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Thread: The Clausewitz Collection (merged thread)

  1. #241
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    For although we entertain no exaggerated ideas of the omnipotence of a people's war, such as that it is an inexhaustible, unconquerable element, over which the mere force of an army has as little control as the human will has over the wind or the rain; in short, although our opinion is not founded on flowery ephemeral literature, still we must admit that armed peasants are not to be driven before us in the same way as a body of soldiers who keep together like a herd of cattle, and usually follow their noses
    The Soviet campaign came into my mind when reading the above and the following, "Bear went over the mountain" has just so many corrisponding examples and situations.

    Armed peasants, on the contrary, when broken, disperse in all directions, for which no formal plan is required; through this circumstance, the march of every small body of troops in a mountainous, thickly wooded, or even broken country, becomes a service of a very dangerous character, for at any moment a combat may arise on the march; if in point of fact no armed bodies have even been seen for some time, yet the same peasants already driven off by the head of a column, may at any hour make their appearance in its rear.

    If it is an object to destroy roads or to block up a defile; the means which outposts or detachments from an army can apply to that purpose, bear about the same relation to those furnished by a body of insurgent peasants, as the action of an automaton does to that of a human being. The enemy has no other means to oppose to the action of national levies except that of detaching numerous parties to furnish escorts for convoys to occupy military stations, defiles, bridges, etc.

    In proportion as the first efforts of the national levies are small, so the detachments sent out will be weak in numbers, from the repugnance to a great dispersion of forces; it is on these weak bodies that the fire of the national war usually first properly kindles itself, they are overpowered by numbers at some points, courage rises, the love of fighting gains strength, and the intensity of this struggle increases until the crisis approaches which is to decide the issue.
    Then, once again I'm surprised how well CvC puts his words.


    According to our idea of a people's war, it should, like a kind of nebulous vapoury essence, never condense into a solid body; otherwise the enemy sends an adequate force against this core, crushes it, and makes a great many prisoners; their courage sinks; every one thinks the main question is decided, any further effort useless, and the arms fall from the hands of the people.

    Still, however, on the other hand, it is necessary that this mist should collect at some points into denser masses, and form threatening clouds from which now and again a formidable flash of lightning may burst forth.


    These points are chiefly on the flanks of the enemy's theatre of war, as already observed. There the armament of the people should be organised into greater and more systematic bodies, supported by a small force of regular troops, so as to give it the appearance of a regular force and fit it to venture upon enterprises on a larger scale.

    From these points, the irregular character in the organisation of these bodies should diminish in proportion as they are to be employed more in the direction of the rear of the enemy, where he is exposed to their hardest blows. These better organised masses, are for the purpose of falling upon the larger garrisons which the enemy leaves behind him.

    Besides, they serve to create a feeling of uneasiness and dread, and increase the moral impression of the whole, without them the total action would be wanting in force, and the situation of the enemy upon the whole would not be made sufficiently uncomfortable.
    Mao seems to have take the whole last page out and slightly modified it when he described his three phases of the revolution. Not unlikely, given that he read Lenin's take on it and the (badly) translated work.


    I will follow it up with the second part of the chapter in which he also talks about the paradox that rapid tactical attacks are the mainstay of the people's war in the strategic defence.

  2. #242
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    Default CvC vs MvC

    What was beyond CvC's reach was obvious to MvC. WMDs, people's war at its best and globalization. These all contribute to the decline of the nation state (because of the decline of nationalism as its basic principle). I will write a paper on it if I have the time.

    CvC basic assumptions are valid (center of gravities, war is a continuation of politics etc.) and will be valid as long as we accept the definition: war is organised violence.

    MvC might be a bit too much for some, yet he has valid points about declining states and about who and why fights.

