Napoleon expressed the principle of communication very well. He knew that a front-line army without food and ammunition cannot fight or move, and invites defeat. Napoleon himself lost two armies, one because he neglected this principle, and the other because the English severed his line of communication.
The official definition of lines of communication is: “All the routes, land, water, and air, which connect an operating military force with its base of operations, along which supplies and reinforcements move” (U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dictionary of U.S. Military Terms for Joint Usage, s.v. “lines of communication”). Adequate supplies must continue to move along these routes until a campaign is over. If an army is in pursuit, its supplies must move all the faster and farther. The principle of communication is violated whenever an enemy is allowed to cut off supplies or when an army advances too far and too fast for adequate supplies to keep up.
Napoleon was defeated on both counts. In the closing years of the eighteenth century, he invaded Egypt. The French fleet in the Mediterranean provided the lines of communication. Militarily speaking, Egypt was an easy conquest, but the English got word of this movement and Lord Nelson went after the French fleet. He found and sunk it near the mouth of the Nile, stranding Napoleon’s army in Egypt.
Years later, having conquered most of Europe, Napoleon invaded Russia. In the middle of winter he found he had disastrously overextended his line of supply. Another army was lost through violation of the principle of communication. It is no victory to defeat the enemy tactically and then freeze and starve to death.
In the fall and winter of 1950, the United Nations forces pursued their defeated enemy up the Korean peninsula faster than adequate food, winter clothing, ammunition, and engineers could follow. The victorious army arrived at the Yalu River thinned out in supplies and unprepared for winter. In this state they were caught by the Chinese Communist Army, which crossed the Yalu River supplied and winterized. The hitherto victorious army now retreated to the 38th parallel. Great numbers were overrun, surrounded, and captured; only the amphibious evacuation at Hungnam saved most of a surrounded army. This principle of war may not be the most important, but it still must be practiced. Without it, victory is temporary, defeat ultimate.
So it is in the war with Satan. Spiritual defeat is the only reward for those who overextend their lines of communication or allow them to be severed. We in the Army of the Lord must maintain communication with our commander in chief. He is the source of supply for spiritual food, ammunition, information, and orders. We have two-way communication with God: prayer and the Word of God. Prayer is our means of communication to him. Via prayer we make our needs known; through intercession we ask help for cooperating forces. By prayer we praise him for victories won and confess our defeats.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to “pray constantly.” Spiritual communication must not be broken. The enemy endeavors to cut our supply line by the simple device of temptation. If we yield, sin results, and sin severs. The presence of sin suppresses the desire to confess defeat. We do not praise God, thank him, or intercede for others. Confession is the only means of restoring communication.
*Excerpted from Principles of War. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.