in an ASYMMETRIC Multi Lateral World
War & Armed
"War is the
exercise of force for the attainment of a
political object, unrestrained by any law save that of
expediency.." Carl von Clausewitz
modern art's most powerful antiwar statement.
There is no doubt that Guernica challenges our
notions of warfare as heroic and exposes it as a
brutal act of self-destruction. Speculations as
to the exact meaning of the jumble of tortured
images are as numerous and varied as the people
who have viewed the painting. But it is a
hallmark of Picasso's art that any symbol can
hold many, often contradictory meanings, and the
precise significance of the imagery in Guernica
remains ambiguous. When asked to explain his
symbolism, Picasso remarked, "It isn't up to the
painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would
be better if he wrote them out in so many words!
The public who look at the picture must interpret
the symbols as they understand them." Guernica: Testimony of
Extracts from Clausewitz's On
War from an
Instructors Guide to teaching Clausewitz at the
US National War College,
Washington D.C. -
- War is fighting and operates in a
peculiar element -- danger. But war is served by
many activities quite different from it, all of
which concern the maintenance of the fighting
forces. These preparatory activities are excluded
from the narrower meaning of the art of war -- the
actual conduct of war, because they are concerned
only with the creation, training, and maintenance
of the fighting forces. The theory of war proper,
on the other hand, is concerned with the use of
these means, once they have been developed, for the
purposes of the war.
- "Tactics teaches the use of armed
forces in the engagement; strategy, the use of
engagements for the object of the war."
- "In tactics the means are the fighting forces . .
. the end is victory."
"The original means of strategy is
victory -- that is, tactical success; its ends . .
. are those objects which will lead directly to
peace. Strategy . . . confers a special
significance . . . on the engagement: it assigns a
particular aim to it."
- The activities characteristic of
war may be split into two main categories: those
that are merely preparations for war, and war
- Earlier theorists aimed to equip
the conduct of war with principles, rules, or even
systems, and thus considered only factors that
could be mathematically calculated (e.g., numerical
superiority; supply; the base; interior lines). All
these attempts are objectionable, however, because
they aim at fixed values. In war everything is
uncertain and variable, intertwined with
psychological forces and effects, and the product
of a continuous interaction of opposites.
- Theory becomes infinitely more difficult as soon
as it touches the realm of moral values.
- Thus it is easier to use theory to organize,
plan, and conduct an engagement than it is to use
it in determining the engagementï¿½s
- Theory then becomes a guide to anyone who wants
to learn about war from books; it will light his
way, ease his progress, train his judgment, and
help him to avoid pitfalls.
- Theory need not be a positive doctrine, a sort of
manual for action. . . . It is an analytical
investigation leading to a close acquaintance with
- Fighting is the central military act. . . .
Engagements mean fighting. The object of fighting
is the destruction or defeat of the enemy.
What do we mean by the defeat of the enemy? Simply
the destruction of his forces, whether by death,
injury, or any other means -- either completely or
enough to make him stop fighting. .
- The complete or partial
destruction of the enemy must be regarded as the
sole object of all engagements. . . . Direct
annihilation of the enemy's forces must always be
the dominant consideration.
- Although the concept of defense is parrying a
blow and its characteristic feature is awaiting the
blow, if we are really waging war, we must return
the enemy's blows. . . . Thus a defensive campaign
can be fought with offensive battles. . . The
defensive form of war is not a simple shield, but a
shield made up of well-directed blows.
- The object of defense is preservation; and since
it is easier to hold ground than to take it,
defense is easier than attack. But defense has a
passive purpose: preservation; and attack a
positive one: conquest. . . . If defense is the
stronger form of war, yet has a negative object, if
follows that it should be used only so long as
weakness compels, and be abandoned as soon as we
are strong enough to pursue a positive object.
- Defense is the stronger form of waging war.
- In the defense of a theater, "the importance of
possessing the country increases, the less a
decision is actively sought by the belligerents."
When the war is governed by the urge for a
decision, however, "such a decision may be made up
of a single battle or a series of major
engagements." This likelihood "should be enough to
call for the utmost possible concentration of
strength. . . . A major battle in a theater of
operations is a collision between two centers of
gravity; the more forces we can concentrate in our
center of gravity, the more certain and massive the
effect will be."
