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    Clausewitz “On War” Book 6: Basic Strategic Defense, and the Roots of Insurgency

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 3rd March 2009 (All posts by )

    Book six gives us Clausewitz’ theory of the defense. While he is particularly verbose in this book, Clausewitz lays out for us some timeless concepts that can and should be applied as the basis to any defensive strategy. First, Clausewitz gives us the purpose of the defense. Essentially it is to gain time for the commander to seek a battle that is more advantageous to him (p.370, 380). He makes it clear that the defense is merely a means to an end, a method of war, and not the end result in its self (p.392). Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz “On War” Book 6: Basic Strategic Defense, and the Roots of Insurgency

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 6: “A dark and menacing cloud”

    Posted by Kotare on 3rd March 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz considered that “people’s war”, or popular resistance to an invader, is one of several factors that makes defence the stronger form of war. As the enemy advances deeper into another country, his forces become dispersed, his formations become depleted, and his supply lines become stretched. The more spread out the enemy is, the more vulnerable he becomes to guerrilla attacks by “militias and bands of armed civilians”.

    During the Napoleonic wars, people’s war was regarded as a new phenomenon; its potency had been demonstrated in Spain and Russia where guerrilla resistance played a significant part in wearing down the French invaders. But chapter 26, which analyzes people’s war, shows that Clausewitz was struggling to come to terms with its potential. It’s clear that he viewed guerrilla activity as auxiliary to the action of the army, perhaps analogous to the light troops who in battle skirmished to the front and on the flanks of heavy infantry formations…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VIII: Closing the Circle

    Posted by Shane on 2nd March 2009 (All posts by )

    Carl von Clausewitz concludes his magnum opus with a return to the beginning – but from a far larger perspective. While he began Book I asserting that “[w]ar is nothing but a duel on a larger scale,” he begins Book VIII (“War Plans”) by “… deal[ing] with the problem of war as a whole… cover[ing] its dominant, its most important aspect: pure strategy … the central point on which all other threads converge.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book VIII: Closing the Circle

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book VIII, Chapter 3B, The Concept of Cohesion

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 1st March 2009 (All posts by )

    There are many points one could make in connection with Book VIII of On War.  As I mentioned in my first post on this roundtable, Clausewitz deals with different types of theory in the book.  I have mentioned the general theory, Clausewitz’s art of Napoleonic warfare, and his theory of politics/political development.  This last type could be simply described as his concept of cohesion, since it is the different types of cohesion present which indicate the type of political community we are dealing with.  For this discussion I  rely on Chapter 3B of Book VIII particularly, in addition to his essay titled “Agitation”, as well as other parts of On War.

    This concept has received next to no treatment in Clausewitz literature, or in any treatment of On War, outside of a paper I posted last year on the DNI site.  The concept indicates the “cutting edge” nature of Clausewitz in strategic theory even today.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz Book V: In Support of War, Now and Then

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 28th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Book five was perhaps the most difficult read for me thus far. Clausewitz appears to pause here in his flow of ideas to concentrate on the apocrypha of war. It is in these pages that he gives us his view of how the supporting operations should be conducted, as well as considerations for placement, movement, and troop strengths. Application of most of Clausewitz’ points to modern day is extremely difficult and in most cases takes a good deal of abstract thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VII: The Attack, the Whole Attack, and Nothing but the Attack

    Posted by Shane on 25th February 2009 (All posts by )

    In Book VII, Clausewitz returns to his dialectical logic in framing the nature of “The Attack” by contrasting it with the previous book, “Defense”. He begins Book VII by discriminating between defense (whose strengths “…may not be insurmountable, [but] the cost of surmounting them may be disproportionate.”) and offense.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book VI, Ch 6, Balance of Power

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 24th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz starts off this chapter with an extension of the range of resources that the defender has at his disposal, these in addition to those listed in Chapter 3 as being responsible for defensive strategic success.  This includes the militia (which exhibits distinct advantages and limitations as compared to the army; fortresses; the people (as in assisting the army operating on their own territory) which can be armed and become yet another source of power – the people in arms; and finally the defender’s allies.  In describing this last source of the defender’s power, Clausewitz provides his view of the balance of power in Europe:

    If we consider the community of states in Europe today, we do not find a systematically regulated balance of power and of spheres of influence, which does not exist and whose existence has often been justifiably denied; but we certainly do find major and minor interests of states and peoples interwoven in the most varied and changeable manner.  Each point of intersection binds and serves to balance one set of interests against the other.  The broad effect of all these fixed points is obviously to give a certain amount of cohesion to the whole.  Any change will necessarily weaken this cohesion to some degree.  The sum total of relations between states thus serves to maintain the stability of the whole rather than to promote change; at least, that tendency will generally be present.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Europe | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 5: sound advice for small armies

    Posted by Kotare on 24th February 2009 (All posts by )

    “God is on the side of the biggest battalions”, or so the maxim goes. It was an article of faith for Clausewitz, who wrote that

    “The best strategy is always to be very strong; first in general, and then at the decisive point….there is no higher and simpler law of strategy than that of keeping one’s forces concentrated.”

    This quote brings together three ideas that are key to understanding Clausewitz’s view of how battles are won: concentrating superior numbers at decisive points.

    So, did Clausewitz believe that only big armies have a hope in hell on the battlefield? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: Chapter 3

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 22nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    Given that there is a lot of material in Book VI worthy of comment, I’ll start with this chapter since it allows us to provide something of a recap of what we have read in On War so far.  On page 90 of his book, Clausewitz – Philosopher of War, Raymond Aron hesitatingly reduces a portion of the general theory to three conceptual pairs: moral/physical, means/end, and attack/defense.  The first refers to the essence of war itself – the clashing wills – which leads to the second pair.  The decision to go to war starts with the defense since the aggressor is more than happy to get what he wants by simply taking it (see Bk VI/Ch 5) .  Attack without resistance is not war, but something else as Clausewitz indicated in Bk I/Ch 1.  Means/ends can be further linked with two additional pairs: military aim/political purpose and strategy/tactics.  Taken together these conceptual pairs constitute the “intelligent” aspects of the general theory, that is leaving out chance, friction (in all its forms) and “objective” Politik.  So with the intelligent aspects, the aspects not responding to intelligence and the various operating principles we come once again to the whole of the general theory, with each concept only understandable in terms of the whole (that is in terms of the general theory).

    In reading Chapter 3, which is quite short, we see that Clausewitz mentions all three of the initial conceptual pairs that Aron mentions and expands our understanding of the whole in some significant ways.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 7 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Clausewitz on Combined Arms

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 22nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    Chapter Four of Book V of On War is titled “Relationship between the Branches of the Service.” This chapter, however, doesn’t really seek to explain the relationship between the branches (infantry, artillery, and cavalry). Instead, it seeks to explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three branches. The specific relationships between the branches are left for us to intuit.

    Clausewitz explains the strengths right off:

    “The engagement consists of two essentially different components: the destructive power of firearms, and hand-to-hand, or individual, combat. The latter in turn can be used for either attack or defense (words here employed in an absolute sense, for we are speaking in the broadest of terms). Artillery is effective only through the destructive power of fire; cavalry only by way of individual combat; infantry by both these means.

    In hand-to-hand fighting, the essence of defense is to stand fast, as it were, rooted to the ground; whereas movement is the essence of attack. Cavalry is totally incapable of the former, but preeminent in the latter, so is suited only to attack. Infantry is best at standing fast, but does not lack some capacity to move.” (p.285)

    Clausewitz then enumerates his thoughts on the combat arms:

    “1. Infantry is the most independent of the arms.
    2. Artillery has no independence.
    3. When one or more arms are combined, infantry is the most important of them.
    4. Cavalry is the most easily dispensable arm.
    5. A combination of all three confers the greatest strength.” (p.286)

    And so Clausewitz starts beating around the Combined Arms bush.

