In short you could just read the bits in bold.
"IT must continually be insisted upon in military history, that general actions, however decisive, are but the functions of campaigns; and that campaigns, in their turn, are but the functions of the political energies of the governments whose armies are engaged.
The object of a campaign is invariably a political object, and all its military effort is, or should be, subsidiary to that political object.
One human community desires to impose upon the future a political condition which another human community rejects; or each is attempting to impose upon the future, conditions irreconcilable one with the other.
Until we know what those conditions are, or what is the political objective of each opponent, we cannot decide upon the success of a campaign, nor give it its true position in history.
Thus, to take the simplest and crudest case, a nation or its government determines to annex the territory of a neighbour; that is, to subject a neighbouring community to the laws of the conqueror. That neighbouring community and its government, if they are so old-fashioned as to prefer freedom, will resist by force of arms, and there will follow what is called a "campaign" (a term derived from the French, and signifying a countryside : for countrysides are the theatres of wars). In this campaign the political object of the attempted conquest on the one hand, and of resistance to it on the other, are the issue. The military aspect of the campaign is subsidiary to its political objects, and we judge of its success or failure not in military but in political terms.
The prime military object of a general is to "annihilate" the armed force of his opponents. He may do this by breaking up their organisation and dispersing them, or by compelling the surrender of their arms. He may achieve success in this purely military object in any degree. But if, as an end and consequence of his military success, the political object be not achieved if, for instance, in the particular case we are considering, the neighbouring community does not in the future obey laws dictated to it by the conqueror, but remains autonomous then the campaign has failed.
Such considerations are, I repeat, the very foundation of military history; and throughout this Series they will be insisted upon as the light in which alone military history can be understood.
It is further true that not only may a campaign be successful in the military sense, and yet in the largest historical sense be a failure, but, quite evidently, the actions in a campaign may each be successful and yet the campaign a failure ; or each action may, on the whole, fail, and yet that campaign be a success. As the old formula goes, "You can win every battle and lose your campaign." And, again, "A great general does not aim at winning battles, but at winning his campaign." An action results from the contact of the opposing forces, and from the necessity in which they find themselves, after such contact, of attempting the one to disorganise or to capture the other. And in the greater part actions are only "accepted," as the phrase goes, by either party, because each party regards the action as presenting opportunities for his own success.
A campaign can perfectly well be conceived in which an opponent, consciously inferior in the field, will avoid action throughout, and by such a plan can actually win the campaign in the end. Historical instances of this, though rare, exist. And there have even been campaigns where, after a great action disastrous to one side, that side has yet been able to keep up a broken resistance sufficiently lengthy and exhausting to baulk the conqueror of his political object in the end.
In a word, it is the business of the serious student in military history to reverse the popular and dramatic conception of war, to neglect the brilliance and local interest of a battle for the larger view of the whole operations; and, again, to remember that these operations are not an end in themselves, but are only designed to serve the political plan of the government which has commanded them. Judged in this true light, we may establish the following conclusions with regard to the battle of Waterloo.
First, the battle of Waterloo was a decisive action, the result of which was a complete military success for the Allies in the campaign they had undertaken, and a complete military defeat for Napoleon, who had opposed them.
This complete military success of the Allies' campaign was, again, equivalent to a success in their immediate political object, which was the overthrow of Napoleon's personal power, the re-establishment of the Bourbons upon the French throne, and the restoration of those traditions and ideals of government which had been common to Europe before the outbreak of the French Revolution twenty-four years before.
Had the effect of this battle and that campaign been permanent, one could speak of their success as complete; but when we discuss that largest issue of all, to wit, whether the short campaign which Waterloo so decisively concluded really effected its object, considering that that object was the permanent destruction of the revolutionary effort and the permanent re- establishment of the old state of affairs in Europe, we are compelled to arrive at a very different conclusion: a conclusion which will vary with the varying judgment of men, and one which cannot be final, because the drama is not yet played out; but a conclusion which, in the eyes of all, singularly modifies the effect of the campaign of Waterloo.