- ï¿½No one starts a war--or rather,
no one in his senses ought to do so--without first
being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve
by that war and how he intends to conduct
- "The natural aim of military operations is the
enemy's overthrow. . . . Since both belligerents
hold that view, it would follow that military
operations could not be suspended . . . until one
or other side were finally defeated." But that
theoretical concept is not borne out in practice
because of a "vast array of factors, forces, and
conditions in national affairs that are affected by
-- "The degree of force that must be used against
the enemy depends on the scale of political demands
on either side. . . . But they seldom are fully
known. Since in war too small an effort can result
not just in failure, but in positive harm, each
side is driven to outdo the other, which sets up an
- The aim of war should be the defeat of the enemy.
But what constitutes defeat? The conquest of his
whole territory is not always necessary, and total
occupation of his territory may not be enough.
- Out of the dominant characteristics of both
belligerents "a certain center of gravity develops,
the hub of all power and movement, on which
everything depends. That is the point against which
all our energies should be directed."
- "The acts we consider most important for the
defeat of the enemy are . .
--- Destruction of his army, if it
is at all significant
--- Seizure of his capital if it is not only the
center of administration but also that of social,
professional, and political activity
--- Delivery of an effective blow against his
principal ally if that ally is more powerful than
- "Time . . . is less likely to bring favor to the
victor than to the vanquished. . . An offensive war
requires above all a quick, irresistible decision.
. . . Any kind of interruption, pause, or
suspension of activity is inconsistent with the
nature of offensive war."
- ï¿½A defender must always seek to
change over to the attack as soon as he has gained
the benefit of the defense.ï¿½
- "The defeat of the enemy . . . . presuppose[s]
great physical or moral superiority or else an
extremely enterprising spirit. . . . When neither
of these is present, the object of military
activity can only be one of two kinds: seizing a
small or larger piece of enemy territory, or
holding one's own until things take a better turn."
Thus "two kinds of limited war are possible:
offensive war with a limited aim, and defensive
- "It is of course well known that the only source
of war is politics -- the intercourse of
governments and peoples. . . . We maintain . . .
that war is simply a continuation of political
intercourse, with the addition of other means.
- "If war is part of policy, policy will determine
its character. As policy becomes more ambitious and
vigorous, so will war, and this may reach the point
where war attains its absolute form. . . . Policy
is the guiding intelligence and war only the
instrument, not vice versa."
- "No major proposal required for war can be worked
out in ignorance of political factors. . . .
[Likewise,] if war is to be fully consonant with
political objectives, and policy suited to the
means available for war, . . . the only sound
expedient is to make the commander-in-chief a
member of the cabinet."
- In limited war, we can achieve a positive aim by
seizing and occupying a part of the enemy's
territory. However, this effort is burdened with
the defense of other points not covered by our
limited offensive. Often the cost of this
additional defense negates or even outweighs the
advantages of our limited offensive.
- We can also undertake a limited defensive war, of
which there are two distinct kinds. In the first,
we aim to keep our territory inviolate and hold it
as long as possible, hoping time will change the
external situation and relieve the pressure against
us. In the second, we adopt the defensive to help
create the conditions for a counteroffensive and
the pursuit of a positive aim.
- "Two basic principles . . . underlie all
strategic planning. . . .
--- The first principle is: act with the utmost
concentration [trace the ultimate substance of
enemy strength to the fewest possible sources;
compress the attack on these sources to the fewest
possible actions; and subordinate minor actions as
much as possible].
--- The second principle is: act with the utmost
speed [every unnecessary expenditure of time and
every unnecessary detour is a waste of strength;
take the shortest possible road to the goal]."
--- The first task, then, in planning for a war is
to identify the enemyï¿½s center of
gravity, and if possible trace it back to single
--- The second task is to ensure that the forces to
be used against that point are concentrated for a
- "War is . . . an act of force to compel our enemy
to do our will."
- Because war is an act of force, committed against
a living, reacting opponent, it produces three
interactions that, in theory, lead to three
extremes: maximum use of force; total disarmament
of the enemy; and maximum exertion of strength.