    But what is Combined Arms?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Clausewitz Roundtable, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book V: General Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 19th February 2009 (All posts by )

    At first glance, from a general theory perspective, Book V doesn’t offer much, focusing as it does overwhelmingly on the tactical, that is the level of warfare most open to change, most influenced by the epoch in question.  Still there are various points which from a general theory perspective are worth noting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 4: the center of gravity

    Posted by Kotare on 18th February 2009 (All posts by )

    In Book 4 Clausewitz puts battle at the heart of war…

    “since the essence of war is fighting, and since the battle is the fight of the main force, the battle must always be considered as the true centre of gravity of the war.” [4.9]

    There’s little doubt that “the battle” – the clash of armies at a particular site over a limited time period – was the center of gravity during the Napoleonic Wars. But this idea doesn’t hold for modern conflicts. Battle, where it occurs, may be the most dramatic event, but it is not the center of gravity.

    What does “center of gravity” mean? I take it to mean the situation where the outcome of the campaign or war is ultimately decided. In the First and Second World Wars, the center of gravity was the use of resources. The nations that won were those that most effectively mobilized, coordinated and utilized their human and material resources.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War Book 3: A consideration of cyber strategy

    Posted by selil on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Our long dead Prussian friend understood that tactics change with time and technology, and that strategies remain similar even if the metaphors change.  When he tells us that strength of will is more to make a change in strategy versus tactics) p. 178) he recognizes that which is the parasitic force of decision. He identifies in one paragraph they “why” of how cyber warfare has existed and been known for nearly four decades yet has no mind share among generals. Only recently has the public picked up on the issues and the media reported incidents closely aligned with cyber warfare. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Internet | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

    Posted by Shane on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    The most ambitious of all eight books in On War, Book VI is more than triple the length of the other books – equally any three of them in sheer volume. In this book, entitled simply “Defense”, Clausewitz offers practical lessons for the 19th century warfighter: operations on a flank (with diagrams), defensive mountain warfare, entrenched positions, and – prescient of France’s Maginot Line of the early 20th century – the importance of a network of interlaced cordons to a nation’s security.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

    Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Going into book IV I expected to receive a lesson in general tactics. This is not the case. Instead what Clausewitz has in store for us is a discussion of the engagement as an extension of strategy, a sort of demonstration of applied theory. Modernists and critics would be quick to site this book when attempting to prove Clausewitz’ irrelevance to current warfare, citing ideas that may appear at first glance to be relics of earlier generations of warfare.

    Clausewitz sites rough terrain and night as being two factors that can impede military operations to the point of bringing them to a halt. In the case of night operations especially, Clausewitz shows great concern, stating that only in the most extreme cases are operations at night warranted due to the lack of control that brings with it a high probability of failure (p. 273-275). Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

    Clausewitz, Book V: Military Forces (Circa 1830)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Book V is a case study of the armed forces, not of their employment in battle, but rather how they are organized and their “relationship to country and terrain”. It rather like describing how each chess piece is allowed to move on the board, less about how it is used in actual play.

    Book V, like all of On War, has many points of interest. In particular, it is a good example of Clausewitz’s own method of analysis, and thinking through how the various elements of the “modern” military forces of his day actually worked. This approach could be fruitfully emulated by application to modern militaries. However, since it is a “drill down” on armies as they were in Clausewitz’s own day it contains a relatively lower proportion of “high grade ore” than some of the other books, particularly the refined material in Book I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, Book V: Military Forces (Circa 1830)

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Calculation

    Posted by Zenpundit on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    I have to apologize to my fellow roundtable participants for my lengthy absence. I will endeavor to catch up, starting with this post.

    My background is in 20th century diplomatic and economic history, with an emphasis in the Cold War and related Soviet Studies. Our former Communist adversaries, especially the doctrinaire ideologues among them, were fond of employing a term “correlation of forces” to describe the geopolitical situation as being favorable or unfavorable to some proposed course of action. While it was woodenly uttered Marxist jargon, “correlation of forces” was far from meaningless as a phrase. It was a reminder in that grotesquely ideological world that it was important in affairs of state to calculate rationally. Even the old monster Joseph Stalin was known to bark at his henchmen” This is not a propaganda meeting!” when matters of war were being discussed in council.

