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).

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