Friday, September 26, 2014

Law of Victory in War?


What we ought to be looking at is whether there is a recipe for success in both war and peace that can be brought to light.

Q:    What is the secret of success in combat, in an operation?
      How is victory achieved?
      Is there still that “magic key” which opens the “magic box of victory”?
      Maybe everything is decided by the talent of the military leader?
      Is the answer contained in the formula “the fittest wins”?
      Is there a law of victory and if there is, what is it?[2]

Basic Law of War:  The course and outcome of war is determined by the political objectives of war and the correlation of all forces of the warring sides.  The latter are understood as the sum total of the state’s (coalition of states) military, economic, scientific and technical and spiritual potentials.

Basic formulation of a Law of Victory:  The course and outcome of war is determined by the political goals and correlation of the aggregate forces of the warring sides, as well as by the ability of the latter to take into account the effects of the laws of war and warfare.[1]

      Analysis:  law of victory incorporates a triad:  formulation of a goal; creation of a corresponding troop grouping; and expert use of the available forces.

      Law of victory incorporates an objective and subjective side

      Objective:  the goal and the correlation of forces is a permanent constituent of victory, reflecting the need to prepare in advance

      Subjective:  the essence of the law of victory (in a narrow sense).  As a variable constituent of victory, it reflects that cognized freedom of action which is retained by military leaders ( commanders) of the opposing sides in the context of an abjective limitation of forces already in the course of war (operation or combat).    Freedom is realized through the ability  and skill to make an efficient use of their forces and fires, as well as other objective factors (time, space, terrain features, climactic and weather conditions, and so forth) which assume the form of “degrees of freedom” so that their effects favorable for the troops are strengthened and the unfavorable minimized.  This is in fact military art - the art of using the laws of warfare in the interest of victory.[2] 

A characteristic of the law of victory is its certain logical transcendence as it incorporates all the laws of war and warfare.  “ This means that the law of victory is impossible to represent in a manifest and unequivocal form:  It is a “thing in itself”, as it were.  This means that its cognition is inconceivable without studying the laws of warfare.[3]

The problem is not to prove the dependence of the course and outcome of warfare on the knwoledge and creative use of its objective laws - this is obvious, but to elicit, in a concrete situation, those laws whose effect objectively contribute to victory, and, by making and executing corresponding decisions, use them actively - by engaging in “creative work” in the battlefield.

    [1]  Ibid., p. 33.
    [2]  Ibid., p. 34.
    [3]  Ibid., pp. 34-35.

    [1]  Lt Col V. V. Kruglov, "Is There a Law of Victory", Voennaya Mysl' (Military Thought)No. 1, January 1994, pp. 32-37.
    [2]  Ibid., p. 32.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu Reconsidered

      Throughout history some battles have had tremendous strategic effects beyond those of immediate tactical success.  For example, the German defeat at the battle of Stalingrad placed the Germans on the strategic defensive for the remainder of the war.  Germany never conducted large-scale offensives after Stalingrad.  

       Was Dien Bien Phu an example of a battle achieving large strategic ends?  On the one hand the victory succeeded in removing the French from Vietnam.  On the other hand its success ultimately led to the American intervention, furthering the conflict for another twenty years.  If the Viet Minh had not achieved such a decisive military victory over them, the French, whose goals were vastly overambitious given both available resources and national will, would have eventually withdrawn their forces and acceded to the Viet Minh's quest for independence as they subsequently did in Algeria.  It is worthy to note that in Algeria there was no Dien Bien Phu equivalent, the French withdrew, and there was no American intervention. 

      I contend that Dien Bien Phu, while being a great tactical victory, was a strategic failure because it created more problems for the Viet Minh than it solved as battlefield success led to strategic failure, i.e., American involvement.  I analyze this hypothesis by:  (1) briefly reviewing the strategic setting that led to the battle of Dien Bien Phu; (2) reviewing the strategic setting after the battle which led to the subsequent American involvement; and (3) based on the previous analysis, provide an alternative outcome that might have led to a resolution of the conflict instead of trading one outside power for a stronger one.