It is obvious, at the first glance we take of European history during, say, the lifetime of a man who should have been a boy in Waterloo year, that the general political object of the revolutionary and Napoleonic armies was not reversed at Waterloo. It was ultimately established. The war had been successfully maintained during too long a period for the uprooting of the political conditions which the French had attempted to impose upon Europe. Again, those conditions were sufficiently sympathetic to the European mind at the time to develop generously, and to grow in spite of all attempted restriction. And we discover, as a fact, democratic institutions, democratic machinery at least, spreading rapidly again after their defeat at Waterloo, and partially victorious, first in France and later elsewhere, within a very few years of that action.
The same is true of certain secondary results of the prolonged revolutionary and Napoleonic campaigns. Nationality pre- dominated over the old idea of a monarch governing his various "peoples," and the whole history of the nineteenth century was a gradual vindication of the principle of nationality. A similar fate awaited institutions bound up with the French revolutionary effort: a wide and continually expressed suffrage, the arming of whole nations in defence of their independence, the ordering of political life upon the new plan, down even to the details of the revolutionary weights and measures (the metre, the gramme, etc.) these succeeded and in effect triumphed over the arrangements which that older society had fought to restore.
[And so 200 hundred years on I'm still fighting the Battle of Waterloo by drinking PINTS of non-alcoholic snakebite and by still being five FOOT ten INCHES tall. Walking 27 Miles each year on the GK Chesterton Pilgrimage helps as well, http://www.catholicgkchestertonsociety.co.uk/]
On the other hand, the advance of all this was much slower, much more disturbed, much less complete, than it would have been had Napoleon not failed in Russia, suffered his decisive defeat at Leipzig, and fallen for ever upon that famous field of Waterloo; and one particular characteristic, namely, the imposition of all these things upon Europe by the will of a government at Paris, wholly disappeared.
We may sum up, then, and say that the political effect of the battle of Waterloo and its campaign was an immediate success for the Allies: that their ultimate success the history of the nineteenth century has reversed; but that the victory of Waterloo modified, retarded, and perhaps distorted in a permanent fashion the establishment of those conceptions of society and government which the Revolution, and Napoleon as its soldier, had set out to establish.
There is a side question attached to all this, with which I shall conclude, because it forms the best introduction to what is to follow: that question is, "Would Napoleon have ultimately succeeded even if he had triumphed instead of fallen upon the 18th of June 1815?" In other words, was Waterloo one of these battles the winning or losing of which by either side, meant a corresponding decisive result to that side? Had Wellington's command broken at Waterloo before the arrival of Blucher, would Napoleon's consequent victory have meant as much to him as his defeat actually meant to the allies? The answer of history to this question is, No. Even had Napoleon won on that day he would have lost in the long run.
The date to which we must affix the reverse of Napoleon's effort is not the 18th of June 1815, but the 19th of October 1812, when the Grand Army began its retreat from Moscow; and the political decision, his failure in which was the origin of his fall, was not the decision taken in June 1815 to advance against the Allies in Belgium, but the decision taken in May 1812 to advance into the vast spaces of Russia. The decisive action which the largest view of history will record in centuries to come as the defeat which ruined Napoleon took place, not south of Brussels, but near the town of Leipzig, two years before. From the last moment of that three days' battle (again the 19th of October, precisely a twelvemonth after the retreat from Moscow had begun), Napoleon and the French armies are continually falling back. Upon the 4th of April in the following year Napoleon abdicated; and exactly a month later, on the 4th of May, he was imprisoned, under the show of local sovereignty, in the island of Elba.It was upon the 1st of March 1815 that, having escaped from that island, he landed upon the southern coast of France. There followed the doomed attempt to save somewhat of the Revolution and the Napoleonic scheme, which is known to history as the "hundred days." Even that attempt would have been impossible had not the greater part of the commanders of units in the French army, that is, of the colonels of regiments, abandoned the Bourbon government, which had been restored at Paris, and decided to support Napoleon.
But even so, the experiment was hazardous in the extreme. Had the surrounding governments which had witnessed and triumphed over his fall permitted him, as he desired, to govern France in peace, and France alone, this small part of the revolutionary plan might have been saved from the general wreck of its fortunes and of his. But such an hypothesis is fantastic. There could be and there was no chance that these great governments, now fully armed, and with all their organised hosts prepared and filled with the memory of recent victory, would permit the restoration of democratic government in that France which had been the centre and outset of the vast movement they had determined to destroy. Further, though Napoleon had behind him the majority, he had not the united mass of the French people. An ordered peace following upon victory would have given him such a support; after his recent crushing defeat it was lacking. It was especially true that the great chiefs of the army were doubtful. His own generals rejoined him, some with enthusiasm, more with doubt, while a few betrayed him early in the process of his attempted restoration.