    Don't think only of western hemisphere. See Katanga e.g. a state was turned upside down by a mining company. IMHO Tom Odom can give us quazillion examples of VNSAs way before AQ and Hizbullah.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

  3. #243
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UrsaMaior View Post
    What was beyond CvC's reach was obvious to MvC. WMDs, people's war at its best and globalization. These all contribute to the decline of the nation state (because of the decline of nationalism as its basic principle). I will write a paper on it if I have the time.
    I would advise you to read Taiko's excellent post - just like him I do not agree with the simplistic assumption of the "decline of the nation state" on which a good part of MvC theory is grounded. While there is change, the state is still by far the most dominating form and actor of the will and interests it's people. Not that this adds or takes away from the work CvC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    I would advise you to read Taiko's excellent post - just like him I do not agree with the simplistic assumption of the "decline of the nation state" on which a good part of MvC theory is grounded. While there is change, the state is still by far the most dominating form and actor of the will and interests it's people. Not that this adds or takes away from the work CvC.
    Yes sir I did read it and it will likely to become an often quoted source, alas westerners often commit the mistake of thinking only of their experience, their circumstances, what they see. In ex-communist countries like mine, or ones around Mr Creveld's, not to mention quasi states like so many in Africa the stuctures are not that solid. Even here say Deutsche Telekom group is a state in the state, with extra privileges etc. and we are EU and NATO and stuff. I would also like to raise your attention that MvC has not spoke about the state "vanishing" or "disappearing" only about the serious decline it has to endure in its population's prefernce list.

    It might well be that the current crisis will slow or even reverse the continous decline of nationalism as the binding power of nation states, but until 2008 it was not the case, at least in young democracies or ex-colonies.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

  5. #245
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    There is certainly no need or urge to give me a sir, I'm better off without that moniker

    Perhaps we should bring the thread back on track, discussing the application of CvC to insurgency in general. Crefeld's interesting work merits another one.

    What attracted me to that chapter of CvC was both the profound analysis carved in very fitting words and Mao's theories on guerilla warfare. It is well noted that Mao, just like Lenin had closely studied "On War" and when one has read his Yu Chi Chan one sees IMHO a very strong connection in thought and wording.

    About the goal of the struggle:

    Mao (Chapter 1)

    There is no reason to consider guerrilla warfare separately from national policy. On the contrary, it must be organized and conducted in complete accord with national anti-Japanese policy. It is only who misinterpret guerrilla action who say, as does Jen Ch'i Shan, "The question of guerrilla hostilities is purely a military matter and not a political one." Those who maintain this simple point of view have lost sight of the political goal and the political effects of guerrilla action. Such a simple point of view will cause the people to lose confidence and will result in our defeat.
    CvC (Book 8, Chapter 6B):

    Now, this unity is the conception that war is only a part of political intercourse, therefore by no means an independent thing in itself.

    We maintain, on the contrary: that war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means. We say, mixed with other means, in order thereby to maintain at the same time that this political intercourse does not cease by the war itself, is not changed into something quite different, but that, in its essence, it continues to exist, whatever may be the form of the means which it uses, and that the chief lines on which the events of the war progress, and to which they are attached, are only the general features of policy which run all through the war until peace takes place.

    Accordingly, war can never be separated from political intercourse, and if, in the consideration of the matter, this is done in any way, all the threads of the different relations are, to a certain extent, broken, and we have before us a senseless thing without an object.


    Take CvC:

    National levies and armed peasantry cannot and should not be employed against the main body of the enemy's army, or even against any considerable corps of the same, they must not attempt to crack the nut, they must only gnaw on the surface and the borders.

    Where no enemy is to be found, there is no want of courage to oppose him, and at the example thus given, the mass of the neighboring population gradually takes fire. Thus the fire spreads as it does in heather, and reaching at last that part of the surface of the soil on which the aggressor is based, it seizes his lines of communication and preys upon the vital thread by which his existence is supported.
    Mao: (Chapter 2)

    While these units function as guerrillas, they may be compared to innumerable gnats, which, by biting a giant both in front and in rear, ultimately exhaust him. They make themselves as unendurable as a group of cruel and hateful devils, and as they grow and attain gigantic proportions, they will find that their victim is not only exhausted but practically perishing. I
    On could easily go on and on. That it is not to say that Clausewitz was the only inspiration, far from that. But one wonders why it seems so commonplace to see Mao basing his (military) thoughts primarily on Chinese sources.
    Last edited by Firn; 09-24-2009 at 06:07 PM.

  6. #246
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    Nationalism is a very amorpheous concept. We have seen the shift from civic nationalism, that brought us the second world war, to ethnic nationalism that brought us the war in Yogoslavia and in various African states. In the case of Yugoslavia its important to remember that the conflict was about the establishment and expansion of state territory, for example a greater Serbia. Religious and ethnic nationalism has brough us conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Again, the conflict is over who has control of the state apparatus, that is who has rightful claim to the monopoly of force, and governance, the how and why laws are made, implemented and enforced.

    The problem with the whole 'hearts and minds' concept is that it is not the militaries job to win 'hearts and minds', its the governments responsibility. Without a stable government that can claim to have a monoply of force, that is not currupt, can provide basic services, there is no security. I think thats worth repeating, without a viable and functioning 'state' there is no security. South Vietman during the late 60's-70's perfect example. Again, this is CvC's paradoxical trinity at work. You can surge all you want, 100 000-200 000 soilders but it is important to remember that the military is only one side of the trinity, there is also the people and the government. At the end of the day if you do not have a stable government as the head of state then you are heading into a protracted war which will cost blood and treasure without a necessarily beneficial outcome for the people.

    MvC specifically misinterprets the second half of the equation in many conflicts. The struggle for power, the will to define, create, and expand a state is still a basic function of most intra-state conflicts, and is still a concern for inter-state conflict. As CvC would say that is the purpose.
    Last edited by Taiko; 09-27-2009 at 10:51 PM.

  7. #247
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Wilf Bait: The Clausewitz Delusion

    One of my CGSC instructors (retired officer) has this book coming out next month. He argues our fixation with Clausewitz is responsible for us becoming strategically muddled.

    He's let some of it fly in my classes so far, my opinion is he has created a strawman of Clausewitz and the whole center of gravity concept. He believes the trinity only applied in his era, and is irrelevant.

    He advocates a US way of war based on the style most articulated by Sherman, total war and mass destruction to crush the willingness of the targeted society to resist. He figures this historically as 5-18% of the relevant population as KIA. The reason populations should suffer is to humiliate the warrior class and show that they are impotent to protect their society.

    Provocative, to say the least. I got into quite a debate with him in class over some of it, and the moral implications therof. The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it.

    I have paraphrased (perhaps inaccurately) some of the arguments made. Will have to wait for the book to appropriately and fairly respond to the arguments. Recommend Wilf review it for SWJ though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amazon Page
    The Clausewitz Delusion: How the American Army Screwed Up the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (A Way Forward) (Hardcover)
    by Stephen L. Melton
    http://www.amazon.com/Clausewitz-Del.../dp/0760337136
    Product Description

    In the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, the American military cast about for answers--and, bizarrely, settled upon a view of warfare promulgated by a Prussian general in the 1830s, Carl von Clausewitz. This doctrine was utterly inappropriate to the wars the U.S. faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. It led the U.S. Army to abandon its time-honored methods of offensive war--which had guided America to success from the early Indian campaigns all the way through the Second World War--in favor of a military philosophy derived from the dynastic campaigns of Napoleon and Frederick the Great. It should come as no surprise, then, that the military's conceptualization of modern offensive war, as well as its execution, has failed in every real-life test of our day.