      In reviewing the French strategic setting of the battle of Dien Bien Phu prior to the battle, the situation had changed considerably after 1949 with the advent of Communist China.  "Especially damaging was the loss of French outposts along the Chinese border."[1]  In particular, the Chinese overland routes gave the Viet Minh access to a free flow of Chinese supplies and establishment of base areas.  "It brought a fundamental change in the nature of the war - henceforth, any expansion of Western forces in Vietnam or Laos could be readily offset by Viet Minh force escalation.[2] 

      Thus the French faced a protracted war that they had little chance of winning they had been searching for a situation in which to bring the Viet Minh into battle.  Previously, the Viet Minh had been waging a guerrilla war against the French.  The French hoped to decisively defeat the Viet Minh in conventional operations, destroy it as a political movement, and retain their colonies in Indochina.  The plan they came up with to accomplish was the Navarre Plan of March-April 1953, named after France's last general in Vietnam, General Henri Navarre.  The Navarre Plan envisioned that the "Vietnamese army was to assume a larger role, with the United States assuming the financial burden."[3]  The French forces, with American equipment, would emphasize mobility operations, designed to entrap Giap's forces and engage it in pitched battle.  The French were unable to trap Giap's forces in a series of operations, so Navarre decided to build an airhead in Giap's territory, the mountains of Tonkin.  Navarre believed that he could lure Giap's elite forces into "meat-grinder" battles.  He did lure the Viet Minh into the "meat-grinder" but it was the French that were consumed for the reasons that we discussed during the student presentations.

      The Viet Minh's strategic view and desired end state in seeking battle against the French was that General Giap had become convinced that the protracted people's war being waged by the Vietminh against the French had entered into its third stage, general counterattack.[4]  Giap had now three-hundred thousand troops who were organized along conventional lines into battalions, regiments, and divisions.  These units were well supplied with Russian and Chinese equipment, and O&M supplies which were carried by a stream of peasant porters to the operational divisions.  Their objective was simple:  destroy the garrison at Dien Bien Phu and drive the French out of Indochina.  General Giap's message to his troops on the eve of the battle said:  "Master fear and pain, overcome obstacles, unite your efforts, fight to the very end, annihilate the enemy at Dien Bien Phu, win a great victory!"[5]

     The strategic setting after battle as a result of the Geneva Accords was only a military ceasefire between France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).  Vietnam remained divided along the 17th parallel, and only vision of a political future that the DRV received was a promise of elections in two years.  The French had the opportunity to regroup their forces below the 17th parallel, and expected to continue to exert their influence on South Vietnam, but their involvement in Vietnam was finished.  The ultimate result of the Geneva Conference was the beginning of direct American involvement in Vietnam.

      The United States became involved in Vietnam because it saw France's defeat as a blow to the West and a victory for communism.  In the aftermath of the Chinese Revolution and the Korean War, the French military defeat at Dien Bien Phu signified a victory for Chinese communism over the West.  This Chinese Communist expansion could not be tolerated, thus the US did not support the outcome of the Geneva Conference.  What the US did do was to "embark on a course designed to make the purely military arrangements serve as the basis of a de facto political settlement."[6]   The US also did not promise to observe the promised elections but rather not to use force to break them up.  Effectively vetoing the elections through this clause, the US sought to shore up Ngo Dihn Diem's government in South Vietnam, and thereby making Vietnam's division permanent.  The US believed that France pusillanimous policy in Vietnam, poor military planning, and colonial past had been the reasons for their defeat.  Not burdened by any of the above sins, the US sought to fight communism in Vietnam through Diem.

