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Classic Philosophers: Pre and Early 19th Centuries Coursework

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This paper answers three questions namely what are the essential differences in the views of Jomini and Clausewitz? What is the applicability of Clausewitz’s two metaphors describing his ‘wonderful’ trinity; which do you think is more applicable to modern strategy and why? And how would Clausewitz explain General Douglas MacArthur’s maxim that “there is no substitute for victory?

The paper outlines basic differences between the views of Jomini and Clausewitz in terms of applicability of views at the levels of war, their different target audience, differences in the mechanics of war, and differences in opinion on the philosophical basis of war.

Next, the paper looks at the Clausewitzian metaphors of the chameleon and three magnets in relation to the ‘wonderful trinity’ of emotion, chance, and rationality and its relevance to modern strategy. The paper concludes that the metaphor of the chameleon was still relevant as the war in the modern era presented itself in varied colors but its basic character remained the same. The second metaphor regarding the three magnets was concluded to be not as relevant as modern strategy pays the least attention to emotion, lesser attention to chance, and is predominantly focused on rationality; hence the metaphor has little relevance.

lastly, MacArthur’s maxim that there is no substitute for victory in war is explained in Clausewitzian terms of war being a continuation of state policy by other means, concept of total victory, the annihilation of enemy forces, and the non-specificity of war having to be ‘Just’.

Classic Security Philosophers: Pre and Early 19th Centuries

What are the essential differences in the views of Jomini and Clausewitz?

Ans. Jomini’s focus was more on the operational aspects of war strategy in that he concentrated on bases, lines of operation and objective points.1 Jomini espoused the geometrics of warfighting where ‘objective points’ consisted of ‘points of maneuver’ and ‘geographical objective points’2. Clausewitz on the other hand paid less importance to geometrics in the conduct of overall strategy. Clausewitz’s focus was concentrated more on the higher strategic levels of war and statecraft. His famous maxim “war is a continuation of state policy by other means3’ has been the staple of grand strategy philosophy of nations down the ages. Jomini’s fundamental principle of war was that victory could be achieved through concentration of force. Clausewitz’s prescription was to bring about the total destruction of the enemy’s armed forces4. In contrast, Jomini recommended occupation of enemy lands as a formula for victory rather than destruction of the enemy’s armed forces. Jomini’s Art of War is more of a treatise on generalship while Clausewitz’s On War provides greater focus on statesmanship. Clausewitz also dealt with the moral dimensions of war, to which Jomini paid scant regard. Clausewitz’s views on the war had metaphysical leanings while those of Jomini’s were more direct and straightforward rendition of operational level strategy sans metaphysics. In the discussion of tactics, Clausewitz expounded on the superiority of defense over attack5. Jomini on the other hand believed in the superiority of offensive action. In the final analysis, it can be stated that the views of Clausewitz were more applicable to higher directions of war, at the Grand Strategic levels while those of Jomini addressed a step lower, i.e. the operational level of war.

Clausewitz uses two metaphors to describe his ‘wonderful’ trinity; which do you think is more applicable to modern strategy and why?

Ans. Clausewitz’s ‘wonderful trinity’ namely 1) primordial violence hatred and enmity; 2) the play of chance and probability; 3) subordination of war as an instrument of policy6 is described by his allusions to the metaphor of a ”true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case”7 and the need to develop a theory to maintain the balance between the three tendencies i.e. emotion, chance and rationality and their linkages to the people, army and the government respectively is akin to “an object suspended between three magnets”8. The metaphor of the chameleon is just as applicable in modern strategy as in the present day, types of war have chameleon-like variations in their shades such as conventional, sub-conventional, asymmetric, guerrilla, wars of liberations, preventive wars, religious wars, civil wars, insurgencies, etc. Despite the various shades, the fundamental nature of war has not changed just as a chameleon remains a chameleon. The metaphor of the three tendencies viz, emotion, chance, and rationality being suspended between three magnets have however become less relevant because modern strategy relies least on emotion, less on chance, and has almost become predominantly an exercise into rationality. While this rationality may take the contours of neo-realism or unilateralism or extra-regional hegemony, it nonetheless is the dominant factor. The grand strategy of nations worldwide has become more rational and pragmatic despite the growth of uncertainty in the outcomes of a conflict. So while the metaphorical constituents of the ‘three magnets’ has become less relevant, the need for a more suitable theory of war that can reduce non-linearity is still as relevant.

How would Clausewitz explain General Douglas MacArthur’s maxim that “there is no substitute for victory?”

Ans. General Douglas MacArthur’s maxim that “there is no substitute for victory was said by the General in the context of Korean War’s larger ramifications that loss to the Communists in Asia would lead to the fall of Europe. Thus MacArthur’s concept of victory encompassed the larger geopolitical imperatives as also concepts of total victory in which the enemy would have to be completely routed to achieve that victory. In effect, MacArthur was alluding to the Clausewitzian concept of political objectives of war and that victory is needed to be followed up with pursuit9 of the enemy. Clausewitz had also stated that a major victory was more important than smaller successes10. Clausewitz’s assertion regarding victory was that no victory could be considered as absolute if the enemy had not been defeated comprehensively and his will to fight broken, which also included the total destruction of his armed forces. MacArthur’s speech in 1951 to the US Congress was made in the aftermath of his being removed from command in Korea by the President for publicly urging to continue the war in Korea including dropping of an atomic bomb on Chinese forces to attain total victory. MacArthur’s absolute concept of victory, implied that the morality of war or its ‘justness’ was not a prerequisite and all that mattered was the victory leading to total annihilation of the adversary. Clausewitz too did not specifically talk about the justness of war and thus has been accused of not placing limits to the violence in war11 for the attainment of victory. In the final analysis it can be said that the MacArthur maxim is closely aligned to the Clausewitzian principles of war being a continuation of state policy by other means, concepts of total victory, the annihilation of the enemy forces, and ambiguity on the justness of war.

Bibliography

  1. Clausewitz, Carl Von. On War. Edited by Howard Michael and Paret Peter. Translated by Howard Michael and Peter Paret. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
  2. Jomini, Antione-Henri. “The Art of War.” In The Complete Art of War, 465-721. Blacksburg, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008.
  3. Parret, Peter. “Clausewitz.” In Makers of Modern Strategy, by Peter Paret, Gordon Alexandar Craig and Gilbert Felix, 941. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  4. Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Arguement With Historical Illustrations. NY: Basic Books, 1977.

Footnotes

  1. Antione-Henri Jomini, “The Art of War”, Translated by Capt. GH Mendell and Lieut. WP Craighill in The Complete Art of War, (Blacksburg, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008), 506.
  2. Ibid, 522.
  3. Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 87.
  4. ibid, 258.
  5. ibid, 84.
  6. Ibid, 89.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. ibid, 263.
  10. Peter Paret, “Clausewitz”, in Makers of Modern Strategy by Paret, Craig and Gilbert,(Oxford;Oxford University Press, 1989), 212.
  11. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations, (NY: Basic Books, 1977), 21-33.
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