Principles Of Warfare: Clausewitz And Jomini

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Principles of warfare: Clausewitz and Jomini

Principles of warfare: Clausewitz and Jomini


Clausewitz defined war as an act of violence to force an opponent to fulfill our will. This definition establishes violence as the root means of war, while also affirming that its purpose is to impose one's will on an adversary. Thus, for Clausewitz, all the underlying cause-and-effect relationships of war were based on the use of violence, or the threat of it.


Clausewitz defined war's nature according to three essential forces hostility, chance, and purpose that can be found in every war. The first force, hostility, can take two forms: hostile feelings and hostile intentions. Hostile feelings need not exist for war to occur; however, hostile intentions one party advancing its interests at the expense of another is present in every war. Purpose is probably the decisive factor in shaping war's nature because it defines (or should define) the military goal. War's purpose can vary in kind from total conquest to a negotiated settlement.

Clausewitz's contemporary and rival, Antoine Jomini, presents a significantly different perception of what war is and how warfare is conducted. Where Clausewitz approaches war as a violent endeavor, which at best can be marginally contained by government mindful of its political objectives and a military commander of genius proportion, Jomini views war as a more rational pursuit, an endeavor that can be mastered by any commander who applies an objective set of universal principles. Like Clausewitz, Jomini is writing in the shadow of the Napoleonic Wars, but unlike Clausewitz, Jomini served on the staff of one of Napoleon's commanders with whom he experienced the early French victories. Jomini's examination of war focuses on the military's quest for decisive battle. He presents no distinction between war and warfare. The state's role is to decide to engage in war, and the remainder of the activity resides with the military commander who pursues the defeat of the enemy forces. For Jomini, there is no concern about matching military objectives to an overarching policy. Likewise, Jomini has little interest in the role that national will plays in supporting the army. Clausewitz asserted that disregarding the passion that accompanies warfare reduces it to a mere algebra problem, but Jomini turns war into a geometry problem, a map problem that identifies lines of operation and seeks for decisive points on the battlefield.

Clausewitz combined these forces into a single, enduring conception of war's nature, which he referred to as a wondrous trinity. War's nature is, in short, dynamic and changeable due to the kinds of forces that come into play. Clausewitz also determined that war is not a separate thing but rather indissoluble from political activity. He defined political activity or politics as the interaction of governments and peoples what today might be referred to as internal and external political relations. War did not interrupt this interaction but continued it, though by violent means. However, Clausewitz's formulation has created some confusion because some of his interpreters have taken policy and politics as the same ...
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