      Given the political accords reached as a result of Dien Bien Phu, clearly it did not produce a great strategic result or victory:  Vietnam remained divided, and the US became directly involved taking the place of France.   One may argue that the Vietnamese might have been able to achieve more at the conference table had it not been for American intransigence and duplicity.  On the other hand, it can be equally argued that it was the benign nature of the political demands that the accords placed on France (and the US) that led to the agreement in the first place.  This remains conjectural but if the demands had been the immediate reunification of Vietnam under DRV rule, the accords might have not been signed.  The point here is that the military victory of the Viet Minh over the French at Dien Bien Phu did not translate into a political victory but a great political defeat for the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh.

      An alternative outcome occurred in the Algerian War of independence where there were no French defeats in large-scale military operations, but France subsequently withdrew and there was no American involvement although Ben Bella was also espousing a 'socialist program', employing Marxist rhetoric, and enticing the Soviet-bloc nations for political and material aid.  Why did the US not become involved in the Algerian case which was similar in nature to the Vietnamese case, and in an area which was, geographically, much closer to vital American security interests such as Europe?[7]  The answer to this issue lies in the political perspective that a military defeat may result in.  In Dien Bien Phu, the French were ignominiously defeated and humiliated.  As perceived by the Americans, their defeat was a result of the lack of military prowess, an inability to supply troops in the field, and lack of aircraft and technology; essentially a managerial problem subject to a quick resolution if one is tough to see it through.  This is was a national security issue which the United States viewed as tailor-made for its foreign policy due to its ability to manage and solve technological problems, which this was if seen through this prism, in an expeditious and efficient manner.  Addition-ally, the policy of containment had recently become the motive force behind American rhyme and reason, and led to the Truman Administration's decision to begin military aid to Indochina was taken in "more or less" within the overall policy of containment in the world without evaluating the merit of each individual case.[8]

      In the Algerian case, as France did not suffer any major military defeats of note, the American's viewed French operations there as ongoing, and when the negotiated settlement did occur in 1962 there was no stigma of a military defeat for France (although in fact it was a great strategic defeat), and the US did not perceive the communists as being able to pummel the West politically through another Western military disaster.

      In conclusion, I posit that the battle of Dien Bien Phu was not the great strategic victory but rather a failure.  The reasons for its strategic failure are that the Americans did not want to see the French humiliated by a "communist" movement; did not want another "communist" government in Asia; the outcome of Dien Bien Phu represented Western weakness as opposed if it had been a conscious French choice to withdraw as was in Algeria which did not lead to American involvement.

     Another conclusion, that may be tentatively posited for further observation is that a military victory may not lead to a political victory, or that a military defeat (or a least the absence of victory) may still yield political victory.  The object of war is not to win battles but to win wars; and objectives of wars are defined in political terms.

By:  Gonzalo I. Vergara, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

     [1] Bruce Palmer, Jr. The 25-Year War: America's Military Role in Vietnam (New York:  Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1984), p. 5.
     [2]  Ibid.
     [3]  Edward Doyle, et. al., Passing the Torch.  The Vietnam Experience Series. (Boston:  Boston Publishing Company, 1981), p. 62.
     [4]  The other two phases of Mao Zedong's people's war, adapted by Giap to Vietnamese conditions, are:  (1) defensive phase where the survival of the revolutionary forces is the prime objective; (2) the second phase's objective is to further demoralize the enemy and increase the ranks of the guerrillas.    Cited in Ibid., pp 48-49.
     [5]  Giap, in Doyle, op. cit., p. 65.
     [6]  Ibid., p. 84.
     [7]  Cold-war security interests.
     [8]  Palmer, p. 5.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

B-52 Tales: Mafia 33

This is a true story.

As I stated in previous posts, I served in the US Air Force  as a B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) in Strategic Air Command (SAC).

One day in early 1984 our crew had a routine training flight: Take-off, air refueling, low-level penetration and bomb run, climb out of low level and fly home.  The missions normally lasted 8 hours of flight time depending on the mission profile and the location of the target range.

