying, "Is it not so, your excellency?" But Pfuel, like a man heated in a fight who strikes those on his own side, shouted angrily at his own supporter, Wolzogen:
"Well, of course, what more is there to explain?"
Paulucci and Michaud both attacked Wolzogen simultaneously in French. Armfeldt addressed Pfuel in German. Toll explained to Volkonski in Russian. Prince Andrew listened and observed in silence.
Of all these men Prince Andrew sympathized most with Pfuel, angry, determined, and absurdly self-confident as he was. Of all those present, evidently he alone was not seeking anything for himself, nursed no hatred against anyone, and only desired that the plan, formed on a theory arrived at by years of toil, should be carried out. He was ridiculous, and unpleasantly sarcastic, but yet he inspired involuntary respect by his boundless devotion to an idea. Besides this, the remarks of all except Pfuel had one common trait that had not been noticeable at the council of war in 1805: there was now a panic fear of Napoleon's genius, which, though concealed, was noticeable in every rejoinder. Everything was assumed to be possible for Napoleon, they expected him from every side, and invoked his terrible name to shatter each other's proposals. Pfuel alone seemed to consider Napoleon a barbarian like everyone else who opposed his theory. But besides this feeling of respect, Pfuel evoked pity in Prince Andrew. From the tone in which the courtiers addressed him and the way Paulucci had allowed himself to speak of him to the Emperor, but above all from a certain desperation in Pfuel's own expressions, it was clear that the others knew, and Pfuel himself felt, that his fall was at hand. And despite his self-confidence and grumpy German sarcasm he was pitiable, with his hair smoothly brushed on the temples and sticking up in tufts behind. Though he concealed the fact under a show of irritation and contempt, he was evidently in despair that the sole remaining chance of verifying his theory by a huge experiment and proving its soundness to the whole world was slipping away from him.
The discussions continued a long time, and the longer they lasted the more heated became the disputes, culminating in shouts and personalities, and the less was it possible to arrive at any general conclusion from all that had been said. Prince Andrew, listening to this polyglot talk and to these surmises, plans, refutations, and shouts, felt nothing but amazement at what they were saying. A thought that had long since and often occurred to him during his military activities- the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of war, and that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius- now appeared to him an obvious truth. "What theory and science is possible about a matter the conditions and circumstances of which are unknown and cannot be defined, especially when the strength of the acting forces cannot be ascertained? No one was or is able to foresee in what condition our or the enemy's armies will be in a day's time, and no one can gauge the force of this or that detachment. Sometimes- when there is not a coward at the front to shout, 'We are cut off!' and start running, but a brave and jolly lad who shouts, 'Hurrah!'- a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schon Grabern, while at times fifty thousand run from eight thousand, as at Austerlitz. What science can there be in a matter in which, as in all practical matters, nothing can be defined and everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of which is determined at a particular moment which arrives no one knows when? Armfeldt says our army is cut in half, and Paulucci says we have got the French army between two fires; Michaud says that the worthlessness of the Drissa camp lies in having the river behind it, and Pfuel says that is what constitutes its strength; Toll proposes one plan, Armfeldt another, and they are all good and all bad, and the advantages of any suggestions can be seen only at the moment of trial. And why do they all speak of a 'military genius'? Is a man a genius who can order bread to be brought up at the right time and say who is to go to the right and who to the left? It is only because military men are invested with pomp and power and crowds of sychophants flatter power, attributing to it qualities of genius it does not possess. The best generals I have known were, on the contrary, stupid or absent-minded men. Bagration was the best, Napoleon himself admitted that. And of Bonaparte himself! I remember his limited, self-satisfied face on the field of Austerlitz. Not only does a good army commander not need any special qualities, on the contrary he needs the absence of the highest and best human attributes- love, poetry, tenderness, and philosophic inquiring doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he will not have sufficient patience), and only then will he be a brave leader. God forbid that he should be humane, should love, or pity, or think of what is just and unjust. It is understandable that a theory of their 'genius' was invented for them long ago because they have power! The success of a military action depends not on them, but on the man in the ranks who shouts, 'We are lost!' or who shouts, 'Hurrah!' And only in the ranks can one serve with assurance of being useful."
So thought Prince Andrew as he listened to the talking, and he roused himself only when Paulucci called him and everyone was leaving.
At the review next day the Emperor asked Prince Andrew where he would like to serve, and Prince Andrew lost his standing in court circles forever by not asking to remain attached to the sovereign's person, but for permission to serve in the army.
War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy