The following document is the faculty teaching guidance provided to instructors at the National War College, located at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington DC, in teaching Clausewitz during Course 5602, "Military Thought and the Essence of War," during academic year 2003-04. It is primarily the work of NWC Professor Ilana Kass (a professor at the National War College since 1985), supplemented and edited by Chris Bassford (also a professor at NWC, since 1999, and editor of The Clausewitz Homepage).
TOPICS 3 & 4, Course 5602 - The Essential Theory of War: Clausewitz (2-hour seminar, Tuesday 26 AUG) - The Nature, Character, and Conduct of War: Clausewitz (3-hour seminar, Thursday 28 AUG) Course 5602 Faculty Notes
2. Objectives. "Analyze Clausewitz's theory of war and assess its applicability to the employment of military power today and tomorrow" (T-6); "Analyze Clausewitz's principal ideas on the nature, character, and conduct of war and assess their continued applicability today and tomorrow" (T-7).
3. Context. These two seminars follow the sessions on Napoleon and Jomini and flow logically from our examination of the changes in the nature of warfare wrought by the French Revolution and Jomini's interpretation of those changes. The remaining topics in this course will require--and will offer ample opportunity for--practical application of the theoretical concepts we will study in these lessons on Clausewitz.
More broadly, On War establishes the foundation for much of our discussions throughout Courses 5602 and 5605. Equally importantly, it is an indispensable part of the intellectual arsenal we provide to the Nation's future strategic leaders. Therefore, these two lessons are the most important topics you'll teach in Course 2--if not in the entire curriculum. A look at the themes of Course 2 reveals that 9 out of 10 total are thoroughly Clausewitzian in character and derivation. In other words, Course 2 itself is fundamentally Clausewitzian. Ergo, if you dont grasp Clausewitz, you are not grasping the course itself.
Thus, the most important aim of Topics 3 and 4 is to make sure the students really grasp Clausewitzs ideas and their enduring legacy in military thought and strategy.
4. Mission Analysis. The purpose of the two Clausewitz lessons is to provide the students with a sophisticated understanding of war--its nature, purpose and conduct--and to help them develop and internalize a way of thinking that will serve them well throughout their career. That's a lot to do in 5 hours. Thorough preparation and focus are key. You should approach the T-6 two-hour seminar and the T-7 three-hour class (as well as the study periods preceding and separating the seminars) as an integrated whole, rather than as two distinct lessons.
As Bernard Brodie says, On War "is not simply the greatest but the only truly great book on war." It also has been the most influential. It is essential that your students really wrestle with the fundamental ideas they encounter in On War, not simply run the highlighter over the pages or try to memorize some pithy quotes. Reading Clausewitz is not easy. Teaching him is even harder. Grasping his concepts is, however, eminently worthwhile--or, if you wish, consider telling your students that these are the dues that need to be paid to qualify for the next level of leadership responsibility.
5. Enemy. OK, the students are not the enemy, but they are the target. It is your job to persuade them that the study of Clausewitz is important, rewarding and relevant precisely because it touches the essence of our profession. At the very least, the students need to understand that this is not academic BS or mumbo jumbo German philosophy, with little, if any, relevance to today's battlespace. Many (especially SAMS and SAAS grads) believe they've already studied Clausewitz and gained all there is to be gained; others have deliberately avoided reading him because they heard that "it's too hard/confusing."
Convince your students that even if they have read On War diligently before, we will be reading it differently--both in terms of the order of presentation and for a different goal. Tell them how many times you've read it and the new insights you gain every time you do. As for the "too hard/makes my head hurt" excuse, I simply tell them that Clausewitz is complex and confusing because the subject he is trying to grapple with--war--is complex and confusing. This won't make the task easier, but it increases the chances of a good outcome (i.e., a light-bulb actually coming on).
Encourage your students to spend the time and mental energy necessary for a real understanding of both the concepts and the analytical approach. Ask them to suspend judgement and approach the text with an open mind. (I actually tell them to forget everything they've ever heard or read about Clausewitz and start fresh). I also tell them to:
- Read the pages in the order listed in the syllabus, using the section headings as way-points;
- Skim the historical evidence portions once they get his message;
- Read some background on Clausewitz: Knowing who the man was provides important context. There are a number of background guides to Clausewitz on The Clausewitz Homepage (including these faculty notes)--a good place to start is at Clausewitz FAQs. The students also have Paret, Howard and Brodie, as well as Brodie's notes/commentary at the end of the book.
- Once they're done reading, close the book, go do whatever helps you clear your mind, and re-read Chapter 1 Book 1. Focus on: the thesis ("war is nothing but a duel on a larger scale"); the antithesis ("war is merely the continuation of policy by other means") and finally the synthesis ("as a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a fascinating trinity." [The English wording is controversial: Paret toggles between remarkable trinity  or paradoxical trinity --Bassford prefers "fascinating" (in a hypnotic sense). The original German is "wunderliche dreifaltigkeit"--literally, "wonderful three-partedness," but dreifaltigkeit is the same word German Catholics use for the Holy Trinity.)] This trinity is composed of
1) primordial violence, hatred and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force;
2) the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and
3) war's element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason.
If they get this, maybe they could be the first generation of leaders not to misinterpret the master. That is their challenge--and ours.
The old man himself provides you with the three best rationales to pay the reading bill and invest the brain cells it takes to actually internalize the Clausewitzian construct:
"In the field of strategy theory helps the commander acquire those insights that, once absorbed into his way of thinking, will smooth and protect his progress. Knowledge must be so absorbed into the mind that it almost ceases to exist in a separate, objective way . The continual change [in war] compels the commander to carry the whole intellectual apparatus of his knowledge within him. He must be ready to bring forth the appropriate decisions. By total assimilation with his mind and life, the commander's knowledge must be transformed into a genuine capability." (p 147).
"Most men merely act on instinct and the amount of success they achieve depends on the amount of talent they are born with . Yet, when it is not a question of acting oneself but of persuading others in discussion the need is for clear ideas and the ability to show their connection with each other. So few people have yet acquired the necessary skill at this that most discussions are futile bandying of words, [which] either leave each man sticking to his own ideas or they end with everyone agreeing, [just] for the sake of agreement, on a compromise with nothing to be said for it. Clear ideas do therefore have some practical value. (p 71).
"Theory exists so that one need not start afresh each time sorting out the material and plowing through it . It is meant to educate the mind of the future commander, or, more accurately, guide him in his self-education, not to accompany him to the battlefield." (p. 141; see also p. 578).
6. Time. Two aspects here: First, there's plenty of time to read, think, and digest. Make sure the students use it wisely. Second, in seminar, time will be your enemy even if you plan the mission carefully. While 5 hours might seem like a lot--and the students will be groaning about a 3 hour seminar-- you're likely to run out of time before you run out of airspeed and ideas. That said, watch out for "Clausewitz fatigue." Your objective is to keep the students engaged and wanting more, not to over-saturate the target. Watch for body language and be alert to signs of "my-brain-is-full-syndrome" Take a break when the discussion falters, not when the clock says so. Muffins, bagels and o.j. are powerful brain foods--critical for the 3 hours in T-7. Should a miracle happen and you do run out of ideas before you run out of time, call it a day. There'll be plenty of opportunities to reengage.
The way I manage my time is by being clear in my own mind as to the "must do's"--the absolutely irreducible minimums--for both classes. This way, if all else fails, I know that I've given the students enough understanding to proceed. My own "must do's" and the way I get at them follow.
7. Essential points/Must Do's. What follows are seven additional points I consider "must do's." I usually spend the entire first hour in T3 walking through the dialectic, leaving these points for the second hour. While I often deviate from this time-table, I make sure I capture these critical concepts--if not in T3 then in T4--because, together with the ideas listed above, they constitute the irreducible minimum with which we must provide our students. That said, remember that you're only laying the foundation here. Clausewitz's ideas and concepts can--and should--be discussed in every seminar throughout this course.
a. The interaction of war and policy (pp. 605-610), especially the importance of political objectives as a determinant of "the level of effort in magnitude and also in duration"--in other words, how long and how hard you'll fight depends on how important what you're fighting for is. Great analysis of ends and means in tactics and strategy on pp. 142-143--good link to Course 5601. See also, pp. 226-229 and 585-586.
b. Absolute War vs. Real War and Total War vs Limited War. This is where setting up the dialectic up front will pay great dividends. There are two pairs of dialectical ideas here, not just one. The first pair is "Absolute (or Ideal) War," which is purely notional: Clausewitz calls it a "logical fantasy," meaning that absolute war is what we get if we sit down and game out a war between abstract opponents like A and B, who have none of the attributes of real societies at war. "Real war," on the other hand, is simply war as we actually experience it--the messy result of a collision between actual polities like France and Russia. Unfortunately, Clausewitz confuses lots of people who think that when he talks about "ideal" or "absolute" war he makes a value judgement as to the preferred type, i.e., they think that by "ideal" he means the best kind of war. Contrary to popular belief, however, Clausewitz does not advocate unlimited, total, or absolute war. In truth, he doesn't prescribe--or prefer--limited war either. (Many contemporary interpreters claim he does prescribe limited war; some go as far as to suggest that there are actually two Clausewitzian theories: the first arguing for total war; the second and more "mature" advocating limited war. In my view, this is sheer BS, unsupportable by the text.) What Clausewitz wants us to grasp is that wars can have all degrees of importance and intensity, ranging from wars of extermination down to simple armed observation, depending on the objectives that are at stake and the often-differing values the opponents place on those objectives (p. 81). Therefore: "the first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish by that test [i.e., what's the value of the objectives] the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to make it into something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive." (p.88).
c. I pay particular attention to Clausewitz's view of civil-military relations. Note that Clausewitz cautions against "asking soldiers for purely military advice" and urges politicians to study and understand war: "Only if statesmen look to certain military moves and actions to produce effects that are foreign to their nature do political decision influence operations for the worse. In the same way as a man who has not fully mastered a foreign language sometimes fails to express himself correctly, so statesman often issue orders that defeat the purpose they are meant to serve. Time and again that has happened, which demonstrates that a certain grasp of military affairs is vital for those in charge of general policy." (p. 608) Look again at pp. 87-89, as Clausewitz synthesizes his view of war and policy as a coherent, integrated continuum. While soldiers clearly must be subordinate to politicians, they are not passive servants: They have an active responsibility to ensure that their political masters understand the full (i.e., military AND political) implications of their decisions.
d. The moral and physical dimensions of war (pp. 136-140). Clausewitz is unique in truly understanding and being able to convey the passions inherent in the very nature of war. The dialectic of danger and courage is compelling. My all-time personal favorite is the tenet that "fear is concerned with physical and courage with moral survival." (p. 138). You can pick up these issues in T-6 or T-7 in the context of friction, fog, and genius.
e. The intellectual arsenal the future commander must develop and be able to translate into strategic effects (pp.140-141, 145-147, and 577-578). The key points to be discussed here are captured in my "mission analysis," above.
f. Centers of gravity. This term is one of the most controversial in On War. There are many interpretations and many useful ways to approach it, and Clausewitz uses the term in several different ways and at both the operational and the strategic levels. In essence, however, COGs comprise the dominant characteristics of both belligerents. They are sources of power, not weakness--though it is of course our job to somehow turn the enemy's COG into a weakness or to deprive him of its benefits. Note that Clausewitz advises to narrow one's focus to as few centers of gravity as possible--one if feasible--and concentrate all efforts on it. Note also that he gives a menu of different possible centers of gravity (pp. 595-6 and 617-619). A discussion of these criteria and the difference between a center of gravity and a target is important. Targets are tactical; CoG are strategic because the aim is to kill--kinetically or otherwise --that element in the enemy's system "on which everything depends"--be it his military, his national/social/economic leadership center, or his alliance.
g. The dialectics of offense and defense (pp. 357-358). All the students really need to grasp is that defense is the stronger form of warfare, as long as all you're trying to do is keep what you've got. Defense (like deterrence) cedes the initiative to the opponent. Therefore, it is a strategy of "a negative aim." Note that "negative" here is NOT a value judgement (as in "bad") but, rather, a restatement of the reality that by merely defending you don't gain anything tangible (like terrain), but you might gain time. The attacker has the weaker form of war but the positive goal--i.e., to increase his power by seizing assets (e.g., land, population, political prestige).
9. Seminar Termination Criteria. How much you actually manage to cover and in what depth depends on you and your seminar. I usually run out of time at about the fourth or fifth point, leaving the discussion of centers of gravity and offense/defense for T-7. I close the seminar (and terminate Phase 2) with a short prep for the next phase. The good news is that the readings for T-7 will be much easier to grasp and digest. The subject matter is quite a bit less abstract, and the writing will seem more straightforward. A good note to end on: "Theory cannot equip the mind with formulas for solving problems, nor can it mark the narrow path on which the sole solution is supposed to lie by planting a hedge of principles on either side. [Is this what Jomini tried to do?] But it [theory] can give the mind insight into the great mass of phenomena and their relationships [holistic thinking, again!], then leave it free to rise into the higher realms of action. There the mind can use its innate talents to capacity, combining them all so as to seize on what is right and true." (p. 578) That should motivate your students to continue reading and internalizing Clausewitz's core concepts.
How do you measure success? By the end of the T-6 seminar, you must ensure that everyone in your class
1. can answer Clausewitz's going-in question, "what is war?"
2. understands that the trinity that is the essence of war, and
3. knows that the tinity is NOT -- repeat, NOT -- people/government/army. Rather, it comprises:
a. Violence, hatred and enmity (i.e, violent, essentionally irrational emotion)
b. Chance/probability and creativity (i.e., concrete reality and the talents and skills required to impose one's will upon it); and
c. Reason (i.e., rational, intelligent analysis and decision).
If you get this across, consider it mission accomplished.
You are really doing great if you also manage in this seminar to begin to inculcate the habit of holistic thinking, that is, looking at the issue as a whole. This involves
* visualizing the entire engagement--or campaign--from beginning to end)
* taking it apart and looking at the pieces--particularly the various levels of war--and how they relate to each other
* and, finally, looking at the issue as a whole again, hopefully with a better appreciation for its various facets, dimensions, relationships, and dynamics.
The key to holistic thinking is set out in Clausewitz's Introduction to Chapter 1, Book 1: "In war, more than in any other subject, we must begin by looking at the nature of the whole; for here [in war] more than elsewhere, the part(s) and the whole must always be thought of together." See also pp. 582-583, especially: "every war must be conceived of as a single whole; with his first move the general must already have a clear idea of the goal on which all lines are to converge." This should help you address "end state" and Clausewitz's admonition: "No 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 it. The former is the political purpose; the later the operational objective. This is the governing principle which will set its [war's] course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required and make its influence felt throughout ." (p. 579) Everything else can wait for T-7.
Here's my plan for a three-phase operation:
A. Phase 1: Preparation of the Battlefield. This needs to be done during the Topic 4&5 seminar (French Revolution/Napoleon/Jomini) to get your students ready for the fight. You won't be shortchanging Jomini. In fact, I believe there's more to be gained from a comparative analysis of Clausewitz and Jomini than from discussing either one in isolation. More importantly, if you let your students plunge into On War unprepared, you run the risk that they won't be able to engage effectively; some will miss the target altogether, making it harder on you to recover.
What I tell my students at the end of the Napoleon/Jomini class is:
a. Who is Clausewitz and who he is writing for: First, Clausewitz is a professional soldier, trying to come to terms with war as he's seen it, up close and personal, in victory and defeat (in this sense, he is writing primarily for himself). Second, he does not represent the aggressive Germany of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: He represents an alliance of independent states attempting to avoid subjugation by an alien conqueror and ideology (i.e., Napoleon and the ideology of the French Revolution). Third, he is a scholar/teacher, seeking to "educate the mind" of future warriors and statesmen as to the enduring nature and evolving conduct of war. (In this sense, he is writing for posterity, primarily for his fellow officers). I also tell my students that from age 13 (when he served as an infantry ensign) until his untimely death in 1831, Clausewitz was intimately involved in momentous wars and political developments that literally transformed the map of Europe. His was not speculative theorizing and a search for linear principles (like Jomini's) but, rather, a deliberate effort to come to grips with a multi-dimensional phenomenon and respond to what he saw as a pressing need for a better understanding of that phenomenon.
b. Why reading On War is so important--even though it's difficult. Essentially, I say to my students what I told you in "Mission Analysis" and "Enemy" above. You could add that Clausewitz really tried to write as concretely as possible, citing many past campaigns that his fellow officers at the time would have been quite familiar with. These examples are, for the most part, no longer relevant or even known, so what once was an aid to the reader now simply clutters the text (with apologies to all military historians, I really do tell my students to skip these parts once they understand the message). I also tell them to bear in mind that they are reading a draft--an unfinished work, edited by someone who did the best she could, but really didn't have the skills and context to do it right.
c. Last, I explain the dialectic as the key to understanding Clausewitz--or, at least coping with the contradictions, inconsistencies, convoluted logic, etc. All you really need to say is that, at the time Clausewitz was writing On War, dialectics were the methodology of choice to get at the essence of things--be it observable phenomena or ideas. Originated by Plato and Aristotle, but associated primarily with Hegel and Kant, dialectical reasoning involves: (1) positing a thesis (going in position); (2) thinking it through to its logical conclusion by marshalling all the supporting evidence, but also highlighting all the points that contradict it; (3) talking yourself out of your going-in position to arrive at an anti-thesis which may be the polar opposite of the thesis (as in good and evil; Christ and anti-Christ), or may be simply a very different notion about the topic in question; (4) repeating this analytical process of pro- and con- argumentation to arrive, exhausted but elated, at (5) the synthesis, which includes the key (and valid) points of both the thesis and the anti-thesis. The objective of this intellectual drill is twofold: to get at the core (i.e., understand the essence, or the nature) of whatever it is you're wrestling with--in our case, war--and to reconcile (or, at least take account of) the many contradictions encountered in real life. I end this little lecture by cautioning the students that if they read too quickly, or think too shallowly, they'll get only 1/3 of the argument . I challenge them to identify the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in Book 1, Chapter 1. Make sure the studs bring their books to class!
(FYI: In a true Hegelian tradition, the dialectic never ends; the synthesis becomes the new thesis, etc. This point will become important in T3, when you discuss total and limited war.)
B. Phase 2: Engagement T3 Seminar. The sequence in which you address the concepts is not that important, as long as you keep the discussion focused on the excerpts the students have actually read. Because everything is linked to everything else, you can easily deviate from your plan and reengage an issue later. What follows is how I do it.
Because I've asked my students to read Chapter 1, Book 1, twice and to try to identify the thesis, antithesis and synthesis, this is where I start in the T3 seminar. My opening question (like Clausewitz's) is "what is war?" This becomes very easy if you've started the very first seminar by capturing on the board the students' ideas as to what war is and what makes up its nature. I literally walk my students through the dialectic, laying out the thesis ("war is nothing but a duel on a larger scale"); the antithesis ("war is merely the continuation of policy by other means") and finally the synthesis ("as a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a remarkable trinity, composed of: primordial violence, hatred and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason. The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government."
I focus on the quality of the arguments, the logic, and the insights Clausewitz marshals as he:
- First, develops the thesis ("war is nothing but a duel on a larger scale .An act of force to compel our enemy to do our will"), then lays out the supporting arguments on pp. 75-76. (Pay attention to the admonition that "kind-hearted people might of course think there is some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed . Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistake that come from kindness are the very worst.") He then brings the thesis to its logical conclusion on p. 77 ("The thesis, then, must be repeated: war is an act of force and there is no logical limit to that force.")
- Next, he argues against himself, based on empirical evidence, beginning on p. 77, with the introduction of the "three interactions" (meaning that, were the thesis true, the reciprocal dynamics of war--the action/reaction cycle inherent in the "collision of two living forces"--would lead to endless escalation, because both you and your opponent would continue to try to outdo each other, miscalculating relative strength and will). The counter-argument continues on p. 78: "Modifications in Practice." These "modifications" are: 1 "War is never an isolated act"; 2. "War does not consist of a single short blow"; 3. "In war the result is never final."
- The anti-thesis begins to emerge on p. 80, with the section heading "The Political Object Now Comes To The Fore." The supporting considerations are in sections 12-22. (I use the headings as way points). The anti-thesis argument is brought to its final, logical conclusion in sections 23-24, distilled in the most-often quoted phrase "war is merely a continuation of policy by other means." Note how throughout these sections (as well as in 25-27) Clausewitz's wrestles with the implications of his analysis (just like he did with the thesis). It is this intellectual struggle to make sense of and somehow reconcile the opposites (violence and politics) that leads to the synthesis.
- The synthesis begins in section 27: "War should never be thought of as something autonomous but always as an instrument of policy . Wars must vary with the nature of their motives and the situations which give rise to them. [Therefore] the first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to make it into something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive." The ultimate refinement of the synthesis is, of course, the trinity (section 28, p.89).
C. Phase 3: Exploitation--T4 Seminar
This is a 3-hour seminar. The lesson objective is "Analyze Clausewitz's principal ideas on the nature and conduct of war and their continued applicability today."
Mission Analysis: This is the second seminar on Clausewitz's On War and the third--and last--phase of your campaign plan. Everything stated in the notes for Topic 3 fully applies here. Your students should walk away from this seminar with a solid understanding of Clausewitz's fundamental concepts on the nature, purpose and conduct of war. In thinking through and executing this phase, take into account what you've already accomplished. Plan to cover both the new material and any points left over from the first seminar. Looking ahead, be thinking about how you'd use Jomini and Clausewitz in your discussions at Gettysburg and how you'd try to integrate and apply their concepts in every lesson thereafter.
Essential Points: This lesson focuses on some of Clausewitz's most important ideas concerning the nature and conduct of war at the strategic level. The readings are incredibly rich (and somewhat easier to digest than the previous Topic). They encompass the remainder of Book One and about half of Book Three. Again, just like in T-3, it helps to identify the "must do's." Here are the concepts that make my list:
a. Purpose and Means in War (the subject of Chapter 2, Book 1). Simply put, there is one purpose in war, its political aim; and one means, combat. Depending how much ground you've covered in T3 re political and military objectives and the spectrum of conflict, reengage the discussion to make sure your students understand that "not every war need be fought until one side collapses . Since war is not an act of senseless passion but is controlled by its political object, the value of this object must determine the sacrifices to be made for it in magnitude and also in duration. Once the expenditure of effort exceeds the value of the political object, the object must be renounced and peace must follow." (91-92). This Chapter also contains some key points re attrition vs. annihilation, paralysis, disruption, and targeting the opponent's will. Make sure you set these out now and revisit later when discussing Liddell Hart. (See, especially, p. 97 and Clausewitz's statement that "the moral factor is the most fluid element of all." It dovetails perfectly with Liddell Hart's notion that "will is the key incalculable in war.") There's more good stuff on the importance and impact of moral factors on pp. 184-186.
b. War is the realm of danger, physical exertion, uncertainty, and chance, which combine to create a kind of friction that impedes activity and makes the apparently simple exceedingly difficult. This is where I usually start this class, having a student read aloud the second paragraph of Chapter 4 "On Danger in War" (p. 113). The take-away here is that:
1. "Without an accurate conception of danger we cannot understand war." (p. 114)
2. In war "the light of reason is refracted in a manner quite different from that which is normal in academic speculations." (p. 113)
3. "Danger is part of the friction of war." (p. 114)
c. Chapter 7, "On Friction in War" (pp.119-121 says it all, clearly and compellingly, starting with the opening sentence: "If one has never personally experienced war, one cannot fully understand in what the difficulties really consist, nor why a commander should need any brilliance or exceptional ability." Make sure your students grasp the concept in all its dimensions. Friction is more than Murphy's law. It is "the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult"--the concept that "distinguishes real war from war on paper." The only "lubricant" available to reduce friction is combat experience. (p. 122 and the chapter on "Military Virtues of the Army"--particularly the importance of inculcating a warrior spirit--pp. 187-189). The key to overcoming it is an indomitable will.
d. Intelligence is part of the friction in war. My all time favorite quote (hated by every intel officer world-wide) is on p. 117: "Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain . Reports turn out to be lies, exaggerations, errors, and so on. In short, most intelligence is false and the effect of fear is to multiply lies and inaccuracies." Now, who wants to talk about information dominance, perfect situational awareness, and fog-less, transparent battlespace .?
However, note that in virtually all such skeptical references to "intelligence," Clausewitz is referring to tactical or battlefield information. Even here, while he is skeptical of its accuracy, he does not dismiss its importance. In the larger, strategic, sense, Clausewitz is accutely aware of the need for good intelligence. "A commander-in-chief need not be a learned historian nor a pundit, but he must be familiar with the higher affairs of state and its innate policies; he must know current issues, questions under consideration, the leading personalities, and be able to form sound judgments. He need not be an acute observer of mankind or a subtle analyst of human character; but he must know the character, the habits of thought and action, and the special virtues and defects of the men whom he is to command."
e. There's pure gold in Chapter 3 of Book 1 "On Military Genius." I usually dedicate a full hour to this concept, focusing on those "gifts of intellect and temperament" that are needed to overcome--or, at least cope with--"the four elements that make up the climate of war: danger, exertion, uncertainty and chance." (p. 194) "If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, 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 might lead. The first of these qualities is described by the French term coup d'oeil; the second is determination." (p 102) I explain coup d'oeil as an advanced version of situational awareness: insight, intuition, and foresight. Determination combines moral and physical courage with strength of will and perseverance. "Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger and the courage to accept responsibility, either before the tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one's own conscience." Go back to p. 138 and remind your class that "courage is about moral survival" (whereas fear reflects the concern with physical survival).
f. The bottom line on military genius is on p. 112. Before you go there, pause to discuss the preceding statement on p. 111: "To bring a war or one of its campaigns to a successful conclusion requires a thorough grasp of national policy. On that level, strategy and policy coalesce: the commander-in-chief is simultaneously the statesman." This links directly to the integration of war and policy, civil-military interface, correlation of political and military objectives, and the integrity of military advice which you've addressed (or, at least touched upon) in T3. These are key points that bear repeating and reinforcing.
g. From here, go directly to p. 177 where strategy is defined as "the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war" and discuss how political objectives shape military objectives and the actual conduct of ops. Conclude with a discussion on the cumulative, sequential nature of strategy and how considerations of the desired end-state must permeate every move (see pp. 181-182).
I use absolutely no gimmicks, visual aids, or diversions of any kind in the two Clausewitz seminars. I simply teach it the old fashioned way--from the book and the white-board. Because these lessons call on the students to go back to first principles about what military power and war are all about--and what these concepts mean to them personally--you shouldn't need any fancy techniques to generate quality discussion.
The three-hour seminar is just enough of a change from the routine to require some special attention. Consider bringing food/drinks. Divide the time into either two sessions with a 15 minute break in between, or three sessions with 10 minute breaks. Try to develop a distinct purpose and approach for each session. If you reach your "culminating point" (that is, the point beyond which it is futile to press the attack--see, Clausewitz is useful for everything!) before 1130, spend a few minutes going over the plan and requirements for our forthcoming trip to Gettysburg.
What follows are techniques that have been flight-tested by other instructors and seem to work:
a. Assign each student one or two Clausewitzian concepts (e.g., friction, center of gravity, engagement, etc. and have them prepare an oral report explaining and evaluating each concept (give them a 5 minute time limit). When presented in class, these reports make excellent discussion points.
- As a variant, assign each student one of the "issues for consideration" and then give them 15-20 minutes to write a one-page essay answering that question. Then go around the table having each student summarize his/her answer and inviting the remainder of the seminar to comment. You, of course, should collect the essays and provide feedback on the substance and style of the writing within the next couple of classes. The advantages of this approach are that writing forces students to crystallize and articulate their ideas more fully, and it gives you an early chance to evaluate and critique their writing.
b. Focus your discussion around the question of how and why Clausewitz and Jomini reacted differently to the warfare of the Napoleonic period. This serves not only to promote a comparative analysis of the two theories, but also to highlight the fact that theory is rooted in particular sets of circumstances and views of the world and that intelligent, well-meaning analysts can differ on their interpretations of events. This will help set the stage for consideration of later theorists.
While I always start with the trinity as the final crystallization of Clausewitz's theory, you could do it the other way around, that is, trace the evolution of his thinking about war, tracking the way the students read the text. In other words, knowing that Book One, Chapter One represents the essence of his ideas, you can start the seminar with Book Two, work through several selections back to Book Eight, and only then return to Book One to examine the culmination of his thinking.
However you do this, your students must grasp three fundamental concepts from Book One, Chapter One: (1) "War is . . . an act of force [or threat of force] to compel our enemy to do our will;" (2) "War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means;" (3) "As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a remarkable trinity - composed of primordial violence, hatred and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason." This should lead to a discussion of political objectives and military aims, as well as integration with Course 5601 (as well as 5603). An interesting point to bring up: semantically (if not in practice), we've separated the political/diplomatic instrument and the military/violent/war instrument--perhaps we shouldnt have. As per Clausewitz, these should be inextricably linked and addressed holistically.
- You could then use these three fundamental concepts as the organizing approach to discuss the nature and purpose of war, either by throwing them out for general discussion, one by one, or by dividing the class into three teams with the task of explaining what Clausewitz "really meant," provide historical examples, compare Jominis ideas, and comment on current relevance with examples. Also you should be able to tie back to your first lesson of the Course and 5601.
- Work through the reading selections in the order read and ask the students to identify, explain, and evaluate the development of Clausewitzs ideas and how his thinking may have changed as he wrote.
- Work through the Issues for Consideration in sequence. They should generate plenty of discussion. At the end, help your seminar draw Clausewitz's ideas together into a systematic, coherent body of thought and analyze their relevance and implications. Once you've done that, compare and contrast the result with your seminar's analysis of Jomini's work.
- Play the "devil's advocate." Tell your seminar that you really dislike Clausewitz, find him obtuse, too abstract, too outdated, too whatever. Given how many people genuflect at this altar and quote his tenets (usually out of context and without a full understanding--or even an honest effort at developing such an understanding), this might be a fun exercise. A variant on this theme is to have the students find the problems in Clausewitzwhat does he ignore, leave out, misinterpret, etc. A fair question is: If someone writes like this, should he expect anyone to read him at all, much less get his message?
- Again, just for the record, I use absolutely no gimmicks, visual aids, or diversions of any kind for the two Clausewitz seminars. I simply teach it the old fashioned way--from the book and the white-board. Because these lessons call on the students to go back to first principles about what military power and war are all about--and what these concepts mean to them personally--you shouldn't need any fancy techniques to generate quality discussion.
By the time you've finished these two seminars, you will have covered an enormous amount of ground. Be sure you've defined, in your own mind, the essential points about Clausewitz you want your students to grasp and the ones you want to carry forward into the seminars that follow. In my humble opinion, you'd be failing your students if don't help them do comparative analysis (e.g., Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, or Liddell Hart, or Douhet, or Mahan, etc.) and show them how to apply the concepts to critique a strategy (past, current or future) or create a new one. In other words, don't close the book on On War at 1130 on October 9! Weave in and integrate the main ideas into every lesson you teach. When in doubt, revisit the Course Themes: 5 out of 8 derive from Clausewitz!
a. A tremendous amount of material is available on The Clausewitz Homepage, including FAQs, whole books and articles, indexes, bibliographies in several languages, graphics, a bookstore, etc.