The call signs used by the bomb wings changed daily -- to confuse potential adversaries and on occasion ourselves as well.  On this particular day, the bombers of our wing had the call sign 'Mafia' and our crew was flight 33; hence our call sign for the day was ''MAFIA 33".

I was born in Chile and spent my teenage years in New York City... I still have a slight accent when I speak English and I can "tolk Nu Yoik..." Normally, line of sight UHF communications were handled by the co-pilot. The EWO handled long-range HF radio communications.  Our aircraft commander, Capt. Bob Wheelock, was a smart-aleck kind of guy.  Given our call sign MAFIA 33, he came up to me and said "Gonz, you got the radios today... Just don't get us in trouble otherwise communications are yours."  I knew exactly what he meant and wanted me to do.

After a normal start and standard instrument departure from K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan, we passed 10,000 feet and it was time to contact the air traffic control center (ATCC) to request altitude change. In my thickest Nu Yok accent [combined a touch of Spanish], I called over the UHF radio:

"Yo, Minneapolis Center, dis is da Mafia 33 requesting climb to Flight Level 350 [35,000 feet]"

These are standard requests and Center usually responds immediately... Silence

"YO, Minneapolis Center, dis is da Mafia 33 requesting climb to Flight Level 350"

Finally:  "Mafia 33 [???] identify yourself"

"Yo, Mafia 33 isah Bravo 52 Hotel aircraft with 6 goombas on board."

"Mafia 33, squawk ___" the ATC controller said with obvious amusement on his voice.  Every aircraft has an IFF box and you program a specific code to ID yourself.  We put in the correct squawk.

"Mafia 33... is that your real call sign???"  The ATC guy asked.  You could hear laughter in the background.

"Ya, we don't pick da call signs"

"Mafia 33 you are clear to climb to flight level 350."

"Yo, Minneapolis Center, dis is da Mafia 33 requesting direct radar vectors to Nu Yoik City"...

"Mafia 33,  Minneapolis Center request dat yu contact Chicago Center on ___ for yur request." ....

We weren't going to New York, but it seemed a great request...

It was a great flight...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How I Almost Got Harpooned by Greenpeace

This is a true story:

On September 1, 1983, I was a 2d Lieutenant serving as a B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) in Strategic Air Command (SAC).  On that day a SU-15 fighter from the Soviet Air Defense Forces shot down a Korean Airlines flight KAL-007.

As a B-52 EWO, I had a top secret security clearance with special access to various programs.  Because I was born outside the US (in Chile), I had been scrubbed and scrutinized beyond squeaky clean.  In any case, one of the security requirements we had was to report any contacts we may have with communist countries. I subscribed to a number of Soviet periodicals and journals [mostly politico-military stuff],    I dutifully reported my contacts.

After the Soviets shot down KAL-007, in protest, I cancelled all of my journal subscriptions; including my subscription to “Soviet Life” with the Soviet Embassy.  Coincidentally, around this same time, I received a mailer from Greenpeace complaining about Japanese, Norwegian and Soviet whaling practices.  The mailer included a return card adding my voice to protest the whaling.  Now, I admit that I knew little of the issue but since it involved the Soviets and I was upset at them, I sent back the response card to Greenpeace without further thought.

About a month after I sent the mailer back to Greenpeace, my squadron commander called me into his office one morning and told me to report to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) immediately as they wanted to speak with me.  The OSI is responsible for counter-intelligence in the Air Force.  I was a bit taken aback but did not think too much of it—no idea why the wanted to talk to me.

I reported to the OSI office.  There I was met by three individuals in civilian clothes… Two of them in particular looked like the spitting-images of the Hollywood version of what intelligence officers look like.

“I am the Commander of the OSI for the mid-west region of the United States” said one. 

“We’re Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation” said the other two individuals showing their badges.