--- However, war never achieves its absolute nature
because: "war is never an isolated act;" "war does
not consist of a single short blow;" and "in war
the result is never final."
--- "Once the extreme is no longer feared or aimed
at, it becomes a matter of judgment what degree of
effort should be made; and this can only be based
on . . . the laws of probability."
--- "War is also interrupted (or moderated), and
thus made even more a gamble, by: the superiority
of defense over offense; imperfect knowledge of the
situation; and the element of chance."
- "As this law [of extremes] begins to lose its
force and as this determination wanes, the
political aim will reassert itself. . . . The
political object -- the original motive for the war
-- will thus determine both the military objective
to be reached and the amount of effort it
--- "War is not a mere act of policy but a true
political instrument, a continuation of political
activity by other means."
--- "The more powerful and inspiring the motives
for war . . . the closer will war approach its
abstract concept. . . . The less intense the
motives, the less will the military element's
natural tendency to violence coincide with
--- "The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching
act of judgment that the statesman and commander
have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war
on which they are embarking."
- "As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies
always make war a remarkable trinity -- composed of
primordial violence, hatred, and enmity . . . of
the play of chance and probability . . . and of its
element of subordination, as an instrument of
"If . . . we consider the pure
concept of war . . . . its aim would have always
and solely to be to overcome the enemy and disarm
him." This encompasses "three broad objectives,
which between them cover everything: destroying the
enemy's armed forces; occupying his country; and
breaking his will to continue the struggle.
"But the aim of disarming the enemy (the object of
war in the abstract . .) is in fact not always
encountered in reality, and need not be fully
achieved as a condition of peace."
"Inability to carry on the struggle can, in
practice, be replaced by two other grounds for
making peace: the first is the improbability of
victory; the second is its unacceptable cost."
We may demonstrate to the enemy the improbability
of his victory by: obtaining a single victory; by
seizing a province; or by conducting operations to
produce direct political repercussions.
We may demonstrate to the enemy the unacceptable
cost of his struggle by: invading his territory;
conducting operations to increase his suffering; or
by wearing down the enemy.
There is only one means in war: combat.
"Whenever armed forces . . . are used, the idea of
combat must be present. . . . The end for which a
soldier is recruited, clothed, armed, and trained,
the whole object of his sleeping, eating, drinking,
and marching is simply that he should fight at the
right place and the right time."
"If the idea of fighting underlies every use of the
fighting forces, then their employment means simply
the planning and organizing of a series of
engagements. . . The destruction of the enemy's
forces is always the means by which the purpose of
the engagement is achieved."
"When one force is a great deal stronger than the
other, an estimate may be enough. There will be no
fighting: the weaker side will yield at once. . .
Even if no actual fighting occurs . . . the outcome
rests on the assumption that if it came to
fighting, the enemy would be destroyed."
"When we speak of destroying the enemy's forces we
must emphasize that nothing obliges us to limit
this idea to physical forces: the moral element
must also be considered."
"Destruction of the enemy forces is always the
superior, more effective means, with which others
cannot compete. . . . The commander who wishes to
adopt different means can reasonably do so only if
he assumes his opponent to be equally unwilling to
resort to major battles."
"Genius refers to a very highly developed mental
aptitude for a particular occupation. . . . The
essence of military genius . . . . consists in a
harmonious combination of elements."
"War is the realm of danger; therefore courage is
the soldier's first requirement"
"War is the realm of physical exertion and
suffering. . . . Birth or training must provide us
with a certain strength of body and soul."
"We come now to the region dominated by the powers
of intellect. War is the realm of uncertainty . . .
. War is the realm of chance. . . . Two qualities
are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even
in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of
the inner light which leads to truth; and second,
the courage to follow this faint light wherever it
may lead. The first of these qualities is described
by the French term, coup d'oeil; the second is
"War's climate of danger, exertion, uncertainty,
and chance also demands other intellectual
"Presence of mind . . . is nothing but an increased
capacity of dealing with the unexpected."
"Energy in action varies in proportion to the
strength of its motive." Of all the passions none
is more powerful than ambition.
"Staunchness indicates the will's resistance to a
single blow; endurance refers to prolonged
"Strength of mind or of character" is "the ability
to keep one's head at times of exceptional stress
and violent emotion."