b. Peter Paret's article "Clausewitz" from Makers of Modern Strategy. It sketches Clausewitz's background and argues that Clausewitz stands at the beginning of the nonprescriptive, nonjudgmental study of war as a total phenomenon. He probed beneath the surface of tactics and strategy to explore war's structure, its internal dynamic, and its links with other elements of social existence. Devising effective strategic schemes and tactical measures mattered less than identifying the permanent elements of war and understanding how they function.
c. "The Genesis of On War," "The Influence of Clausewitz," and "The Continuing Relevance of On War" from the Howard/Paret edition of On War. These three introductory essays provide useful contextual and analytical information. The first makes the point that On War is not a finished work and that it evolved over a twenty-year span. It then examines three questions: what political and military phenomena was Clausewitz trying to understand; what assumptions and theories was he reacting against; and what analytical methodology did he consider most sound? The second essay makes the point that Clausewitz was not immediately influential and that different aspects of his thought have been influential at different times and in different countries. The final essay examines Clausewitz's relevance today (1976!) and concludes that "Clausewitz is probably as pertinent to our times as most of the literature specifically written about nuclear war."
d. Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper 52, October 1996, revised as McNair Paper 68, August 2004. Both this reading and the next (Beyerchen) deal with some current debates on the usefulness/relevance of Clausewitz in understanding future warfare.
e. Alan Beyerchen, Clausewitz, Nonlinearity, and the Unpredictability of War, International Security, Vol. 17:3, pp. 59-90. This is one of the most important article swritten about Clausewitz in the last 30 years. Beyerchen shows that Clausewitzs world view has scientific and mathematical validity, and that his ideas were way ahead of their times. Now, personally, as a historian and free-thinker I didnt need this, but Beyerchen has handed us a weapon we can use to beat down the engineering and hard science types who typically resist Clausewitzian thinking.
f. Peter Paret, "Clausewitz and the Nineteenth Century," The Theory and Practice of War, ed. Michael Howard, pp. 21-41.
g. Christopher Bassford, Clausewitz and His Works," an extensive introduction to the man, his key writings, and his ideas.
i. Christopher Bassford, Reclaiming the Clausewitzian Trinity (co-authored by Edward J. Villacres), Parameters, Autumn 1995. This article examines the difference between Clausewitz's original trinity (i.e., emotion, reason, and chance/probability) and the sometimes useful but nonetheless misleading doctrinal distortion developed in the US by Harry Summers after the Vietnam War (and swallowed whole by pundits like John Keegan and Martin van Creveld).
j. Christopher Bassford, Jomini and Clausewitz: Their Interaction, Paper presented to the 23rd Meeting of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe at Georgia State University, 26 February 1993; slightly edited in June 2000. This paper makes the point that the Jominian ideas Clausewitz criticizes in On War are quite different from the ideas Jomini later presented in his Summary of the Art of War, written after Jomini had read Clausewitz's work.
Extracts from Clausewitz's On War Relevant to T3 (Howard/Paret edition)
- 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 proper.
- 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 engagements purpose.
- 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 the subject."
- "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.
- As of 10 Jul 1827, Clausewitz regarded the first six books "merely as a rather formless mass that must be thoroughly reworked once more." The revision would aim to bring out the two kinds of war more clearly: first, war that aimed to "overthrow the enemy;" and second, war that aimed "merely to occupy some of his frontier districts." He also aimed to make clear the point that "war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means."
-- As of 1830, Clausewitz still regarded his manuscript "as nothing but a collection of materials from which a theory of war was to have been distilled. . . The first chapter of Book One alone I regard as finished. It will at least serve the whole by indicating the direction I meant to follow everywhere."
- 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."
- No 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 it. (Makes a similar statement in Book 1, Chapter 1)
- "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 war."
-- "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 interaction."
- 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 he."
- "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."
- A defender must always seek to change over to the attack as soon as he has gained the benefit of the defense.
- "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 war."
- "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.
--- 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 enemys center of gravity, and if possible trace it back to single one.
--- The second task is to ensure that the forces to be used against that point are concentrated for a main offensive.
- "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 requires."
--- "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 political directives."
--- "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 policy."
Extracts from Clausewitz's On War Relevant to T4 (Howard/Paret edition)
"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 determination."
War's climate of danger, exertion, uncertainty, and chance also demands other intellectual qualities.
"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 resistance."
"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 one's convictions.
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 speculation."
"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 uncertain."
"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 episodes."
"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 windfall profits."
"The strategic elements that affect the use of engagements may be classified into various types: moral, physical, mathematical, geographical, and statistical."
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 it."
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."
There 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."
In 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 point.
"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 concentrated."