I am now thinking:  “DAMM… this is not good…”

Keep in mind that this was a difficult security environment in SAC.  In May 1981, 2d Lieutenant Christopher Cooke, was arrested for passing information about the Titan II missiles to the Soviet Embassy.  Cooke was given immunity in exchange for information of what he told the Soviets.   After hearing what Cooke had told the Soviets CINCSAC General Richard Ellis said “this man is a traitor” and wanted to have him court-martialed.  The SAC JAG BG Claude Teagarden screwed up the case and Cooke was set free.  General Teagarden lost his job.

Back at the OSI office, very pleasantly they began to ask me what I thought of President Reagan’s policies, etc.  We chatted for a few minutes speaking in generalities about generalities.  Finally I said:  “I know that you did not call me here to discuss my political views.  Why am I here? What do you want?”

The OSI commander then said: “Why did you write to the Soviet Chancellery in New York? What did you tell them? And why didn’t you report it?”

My jaw dropped.  “I have no idea of what you are talking about.  I have never written to the Soviet Chancellery in New York and I always report my contacts.”

“We have information that on such and such a date the Soviet Chancellery received some correspondence from you” said one of the FBI agents.

Now I began to get scared because I had never written to the Soviet Chancellery. I started to wonder in the back of my mind if this was a trick or they were trying to set me up...  DAMM…  “Sir, I have no idea of what you are talking about because again I have never written to the Soviet Chancellery, I always report my contacts.”

“Then how and why did the Soviet Chancellery receive a letter from you?” the OSI commander asked.

“Sir” I said “I have no idea. But I’m not a Soviet agent.  Just look at my bank account and you’ll see that I’m not profiting from anything. I don’t have a single clue…”   

They chuckled and then OSI commander asked me, “Is there anything you have written?  What have you written lately that could have gone to the Chancellery?”

“I really haven’t written anything to the Soviets… I cancelled my subscription to ‘Soviet Life’ but that’s through the Embassy… I don’t … the only other thing out of the ordinary is that I sent back a card to Greenpeace about Norwegian, Japanese and Soviet whaling practices…”

The OSI Commander slapped his head with his hand… “Lt. Vergara.  Did you know that the card was sent in your name to the Soviet Chancellery?” 

“YOU MEAN THAT GREENPEACE SENT MY CARD DIRECTLY TO THE SOVIET CHANCELLERY IN NEW YORK?” I asked incredulously…  “I DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE THAT THEY WOULD DO THIS.”  “They didn’t tell me that they were going to do it.”  Or obviously I didn't read the card carefully…

The OSI commander and the FBI agents now had knowing smiles on their faces… The mystery had been solved.  That’s exactly what Greenpeace did! They sent my card to the Soviet, Japanese and Norwegian UN offices…   

The OSI commander told me I had violated an Air Force regulation, they would prepare a report and send it to my commander who would take disciplinary action, if any, against me.  Then I was dismissed from the office.

I was really shaken… I could’ve been arrested, court-martialed… I went to my squadron commander’s office and told him about it.  He said not to worry and that when he got the report he would call me.  About a week later, he called me back.  The report basically said that I had violated an Air Force regulation but otherwise did not cause any harm to our national security.

My squadron commander said:  “Gonzo, don't do it again."

“Yes, sir. I promise I will never send back any Greenpeace response cards again.” 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NSC-68 Version 2013: Balance of Power. Schema & Notes for Part 2

IV. Underlying Conflicts Among Nations


V.  Potential Threats and Capabilities—Actual and Potential


VI. U. S. Intentions and Capabilities

                “When a country abjures its intention of exploiting a conflict between two other parties, it is in fact signaling that it has the capacity to do so and that both parties would do well to work at preserving their neutrality.  So too, when a nation expresses its “deep concern” over a military contingency, it is conveying that it will assist—in some as yet unspecified way—the victim of what is has defined as aggression.” (Kissinger, 1994, p. 724)

VII.           Present Risks


      Risk One.  Wars of National Union/Reunion (Evera S. V., 1996)


      Risk Two.  Wars of Democratization and Nationalist Secession (Evera S. V., 1996)


      Risk Three.  Wars of Great Power Geopolitical Competition (Evera S. V., 1996)


      Risk Four.  Wars of Nuclear Proliferation (Evera S. V., 1996)


      Risk Five.  Wars of Regional Hegemony (Evera S. V., 1996)


                Risk Six.  Transnational Wars Against Non-State Actors.

Transnational wars refer to wars transcending existing national borders against non-state actors, such as Al-Qaeda and others.



VIII.          Nuclear Proliferation and Risk of War


      The fact is that whether we like it or not, nuclear weapons establish a balance of power. Admission to the nuclear club provides an insurance policy against external aggression; though not internal (and often centrifugal) forces such as in the case of Pakistan.


IX. Possible Causes of Action


      Foreign Policy


A.  The First Course—Continuation of Current Policies, with Current and Currently Projected Programs for Carrying out These Projects


B.  The Second Course—Isolation

C.  The Third Course—Continuous Military Intervention

D.  The Fourth Course—Dependence on International Institutions

      The problem with the guarantee of rights in international law is that the rights of the strong are those which are guaranteed at the expense of the weak or the vanquished.  For example, Henry Kissinger explains that for Count Metternich, rights existed in the nature of things.  “Whether they were affirmed in law or by constitution was an essentially technical question which had nothing to do with bringing about freedom.  Metternich considered guaranteeing rights to be a paradox.  “Things which ought to be taken for granted lose their force when they emerge in the form of arbitrary pronouncements… Objects mistakenly made subject to legislation result only in their limitation, if not the complete annulment, of that which is attempted to be safeguarded.” (Kissinger, 1994, pp. 84-85)

E.  The Remaining Course—Balance of Power Policies Combining the Above Policies as Necessity Dictates



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Notes to Clausewitz On War, Book Two, Chapter Two: On the Theory of War [Part I]

2.2    Chapter Two: On the Theory of War

Clausewitz considers why a theory of war is necessary and what are its limitations.  He begins this chapter by discussing that originally the art or science of war was concerned with material factors only.  “It was about a relevant to combat as the craft of the swordsmith to the art of fencing.  It did not yet include the use of force under conditions of danger, subject to constant interaction with an adversary, nor the efforts of spirit and courage to achieve the desired end.”  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 133)

Clausewitz next states that reflections on the events of war led to the need for a theory and efforts were made to “equip the conduct of war with principles, rules, or even systems.”  This was a positive goal but their advocates failed to take into account the complexities involved.  The problem is that a system or model has a finite nature of synthesis and “the conduct of war branches out in almost all directions and has not definite limits.  Therefore, “An irreconcilable conflict exists between this type of theory and actual practice.”  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 134)  As a result theorists again found themselves drawn to the material basis of war. “As in the science concerning preparation for war, they wanted to reach a set of sure and positive conclusions, and for that reason considered only factors that could be mathematically calculated.”  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 134)

Here is the crux of the problem.  While these ideas may be of analytical use, “synthetically, in the rules and regulations they offer, they are absolutely useless.”

They aim at fixed values; but in war everything is uncertain, and calculations have to be made with variable quantities.

They direct the inquiry exclusively toward physical quantities, whereas all military action is intertwined with psychological forces and effects.

They consider only unilateral action, whereas war consists of a continuous interaction of opposites. (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 136)

COMMENT: No better assessment of American military action in Vietnam can be made. While Americans claimed to win the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese they did so using mathematics and dollars.  How do you monetize “hearts and minds”?  According to a Congressional Research Service Report, “Costs of Major U. S. Wars”, the United States spent $738B in FY 2011 dollars for 1965-1975   (Dagett, p. 2) in Vietnam. ( See Table 1, p. 2.) More recently, we have spent almost $2T in the war on Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time the Report was written (June 29, 2010) between 2001 and 2010 we had spent $1.147T in FY2011 dollars.  While staggering, these figures say nothing of the thousands of American lives lost and whose value cannot be monetized.