"Firmness cannot show itself, of course, if a man
keeps changing his mind." It demands sticking to
The relationship between warfare and terrain
demands "the faculty of quickly and accurately
grasping the topography of any area."
"If we then ask what sort of mind is likeliest to
display the qualities of military genius . . . it
is the inquiring rather than the creative mind, the
comprehensive rather than the specialized approach,
the calm rather than the excitable head."
"We have identified danger, physical exertion,
intelligence, and friction as the elements that
coalesce to form the atmosphere of war, and turn it
into a medium that impedes activity."
"The novice cannot pass through these layers of
increasing intensity of danger without sensing that
here ideas are governed by other factors, that the
light of reason is refracted in a quite different
from that which is normal in academic
"If no one had the right to give his views on
military operations except when he is frozen, or
faint from heat and thirst, or depressed from
privation and fatigue, objective and accurate views
would be even rarer than they are."
"Many intelligence reports in war are
contradictory; even more are false, and most are
"Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest
thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and
end by producing a kind of friction. . . . This
tremendous friction . . . is everywhere in contact
with chance, and brings about effects that cannot
be measured, just because they are largely due to
chance. . . . Moreover, every war is rich in unique
"The good general must know friction in order to
overcome it whenever possible, and in order not to
expect a standard of achievement in his operations
which this very friction makes impossible."
"Is there any lubricant that will reduce this
abrasion? Only one . . . combat experience."
"Strategy is the use of the engagement for the
purpose of the war. The strategist must therefore
define an aim for the entire operational side of
the war that will be in accordance with its
purpose. . . . The aim will determine the series of
actions intended to achieve it."
"Results are of two kinds: direct and indirect. . .
. The possession of provinces, cities, fortresses,
roads, bridges, munitions dumps, etc., may be the
immediate object of an engagement, but can never be
the final one."
"If we do not learn to regard a war, and the
separate campaigns of which it is composed, as a
chain of linked engagements each leading to the
next, but instead succumb to the idea that the
capture of certain geographical points or the
seizure of undefended provinces are of value in
themselves, we are liable to regard them as
"The strategic elements that affect the use of
engagements may be classified into various types:
moral, physical, mathematical, geographical, and
The moral elements [everything that is created by
intellectual and psychological qualities and
influences] are among the most important in war.
Unfortunately, they will not yield to academic
wisdom. They cannot be classified or counted. . . .
The effects of physical and psychological factors
form an organic whole. In formulating any rule
concerning physical factors, the theorist must bear
in mind the part that moral factors may play in
The principal moral elements . . . . are: the skill
of the commander, the experience and courage of the
troops, and their patriotic spirit.
"An army that maintains its cohesion; . . that
cannot be shaken by fears . . ; [that] will not
lose the strength to obey orders and its respect
and trust for its officers . . ; [that] has been
steeled by training in privation and effort; . .
that is mindful of the honor of its arms -- such an
army is imbued with the true military spirit."
ï¿½There are only two sources for
this spirit. . . . The first is a series of
victorious wars; the second, frequent exertions of
the army to the utmost limits of its strength."
ï¿½In what field of human activity
is boldness more at home than in war? . . . It must
be granted a certain power over and above
successful calculations involving space, time, and
magnitude of forces."
"In war more than anywhere else things do not turn
out as we expect. . . . Perseverance in the chosen
course is the essential counterweight."
A universal desire is to take the enemy by surprise
as a means to gain superiority. But "it is equally
true that by its very nature surprise can rarely be
outstandingly successful. . . . In strategy
surprise becomes more feasible the closer it occurs
to the tactical realm, and more difficult, the more
it approaches the higher levels of policy."
"Cunning implies secret purpose. . . . It is itself
a form of deceit. . . . No human characteristic
appears so suited to the task of directing and
inspiring strategy. . . . [Yet] the fact remains
that these qualities do not figure prominently in
the history of war."
"Superiority of numbers is the most common element
in victory. . . . Superiority . . . can obviously
reach the point where it is overwhelming. . . . It
thus follows that as many troops as possible should
be brought into the engagement at the decisive
"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