    Clausewitz devoted Book III of On War to matters of general strategy and he has an important section on the nature of calculation ” Possible Engagements are to be Regarded as Real Ones because of Their Consequences“:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book IV (and VI): Contingency

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 15th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Even the ultimate aim of comtemporary warfare, the political object, cannot always be seen as a single issue.  Even if it were, action is subject to such a multitude of conditions and considerations that the aim can no longer be achieved by a single tremendous act of war.  Rather it must be reached by a large number of more or less important actions, all combined into one whole.  Each of these separate actions has a specific purpose relating to the whole.

    Chapter 3

    Here we are looking at the political object and its supporting military aim as being close together.  The applicability of the military instrument is something of a sliding scale which increases the more the political purpose and the military aim are the same.  This tracks along very well with the ideal type of absolute war.  At the same time this sequence of actions/decisions is very much tied to the specifics of the political purpose and how the phenomenon of war acts upon/changes/develops it.   So we have a very basic concept of contingency here, that being a sequence of purpose-driven actions/decisions being made over time and being influenced in turn by a complex ever evolving environment.

    The concept of contingency as connected to the general theory does not end there however, and by referring to affinitive Weberian concepts can be even expanded upon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 9 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book IV: The Rise and Fall of Battle

    Posted by Lexington Green on 11th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Book IV is entitled: The Engagement. It has, to a large degree, been surpassed by later developments. Clausewitz saw that in his own day, warfare had moved from the smaller scale, more limited scope wars of the 18th Century, to the full-scale, nation-in-arms, all-out warfare of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. To Clausewitz, the lesson that had been beaten into his head, by the hard lessons of a life spent at war, was that war would not and could not go back to its earlier more limited form.

    What did Clausewitz glimpse behind these vast transformations, this new way of war that ate up whole armies, crushed major powers into the dirt, and hacked a swath of destruction across the continent? He saw the face of the God of War himself. Behind the ephemera, however titanic, fiery, bloody — and hence distracting — was the rock-like simplicity of Absolute War. It was not possible to reach the level of Absolute War in reality. But it was the gravitational center toward which war tended. And in an age when earlier limits, which had seemed to be the order of nature, were blown to bits, the nearest approximation of Absolute War was a major battle, an engagement in which the mass of two nation’s armies were pitted against each other, at a unitary place and time, and there slugged it out, consuming men and wearing each other down, until one army had its spirit broken, and began to fall back, and could then be pursued to destruction. “What is the battle? It is the engagement by the main force … the battle must be considered as the true center of gravity of the war.” Battle was the epitome of war in the modern age, as Clausewitz had seen with his own eyes. He experienced the losing side at Jena: (“Those who have never been through a serious defeat will naturally find it hard to form a vivid and thus altogether true picture of it.”) He experienced the victorious side at Waterloo.

    He was generally right about the centrality of battle for just over 100 years, from his death until 1945. Not bad at all. Better than most explanatory models outside of the physical sciences.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Freedom is Worth the Mass

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 8th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Freedom lurks throughout On War. Not freedom for the poor, bloody infantry; in a Clausewitzian universe freedom is at its apogee when the freedom of the infantry is at its nadir. The freedom Clausewitz seeks to unleash is the freedom of the commander to work his will on the enemy. The commander’s freedom is essential to Clausewitz’s conception of war since war is an “act of force to compel our enemy to do our will”; our freedom ends where the enemy’s freedom begins. War is, therefore, fundamentally an effort to steal the enemy’s freedom and bestow it upon ourselves. We seek to take our political object, an object arrived at through the free exercise of creative will, and raise it above the oppression of enemy opposition and the dreary demands of friction. This is Clausewitz’s truth and his truth, he asserts, shall set you free.
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    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Carl von Clausewitz: Book IV, Some Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 8th February 2009 (All posts by )

    The emphasis for Book IV is the tactical, that is for Clausewitz, “the engagement”.  What separates war from other types of social activity is fighting, that is in this context organized violence in the pursuit of a political purpose.  So while the emphasis is the tactical, the whole must always be considered since tactical victory is the means of strategy.