Clausewitz observes that theory faces particularly difficult problems when moral factors are involved and moral values cannot be ignored in war. 

Military activity is never directed against material force alone; it is always armed simultaneously at the moral forces which give it life, and the two cannot be separated…

Since danger is the common element in which everything moves in war, courage, the sense of one’s own strength, is the principal factor that influences judgment…

Everyone rated the enemy’s bravery lower once his back is turned, and takes much greater risks in pursuit than while being pursued.  Everyone gauges his opponent in the light of his reputed talents, his age, and his experience, and acts accordingly.  Everyone tries to assess the spirit and temper of his own troops and the enemy’s… What indeed would become of a theory that ignored these?  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 137)

Principal Problems In Formulating A Theory

Of The Conduct Of War

In order to get a clear idea of the difficulties involved in formulating a theory of the conduct of war and so be able to deduce its character, we must look more closely at the major characteristics of military activity. (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 137)

THE FIRST PROPERTY is that of “moral forces and they effects they produce.  Essentially combat is an expression of hostile feelings.  But in the large-scale combat that we call war hostile feelings often have become merely hostile intentions.” (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 137)

Modern wars are seldom fought without hatred between nations; this serves more or less as a substitute for hatred between individuals.  Even where there is national hatred and no animosity to start with, the fighting itself will stir up hostile feelings; violence committed on superior orders will stir up the desire for revenge and retaliation against the perpetrator rather than against the powers that ordered the action… Theorists are apt to look on fighting in the abstract as a trial of strength without emotion entering into it.  This is one of a thousand errors which they quite consciously commit because they have no idea of its implications.  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 138)

In order properly to appreciate the influence which danger exerts in war, one should not limit its sphere to the physical hazards of the moment.  Danger dominates the commander not merely by threatening him personally, but by threatening all those entrusted to him; not only at the moment where it is actually present, but also, through the imagination, at all other times when it is relevant; not just directly but also indirectly through the sense of responsibility that lays a tenfold burden on the commander’s mind. (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 138)

[There are other emotional factors which come into play as well]  The higher a man is placed the broader his point of view.  Different interests and a wide variety of passions, good and bad, with arise on all sides.  Envy and generosity, pride and humility, wrath and compassion—all may appear as effective forces in this great drama.  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 139)

Clausewitz notes that the intellectual qualities of commanders differ and the diversity of intellectual qualities results in a diversity of roads to the goals sought to be achieved.  (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 139)

THE SECOND PROPERTY:  Positive Reaction.  “The second attribute of military action is that it must exert positive reactions, and the process of interaction that results.” The concern is not with calculating reactions but rather “with the fact that the very nature of interaction is bound to make it unpredictable.  The effect that any measure will have on the enemy is the most singular factor among all the particulars of action.” (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 139)
THE THIRD PROPERTY:  Uncertainty of All Information.  “Finally, the general unreliability of all information presents a special problem in war: all action takes place, so to speak, in a kind of twilight, which, like fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.” (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 140)
Despite advances in information gathering and speed of data acquisition, this property remains at the heart of the problem.  For example, in a June 13, 1991 article in the New York Times:
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf complained to Congress today about the quality and timeliness of intelligence given his forces during the Persian Gulf war.
The general was especially critical of the analyses of intelligence provided to his staff by specialists in Washington on the Iraqi military, saying they had been "caveated, footnoted and watered down" to the point of being useless.
"There were so many disclaimers that by the time you got done reading many of the intelligence estimates you received, no matter what happened, they would have been right," he said. "And that's not helpful to the guy in the field." (Wines, 1991)