    This book reveals the failings of the U.S. Army in its adoption of a postmodern “Full Spectrum Operations" doctrine, which codifies Clauswitzian thinking. Such an approach, the author contends, leaves the military without the doctrine, training base, or force structure necessary to win offensive wars in our time. Instead, the author suggests, the army should adopt a new doctrinal framework based on an analysis of the historical record and previously successful American methods of war. A clear and persuasive critique of current operative ideas about warfare, The Clausewitz Delusion lays out a new explanation of victory in war, based on an analysis of wartime casualties and post-conflict governance. It is a book of critical importance to policymakers, statesmen, and military strategists at every level.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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  8. #248
    Council Member Klugzilla's Avatar
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    Default Misinterpreting the Trinity

    It sounds like he is making the typical misinterpretation of the trinity. The trinity is composed of three principal tendencies or forces: hostility, chance, and purpose. These are universal to war and human nature. The "secondary" trinity (military, governement, and people) is often mistaken for what Uncle Carl was actually talking about and may not be applicable to all situations today. Tell him to go back to the pond.

  9. #249
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    That's an interesting one. The Soviets killed roughly 5-6% of the total population of Afghanistan and drove another 20% into exile in Iran and Pakistan. I'm having a bit of trouble remembering if they were successful, anyone?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it.
    Given his background and yours (in terms of level of responsibility), does it feel like you're being scolded by a four-year-old? Just curious, because I've always wondered how I would react in a situation like that. Thankfully, it hasn't happened yet.

  11. #251
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    He advocates a US way of war based on the style most articulated by Sherman, total war and mass destruction to crush the willingness of the targeted society to resist. He figures this historically as 5-18% of the relevant population as KIA. The reason populations should suffer is to humiliate the warrior class and show that they are impotent to protect their society.

    Provocative, to say the least. I got into quite a debate with him in class over some of it, and the moral implications therof. The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it.
    Neil

    I just wonder whether he has ever had the opportunity to see even 5% destruction of a population.

    I have seen 10% and could see using the Sherman mantra were we taking on N Korea. But as his book relates to Iraq and Afghanistan, I would point out that the side that did kill 10% of the population, lost the war.

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 10-12-2009 at 05:39 AM.

  12. #252
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That tells me all I need to know

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    One of my CGSC instructors (retired officer)...He advocates a US way of war based on the style most articulated by Sherman, The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it. (emphasis added /kw)
    The part in bold, that is. Sounds like an ignorant and unduly arrogant twit I once knew. He's best ignored to the extent possible with an attitude like that. Why on earth would Leavenworth hire people like that to 'instruct' field grades?

    As for his premise. There's a time and a place for Sherman rules -- there's also a time an place for a Mosby or a Morgan and several levels in between. Clausewitz did not have all the answers. Neither did John Boyd or Sun Tzu. Subadai for his time may have but he didn't write books about it -- he did it. My suspicion is that S.L. Melton will not have as many answers as the others who did write.

  13. #253
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Organizational Structure

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Provocative, to say the least. I got into quite a debate with him in class over some of it, and the moral implications therof. The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it.
    That was one of the good things about the Defense Analysis department at NPS. We weren't considered students more like co-equals with different lessons to both teach and learn. The academics taught us the theories, and we confirmed/denied based off our practice. Much better learning environment.

    As we studied Rick's Fiasco and other big strategic events going back to the Cuban Missle Crisis, I was struck that President Bush did not have a guy to point to hold responsible for Iraq or the overall GWOT. In our current structure, you have the National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, State, DoD, Centcom, CPA, CJSOTF-AP, JSOC, and the MNF-I Commander. Everyone is in charge, but no one is in charge. This structure almost forecast us to muddle through big foreign policy decisions. By 2006, Bush finally had Patraeus to hold responsible for success or failure.

    Before we bash Clausewitz, I think we should look at fixing Unity of Command.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    That's an interesting one. The Soviets killed roughly 5-6% of the total population of Afghanistan and drove another 20% into exile in Iran and Pakistan. I'm having a bit of trouble remembering if they were successful, anyone?
    I think you're confusing it with the success of the Rwandan government/Interahamwe against the RPF (10%+ of the population killed).
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    And why not even more... lets kill every body. Then we are sure their is no one to interfere.

