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).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

National Security Addiction

Today I sent this email to President Obama 
President Obama:
 I am writing to you about my opposition to the NSA surveillance program and all of its offshoots.  I served 28 years in the United States Air Force to protect us against authoritarian states which use East German-like security practices.  Today I read that the German Chancellor Merkel had summoned our ambassador to demand a full accounting about her phone being tapped.  Yesterday it was the French...  This is NUTS!
 I cannot imagine a worst impact to our foreign policy than of having us appear as freaked-out East Germans running around the world spying on everyone else, friend as well as foe, and on each other.  It reminds me of Mad Magazine's 'Spy vs. Spy' comic.  Unlike the magazine, however, this is not funny because our foreign relations as well as our domestic trust  have been deeply affected--all to the detriment of the United States as a nation and as our home.
 The sad aspect of all this is that it appears that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have won the war on terror.  after all.  By making us to adopt the kinds of activities, which violate the spirit, if not the letter of our constitution, we have become like them--zealots. In short they have broken the fabric of who we are and what we stand for.  We are trading our freedoms and our beliefs for a national security addiction. I cannot image a worse result for us. 
 We must not allow ourselves to become prisoners of our own fears.  And we cannot hide under legalisms that some act or other authorizes these activities.  Once there were laws that authorized slaveholders to kill their slaves.  These laws were legal, but there were morally repulsive.  This is what our Stasi-like surveillance program is, legal maybe, but it is morally repulsive to the values for which the United States stands for.
 Get on rehab and cease this madness;  NOW!
 Gonzalo I. Vergara, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Notes to Clausewitz's On War, Book 3, Part I

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

On War Book 3:  On Strategy In General

It’s important to note that only Book One of On War is the only book that Clausewitz considered as complete.  Books Three (On Strategy in General) and Eight (On War Plans): Peter Paret considers the most beneficial and integrated with respect to Book One.

“The Enduring legacy of Clausewitz is that he ignored question of “how” “posed by modern science since the 17th century and returned to earlier questions, the Platonic “what is” and the Aristotelian “what for,” which are more valid ones for investigating social phenomena like strategy and war.”  (Creveld, pp. 42-43)

3.1    Chapter One: Strategy

Strategy is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war. (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 177)  Strategic theory must therefore study the engagement in terms of its possible results and of the moral and psychological forces that largely determine its course.  (Id.) 

The strategist… will draft the plan of the war, and the aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it:  he will, in fact, shape the individual campaigns and, within these, decide on the individual engagements… The strategist, in short, must maintain control throughout.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 177)

Strategic theory, therefore, deals with planning; or rather, it attempts to shed light on the components of war and their interrelationships, stressing those few principles or rules that can be demonstrated. (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 177)

A prince or general can best demonstrate his genius by managing a campaign exactly to suit his objectives and his resources, doing neither too much nor too little.  But the effects of genius show not so much in novel forms of action as in the ultimate success of the whole.  What we should admire is the accurate fulfillment of the unspoken assumptions, the smooth harmony of the whole activity, which only becomes evident in final success.  (Book Three, Chapter One, pp. 177-178)

In fact, the means and forms that the strategist employs are so very simple, so familiar from constant repetition, that it seems ridiculous in the light of common sense when critics discuss them, as they do so often, with pompous solemnity.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)

In other words, in was as in politics results count.  Clausewitz states that strategy cannot be reduced to examining only material factors as it cannot exist outside the moral realm.  Contrary to the beliefs of some operations analysts [number crunchers] and academic theorists [who usually have no military experience other than reading books] it cannot just be reduced to “a few mathematical formulas of equilibrium and superiority, of time and space, limited by a few angles and lines.”  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)

The relations between the material factors are all very simple; what is more difficult to grasp are the intellectual factors involved.  Even so, it is only in the highest realms of strategy that intellectual complications and extreme diversity of factors and relationships occur.  At that level, there is little or no difference between strategy, policy, and statesmanship … there their influence is greater in questions of quantity and scale that in forms of execution.  Where execution is dominant, as it is in the individual events of a war whether great or small, then intellectual factors are reduced to a minimum.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Clausewitz observes that “Everything in strategy is simple, but that does not mean that everything is easy.”  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178) This is the equivalent of the modern observation that it is easy to start a war but it is not so easy to complete it successfully.  Why?

Once is has  been determined, from the political conditions, what a war is meant to achieve and what it can achieve, it is easy to chart the course.  But great strength of character, as well as great lucidity and firmness of mind, is required in order to follow through steadily, to carry out the plan, and not to be thrown off course by thousands of diversions.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)

Clausewitz states that it takes “more strength of will to make an important decision in strategy than in tactics.”  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)  The reason for this is that there is more time for deliberation and “ample room for apprehensions, one’s own and those of others; for objections and remonstrations and, in consequence, for premature regrets.”  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 178)   It takes a person of strong will to make strategic decisions which will affect the course of the war.  However, strong will is not enough.  It has to be combined with knowledge of what you are doing.  Saddam Hussein had a strong will and made disastrous strategic decisions because he didn’t know what he was doing. 

The other aspect to be admired concerns the difficulties of execution.  Maneuvers designed to turn a flank are easily planned.  It is equally easy to conceive a plan for keeping a small force concentrated so that it can meet a scattered enemy on equal terms at any point, and to multiply its strength by rapid movement.  There is nothing admirable about the ideas themselves.  Faced with such simple concepts, we have to admit that they are simple.

            But let a general try to imitate Frederick! [the Great] (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 179)

This is the part of strategy that most would-be generals fail to understand.  The concepts of strategy are in of themselves simple. Their execution is what separates a Frederick the Great or a Napoleon from a Saddam Hussein.

Another difficult of execution involves exertions and great hardships imposed on the armed forces.  Clausewitz states that during Frederick the Great’s Campaign of 1760 against the Austrians and the Russians, his army was constantly on the move and had to be ready to fight on a moment’s notice.  Under these conditions, he decisively defeated the Austrians at Leignitz and at Torgau.  (McCleod, p. 322)

Could this be done without subjecting the military machine to serious friction?  Is a general, by sheer force of intellect, able to produce such mobility with the ease of a surveyor manipulating an astrolabe?  Are the generals and supreme commander not moved by the sight of the misery suffered by their pitiful, hungry, and thirsty comrades in arms?  Are complaint and misgivings about such conditions not reported to the high command?  Would an ordinary made date to ask for such sacrifices, and would these not automatically lower the morale of the troops, corrupt their discipline, in short undermine their fighting spirit unless an overwhelming belief in the greatness and infallibility of their commander outweighed all other considerations?  It is this which commands our respect; it is these miracles of execution that we have to admire.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 180)

Clausewitz own experience is in the Napoleonic Wars.  Napoleon made the same point in his maxims:  “XV.  The first consideration with a general who offers battle should be the glory and honour [sic] of his arms; the safety and preservation of his men is only the second; but it is in the enterprise and courage resulting from the former that the latter will most assuredly be found.” (Chandler, p. 60)

In strategy:

We are constantly brought back to the question:  what, at any given stage of the war or campaign, will be the likely outcome of all major and minor engagements that the two sides can offer one another?  In the planning of a campaign or a war, this alone will decide the measures that have to be taken from the outset.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 182)

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 windfall profits … [W]e also ignore the possibility that their possession may later lead to definite disadvantages… [J]ust as a businessman cannot take the profit from a single transaction and put it into a separate account, so an isolated advantage gained in war cannot be assessed separately from the over result…
By looking on each engagement as part of a series, at least insofar as events are predictable, the commander is always on the high road to his goal.  (Book Three, Chapter One, p. 182)

Thus war is a continuum both in time and space and breadth as well.  The strategist must be able to link these engagements into one whole sequence in order to succeed. 


Chandler, D. G. (1988). The Military Maxims of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan Publishing Complany.

Creveld, M. v. (1986). Eternal Clausewitz. In M. I. Handel (Ed.), Clausewtiz and Modern Strategy. London: Frank Cass.

McCleod, T. (2001). Fredrick II 'the Great', King of Prussia. In R. Holmes (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to Military History (pp. 321-323). London: Oxford University Press.