From Jomini to Clausewitz: Tactics and Strategy
HIST 202 SEC 6380
Christopher P. McCuiston
22 September 2013
In times of war there always the unknown and even known factors that are unpredictable. Many seasoned war veterans from generals to seargent majors have contemplated the strategies and theories of how to win a war. Throughout history wars have been fought for a multitude of reasons; religion, politics, economic, land disputes, and to defeat tyrannical leaders who have committed atrocities against mankind. War has been waged for other than the aforementioned reasons, but are usually related to political or economic causes. Historically there are many strategist and tacticians ...view middle of the document...
From time in which they lived and fought they both pulled from three main sources: they studied the historical references of Frederick the Great, their experiences in the Napoleonic Wars, and the fact that they read each other’s books . I think that the shared interest in Frederick the Great who was the King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786 encouraged both study and write about the complexities of war.
Major General Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) wrote the treatise “On War” which is widely taught in military schools around the globe. Clausewitz established premise that war belongs more to realm of philosophy than to the realm of art or science . With this theory he developed his “concept of “critical analysis” or Kritik, which forms the basis for his approach to the study of war” . To separate the idea of war being more in tune with philosophy you have to understand that war is ever evolving and proves to go beyond the proof of fact. In science we have the scientific theory which one poses a hypotheses and then looks to prove it false or to find the “truth” through the use of the scientific method. The Kritik involves three distinct steps; uncover or discover the facts, trace those effects to the causes, and investigate and evaluate the means . I can draw parallels to the scientific theory and scientific method, but Clausewitz uses his own philosophical method to extract tactics and strategy from historical battles and wars in which he has participated.
Not only did Clausewitz see war being in a separate realm, he focused on calling the defense stronger than that of the offense. He did state “that the defender must usually go over to the offensive to bring war to a satisfactory conclusion” , meaning at some point you must abandon your defensive stance in order to win the war. There is always unpredictability in battle and this is where it plays into the hands of the side that takes the defensive posture. Clausewitz also believed in friction, which was the cause of the unpredictability. He felt that there was a definable difference between war that was studied or plotted on paper as opposed to the war that took place on the battlefield . As the enemy advances on the offensive friction is created and I think that he sees the defensive being able to adapt as the offensive surges forward, suffers losses, and attempts to recover and advance. Of the benefits of defense, Clausewitz noted they had the element of “surprise, the benefit of terrain, and concentric attack” . This also leads into the area of friction allowing the defense to surprise the offensive when suffering losses, know the terrain as they wait for the advancing enemy, and fight for that center of attack.
The last aspect that I feel is an important learning tool from Clausewitz that is notably worthy of being utilized in all areas of war is the use of the flank. Using the terrain to conceal troops and attempt to hold an advantage is a usual benefit during a...