  16. #256
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I have paraphrased (perhaps inaccurately) some of the arguments made. Will have to wait for the book to appropriately and fairly respond to the arguments. Recommend Wilf review it for SWJ though.
    Thanks Neil. I'd also suggest some of the bigger dogs in the SWC Pack give it a once over, and Taiko as well. IRRC he is doing his PhD on Clausewitz and is a fellow Clausewitian.
    My immeadiate and unfounded reaction is that he has not actually read of understood Clausewitz, but I shall await evidence before passing judgement!

    I am actually dealing with a very similar situation here at home, where a respected author has assigned to CvC a whole lot of things he never said or even meant to say. The real issue is usually a poor understanding of CvC rather then CvC being wrong.

    Does anyone have a .pdf review copy?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  17. #257
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    I probably shouldn't have included the bit about the personal spat. Direct any inquiries on that to PM or my email. I was in a snarky mood that day, so perhaps being sniped at by the know-it-all young guy didn't sit right to a retired (O-5/O-6?). So blame can rest here as well, but my other instructors seem to handle being challenged on facts a little bit better.

    That said, I am not well read (above the surface) on CvC, so I posted it here to see what the reactions were.

    A friend on facebook asked the relevant question - "crap, if we kill this guy, we will go over 15 percent..."

    I've been mulling over my thoughts on the subject, I haven't really ever denied that under the right conditions the "kill em all" method of COIN is effective, but I also maintain it's irrelevant to the task because we simply won't do it because of the evolution of values related to human rights. It's related to my Lyall/Wilson critique of comparing COIN 1800-1945 to later, because international norms as to what is acceptable (for a liberal democracy) have changed so drastically when compared to the challenges of COIN in the post-cold war world.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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  18. #258
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    Did it ever come to mind that killing foreign civilians might be a direct cost (disadvantage) to the own country?

    That's a price for victory that many (most?) citizens won't be willing to pay, and that counts a lot in a democracy.

    Rampage and mass killing sounds a lot like a self-defeating strategy to me.
    Who's going to call a genocidal war a victory nowadays?


    I can imagine other ways of winning a war than disarming the enemy, but an extremely victim-intensive approach doesn't convince me unless it's about really crazy scenarios like actual invasion/bombing of a nuclear power's homeland.

  19. #259
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Wow.

    While I believe, based on what Cavguy laid out, what points of logic this guy has lashed his theory to, I would offer (gently, so that he does not assume that I am lecturing him), that he is making several very dangerous assumptions by misidentifying the material facts of the historical cases he draws his conclusions from. Easy to do, I see it a lot, and probably do it myself more than I know.

    We see the same thing in Afghanistan today. People see ineffective governance and an insurgency, and, by deducing "effectiveness" of government to be the material factor set out to cure it to end the insurgency.

    This guy sees a similar correlation, apparently in civilian casualties and wins and losses.

    There are lessons to be drawn from his work if all one walks away with is a realization that first and second theories, much like first and second reports, are typically wrong. His next book should be better.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Still good to rock the boat on occassion

    Posted by Cavguy,

    He argues our fixation with Clausewitz is responsible for us becoming strategically muddled.
    You had me hooked at first, I wanted to buy this guy a case of beer.

    He advocates a US way of war based on the style most articulated by Sherman, total war and mass destruction to crush the willingness of the targeted society to resist. The reason populations should suffer is to humiliate the warrior class and show that they are impotent to protect their society.
    Even more interested, he is challenging our politically correct version of war with a dose of reality.

    The instructor told me point blank he didn't like being lectured at by a student, so I have shut up on it.
    Then he shot himself in the foot, he demonstrated he didn't have any spine whatsoever, so while he can talk about Sherman, he'll never be a Sherman.

    Still look forward to reading the book (thanks for the post), he isn't the only author who has questioned the negative impact of Clausewitz on our doctrine development. I admire Clausewitz, he was a intellectual giant in his time. Some, even much of what he wrote still holds true today, but to say there is nothing more to know about war (which some do) is dangerously misleading.

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