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Clausewitz's "On War": Useful Insights For Twenty First Century Warfare

1386 words - 6 pages

Amongst military theorists and practitioners who studied war, its origin and implications, Carl von Clausewitz assumes a place among the most prominent figures. With his book On War, he demonstrated his capability to provide thorough historical analysis of the conflicts he experienced, and as a philosopher he reflected on war itself. Today, Western armies conduct warfare in a dynamic environment composed of multiple threats in which civilians form a substantial part. Studying Clausewitz provides current military and political leadership useful insights to understand twenty-first century warfare. He explains the nature of war, provides an analytical tool to understand the warfare, and he argues for well educated and adaptable leadership capable of creative thinking. Although he died before his work was complete, his writing style is ambiguous and unclear at some moments, and current technology reduces some of his tactics obsolete, his work still arouses and inspires military and political strategists.
First, current military leadership should comprehend the nature of war and the political framework in which they develop plans coherent with the desired political end state. According to Clausewitz, war is an act of politics that forces an enemy to comply with certain conditions or to destroy him through the use of violence. Indeed, a nation determines its vital interests which drive national strategy towards the use of the elements of power, which consist of diplomatic, informational, military and economical means. However, the use of military force remains a way to achieve strategic goals, military leaders stay subjected to this hierarchy to assure national unity of effort. The US National Military Strategy reflects this method in its directives to employ US forces and to procure equipment. Yet, from the moment national interest drives towards war, the role of the army is focused on defeating the opponent or to make him accept the terms of an agreement. Since 7 October 2001, US Forces are engaged to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan, and in accordance with national policy will remain in Afghanistan until the conditions are met to transfer authority completely to the Afghan government. In addition, On War explains the two types of war in which an army can be engaged, namely limited and unlimited war. The difference between the two resides in the will to commit a certain amount of resources into a conflict, the time available or necessary to achieve the political objectives and the aim of the campaign. Those objectives may consist in acquiring resources or strategic advantages, showing military capabilities or imposing certain conditions. The intervention towards Libya as of March 2011 is an example of limited intervention. The latter type of war demands the maximum employment of a nation’s resources to destroy the opponent’s military capacity, to break the will of nation, or to prevent further use of military capabilities. With hindsight,...

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