Clausewitz notes that given the problems a positive doctrine of war is unattainable.  “[I]t is simply not possible to construct a model for the art of war that can serve as a scaffolding on which the commander can rely for support at any time… the situation will always lead to the consequences we have already alluded to:  talent and genius operate outside the rules, and theory conflicts with practice.” (Book Two, Chapter Two, p. 140) This should not be a surprise to anyone, yet it is.  In sports, games have specific rules.  Yet it takes knowledge and talent to take advantage of the rules to one’s favor.  For example, I know the rules of soccer well and I know how to kick the ball straight.  But this will not make me (nor anyone else for that matter) a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Leonel Messi anytime soon.  In war, the rules are even more amorphous and lacking in guidance. 
A commander is faced with situations which are not part of the “manual” so he is without a set of rules which will provide a ready-made solution.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clausewitz On War, Book 2 Chapter One

Notes to Carl von Clausewitz, On War.  Ed. and Trans. by Michael Howard and Peter Paret.  Princeton University Press, 1976

On War Book 2:  On the Theory of War

While Book 2 is not considered complete, yet it is so important to understanding Clausewitz’s study of war, that it cannot be disregarded.  Thefore I offer the following notes. 

2.1    Chapter One: Classifications of the Art of War

With respect to what is war, Clausewitz offers an elemental observation that can some-times be forgotten in everyday use. We speak of ‘war on drugs,’ of ‘wars’ on something or another but: 

Essentially war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities generally designated as war.  Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 127) 

Fighting has determined the nature of the weapons employed.  These in turn influence the combat; thus an interaction exists between the two.

But fighting itself still remains a distinct activity; the more so as it operates in a peculiar element—that of danger. (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 127) 

[I]f one accepts the idea of an armed and equipped fighting force as given: a means about which one does not need to know anything except its chief effects in order to use it properly.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 127) 

Essentially, then, the art of war is the art of using the given means in combat; there is no better term for it than the conduct of war.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 127)

The conduct of war, then consists in the planning and conduct of fighting… [because war does not consists in a single act as shown in Book one but rather a series of engagements] This gives rise to the completely different activity of planning and executing these engagements themselves, and of coordinating each of them with the others in order to further the object of the war.  One has been called tactics, and the other strategy.   (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 128) 

We have to remember that strategy may pursue a wide variety of objectives:  anything that seems to offer an advantage can be the purpose of an engagement, and the maintenance of the instrument of war will often itself become the object of a particular strategic combination.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 130)

            In speaking of the other activities characteristic of war such as logistics, engineering, etc.  these “[M]ay be split into two main categories: those that are merely preparations for war, and war proper. The same distinction must be made in theory as well.”  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 131) 

[T]he maintenance of troops in camps or billets may call for activities that do not constitute a use of the fighting forces, such as the building of shelters, the pitching of tents, and supply and sanitary services.  These are neither tactical nor strategic in nature.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 131)

While the organization and administration of forces must include such matters as artillery, fortification, etc. these are necessary for the creation, training and maintenance of fighting forces.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 132)

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.  All that it requires from the first group is the end product, an understanding of their main characteristics.  That is what we call “the art of war” in a narrower sense… 

The art of war in the narrower sense must now in its turn be broken down into tactics and strategy.  The first is concerned with the form of the individual engagement, the second with its use…

The primary purpose of any theory is to clarify concepts and ideas that have become, as it were confused and entangled.  (Book Two, Chapter One, p. 132)

            The statesman or general should manage campaign exactly to suit resources, doing neither too much nor too little.  (David Jablonsky, ‘Why is Strategy Difficult’ in US Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy (June 2006), p. 115-125).

At the tactical level, the Prussian philosopher wrote, “the means are fighting forces trained for combat; the end is victory.” For the strategic, however, Clausewitz concluded that military victories were meaningless unless they were the means to obtain a political end, “those objects which lead directly to peace.” [internal citations omitted]

Thus, strategy was “the linking together (Verbindung) of separate battle engagements into a single whole, for the final object of the war.” And only the political or policy level could determine that objective. “To bring a war, or any one of its campaigns to a successful close requires a thorough grasp of national policy,”… (Jablonsky, p. 115-116).