in an Emerging Multi Lateral World
Armed Conflict - A Continuation of Politics
with the Addition of Other Means
"War is the exercise of force for the
attainment of a political object,
any law save that of expediency.."
is modern art's most powerful antiwar statement.
There is no doubt that Guernica challenges our
notions of warfare as heroic and exposes it as a
brutal act of self-destruction. Speculations as
to the exact meaning of the jumble of tortured
images are as numerous and varied as the people
who have viewed the painting. But it is a
hallmark of Picasso's art that any symbol can
hold many, often contradictory meanings, and the
precise significance of the imagery in Guernica
remains ambiguous. When asked to explain his
symbolism, Picasso remarked, "It isn't up to the
painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it
would be better if he wrote them out in so many
words! The public who look at the picture must
interpret the symbols as they understand them."
Guernica: Testimony of War
Extracts from Clausewitz's On War
Instructors Guide to teaching Clausewitz at the US
College, Washington D.C. -
- 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 engagement’s 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
- 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.
- 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
- “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
- "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
- 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
--- 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
- 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.
- "Two basic principles . . . underlie all strategic
planning. . . .
--- 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 enemy’s 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
- 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
--- 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
--- "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
--- "War is not a mere act of policy but a true political
instrument, a continuation of political activity by other
--- "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
--- "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
- "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."
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"Firmness cannot show itself, of course, if a man keeps
changing his mind." It demands sticking to one's
The relationship between warfare and terrain demands "the
faculty of quickly and accurately grasping the topography of
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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."