    Clausewitz’s emphasis here is on the pure concept, the principle of destruction, which is the prime tactical mission.  One need only remember the stated mission of the Marine Corps as learned by this writer as a volunteer in the mid 1970s, that being, “to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel their assault by fire and close combat”. The means of tactics is the destruction of the enemy.  The end is military victory.

    So Clausewitz isn’t saying anything particularly new or insightful here.  Rather he is attempting to argue against those of his contemporaries who saw maneuver as an end in itself with the intention of establishing “base lines” or seizing “key ground” which it was thought would preclude the necessity of a bloody decision, make war a thoroughly civilized affair among a closed community of princes who respected each other and saw it as their common interest in maintaining the status quo resulting in wars of low tension and little movement to borrow the terms from Book III, Chapter 18.  However there was no guarantee that future wars would return to the form of the 18th Century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Jointness à la Carl

    Posted by Shane on 6th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Book V, entitled “Military Forces”, is a prescriptive summary of the “… conditions necessary to military action,” the maintenance and leadership of the three military branches contemporary to Clausewitz’s day: Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. Many of Clausewitz’s edicts could just as easily apply to Ground, Air and Naval forces in our modern age.

    Throughout Book V, Clausewitz makes note of the evolution of conflict from barely a century prior: the interrelated nature of distinct “Theaters of Operation” to a politically-driven war effort, the diminished need for “… long fixed periods in winter quarters” that would halt an operational tempo for months, and how (when combating forces are nearly equal in strength) the most creative and innovative commander will triumph.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book IV: Attrition Writ Large

    Posted by Shane on 4th February 2009 (All posts by )

    In his fourth book of On War, Clausewitz “ … now turn[s] to the essential military activity, fighting.” Following the same logical construct as Books I and II, where he first defines something then elaborates on its nature, Clausewitz gives us a description of “the nature of battle today” before providing general truisms of “the engagement”.

    It is in Book IV that we see how dated some portions of On War have become. For instance, when describing “the nature of battle ‘today’” (i.e., in the early 19th century, shortly after the Congress of Vienna concluded the Napoleonic Wars), Clausewitz opines that “[d]arkness brings it to a halt: no one can see, and no one cares to trust himself to chance.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 3: The Shape of a Strategic Force.

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 2nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    In book three, Clausewitz gives us a breakdown of his theory of strategy. Early on, he roughly defines strategy as “the use of engagement for the purpose of war” (p. 177). By this Clausewitz is telling us that the individual engagements are the means to the end, and the strategist must therefore understand how to apply the individual engagements to achieve the desired goal. It is a high level view of the overall theater of operations, while tactics concerns its self with actions inside the individual engagement.

    Clausewitz goes on to divide the factors involved in strategy in to five general categories, focusing mainly on the ideas of the moral or psychological, and the physical. While he briefly mentions the other elements, mathematical, geographical and statistical, his main point in these areas is that they have little effect on the outcome at a strategic level.
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    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book 3: The Shape of a Strategic Force.

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 4: keep it simple stupid

    Posted by Kotare on 2nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    I’ve got no idea who coined the phrase “keep it simple stupid” (KISS). If anyone can enlighten me, go right ahead. Reading book 4 of On War, which deals with battle, it’s clear that in this respect, as in others, Clausewitz was well ahead of his time. In chapter 3, Clausewitz emphasizes the need for simplicity in planning and execution:

    “rather than try to outbid the enemy with complicated schemes, one should, on the contrary, try to outdo him in simplicity”.

    Clausewitz’s reasoning is clear. In war, planning and executing a complex attack takes time (and, incidentally, increases the opportunities for friction). You run the risk that the enemy will act quicker than you, using a simpler attack to seize the advantage and wreck your grand designs…

    “an active, courageous, and resolute adversary will not leave us time for long-range intricate schemes….this is proof enough of the superiority of the simple and direct over the complex.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 4: keep it simple stupid