(To read the entire “Quotes Behaving Badly” series, click here.)
While basking on my deck in Hawaii on my honeymoon, I read the local Dining magazine for ideas of where to eat, and happened upon an article on Hawaiian honey. How important is honey to Hawaii and man? Let’s ask theoretical-physicist-turned-ecobiologist Albert Einstein, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
If you read Monday’s post, you probably know where this is going. Einstein never said that. If you need something to sound smart, why not slap Einstein's name on it? In the spirit of Einstein, we return today with more examples of “quotes behaving badly”, On Violence reader edition.
1. Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other alternatives. - Winston Churchill
We got this gem from Karaka Pend, and after doing some research, I think she’s right. This quote is often cited, but never in context. I’d like there to be a new rule for quotes: cite when or where the original quote came from.
2. No plan survives first contact with the enemy. - Moltke the Elder
From Christopher: “The actual quote, normally unattributed, that this simplistic drivel, used by every idiot who wouldn’t know how to unfold an entrenching tool but deigns to opine on affairs military, is much more complex and specific and not as definitive. The source is Moltke the Elder. Most people, even military folks, wouldn’t know him from a Molson Lager.
‘…no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.’ You can find it in the book, Moltke On the Art of War by Daniel Hughes, on page 92.”
Well said. We would add that you can find this quote as part of Murphy’s Laws, for whatever that’s worth.
3. I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Most often two of these qualities come together. The officers who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Those who are stupid and lazy make up around 90% of every army in the world, and they can be used for routine work. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately! - Erwin Rommel
Another one from Christopher: “This quote is frequently, and incorrectly attributed to Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel. The actual source is Generaloberst Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, writing in 1933. An interesting guy to say the least. His wikipedia entry is quite good.”
4. The nation which draws too broad a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. - Thucydides
Starbuck got hit by this one over at Kings of War. Sir William Francis Butler was the actual speaker.
5. Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is. - TE Lawrence
Head over to Wings Over Iraq for the full take down of this quote.
6. The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. - Eric C
The power of quotes. Earlier this week, trying to identify and tag a #quotebehavingbadly on twitter, I accidentally got the above quote retweeted and retweeted. I was just trying to make a point that, on MLK day, a lot of people were mis-identifying the quote. Instead, it made its way around the Internet again, thanks to me.
Check out quote #2 from the original “Quotes Behaving Badly” post to read a similar counter-argument against this idea.
7. Wars not make one great. - Yoda