It is impossible to believe that under such circumstances Napoleon could have successfully met Europe in arms. The military resources of the French people, though not exhausted, were reaching their term. New levies of men yielded a material far inferior to the conscripts of earlier years; and when the Emperor estimated 800,000 men as the force which he required for his effort, it was but the calculation of despair. Eight hundred thousand men: even had they been the harvest of a long peace, the whole armed nation, vigorous in health and fresh for a prolonged contest, would not have been sufficient. The combined Powers had actually under arms a number as great as that, and inexhaustible reserves upon which to draw. A quarter of a million stood ready in the Netherlands, another quarter of a million could march from Austria to cross the Rhine. North Italy had actually present against him 70,000 men; and Russia, which had a similarly active and ready force of 170,000, could increase that host almost indefinitely from her enormous body of population.
But, so far from 800,000 men, Napoleon found to his command not one quarter of that number armed and ready for war. Though Napoleon fell back upon that desperate resource of a starved army, the inclusion of militia; though he swept into his net the whole youth of that year, and accepted conscripts almost without regard to physical capacity; though he went so far as to put the sailors upon shore to help him in his effort, and counted in his effectives the police, the customs officials, and, as one may say, every uniformed man, he was compelled, even after two and a half months of effort, to consider his ready force as less than 300,000, indeed only just over 290,000.
There was behind this, it is true, a reserve of irregulars such as I have described, but the spirit furnishing those irregulars was uncertain, and the yield of them patchy and heterogeneous. Perhaps a quarter of the country responded readily to the appeal which was to call up a national militia. But even upon the eve of the Waterloo campaign there were departments, such as the Orne, which had not compelled five per cent, of those called to join the colours, such as the Pas de Calais and the Gers, which had not furnished eight per cent., and at the very last moment, of every twenty-five men called, not fifteen had come.
Add to this that Napoleon must strike at once or not at all, and it will readily be seen how desperate his situation was. His great chiefs of the higher command were not united in his service, the issue was doubtful, and to join Napoleon was to be a rebel should he fail, was to be a rebel, that is, in case of a very probable event. The marvel is that so many of the leading men who had anything to lose undertook the chances at all. Finally, even of the total force available to him at that early moment when he was compelled to strike, Napoleon could strike with but a fraction. Less than half of the men available could he gather to deliver this decisive blow; and that blow, be it remembered, he could deliver at but one of the various hosts which were preparing to advance against him.
He was thus handicapped by two things: first, the necessity under which he believed himself to be of leaving considerable numbers to watch the frontiers. Secondly, and most important, the limitations imposed upon him by his lack of provision. With every effort, he could not fully arm and equip and munition a larger force than that which he gathered in early June for his last desperate throw; and the body upon the immediate and decisive success of which everything depended numbered but 124,000 men.
With this force Napoleon proceeded to attack the Allies in the Netherlands. There was a belt of French-speaking population. There was that body of the Allies which lay nearest to his hand, and over which, if he were but victorious, his victory would have its fullest effect. There were the troops under Wellington, a defeat of which would mean the cutting off of England, the financier of the Allies, from the Continent. There was present a population many elements of which sympathised with him and with the French revolutionary effort. Finally, the allied force in Belgium was the least homogeneous of the forces with which he would have to deal in the long succession of struggle from which even a success at this moment would not spare him.
From all these causes combined, and for the further reason that Paris was most immediately threatened from this neighbouring Belgian frontier, it was upon that frontier that Napoleon determined to cast his spear. It was upon the 5th of June that the first order was sent out for the concentration of this army for the invasion of Belgium.
In ten days the 124,000 men, with their 370 guns, were massed upon the line between Maubeuge and Philippeville, immediately upon the frontier, and ready to cross it. The way in which the frontier was passed and the river Sambre crossed before the first actions took place form between them the preliminaries of the campaign, and must be the subject of my next section."
Waterloo by H Belloc Chapter; THE POLITICAL OBJECT AND EFFECT OF THE WATERLOO CAMPAIGN. Full book can be read here for free; http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32332