Question 6: Clausewitz wrote “in war the result is never final.” Under what conditions and through what actions can belligerents make their victory more permanent?
Carl Von Clausewitz theorized that “in war the result is never final” and that “the defeated state often considers the outcome as a transitory evil…” (Clausewitz, 80) There are many examples that support his theory that defeated belligerents will wait for another opportunity to achieve their objectives. There are also examples of belligerents who, under certain conditions and through deliberate actions, made their victory more permanent. Those belligerents who made their wartime victory more permanent did so with effective civil-military (civ-mil) relationships and with the popular support of the people. Under these conditions, they successfully reassessed and adapted during the conflict to ensure the effects of their operations led to conclusive war termination.
The American Revolution is an outstanding example of how conditions in the American colonies and the actions that their civilian and military leadership took ensured their victory. During the American Revolution effective civ-mil relations enabled the colonists to prosecute the war in a manner that defeated the world’s greatest power. In addition to effective civ-mil relations, gaining popular amongst the American people was essential in conducting the protracted war. Assessing the effects of operations was also critical in earning independence from Great Britain.
Early in the war, civ-mil relationships were strained since the Continental Congress “thought that their duty was to manage the details of [the war] themselves…” (Fischer, 144) Their direct involvement in military matters made conduct of the war even more difficult for George Washington and the military. Fortunately for the Americans, Congress changed its approach after Washington’s defeats in New York in 1776. Because of the crisis the colonists faced, American General Nathanael Greene urged Congress to give Washington the means to do what was necessary to rebuild the Army and reverse their misfortunes. Congress agreed with General Greene and granted Washington increased powers to prosecute the war. Although some argued Washington had been made a dictator, the “principle of civil supremacy over the military” was affirmed. (Fischer, 145) As a result, an effective civ-mil relationship was established and Washington could proceed with the war effort with the support and oversight of Congress.
During the American Revolution, popular support of the people was a condition that was in doubt initially but gained through the actions of Washington and others. Only with popular support of the people could Washington and Congress continue their fight against the British. Thomas Paine’s essay “The American Crisis, Number I” published on December 19, 1776 helped strengthen the support of the American people and the Continental Army. Washington’s...