The Primacy Of War By Carl Von Clausewitz

1442 Words 6 Pages
The 19th Century Prussian General, Carl Von Clausewitz captured many of his insights in the book, On War. From initial combat at the age of thirteen to chief of staff of the Prussian Army, Clausewitz developed his thoughts of war based on a variety of military experience. Two of Clausewitz’s tenets seem to stand out as profound and useful, and remarkably still relevant to the modern planner. Primacy of policy helps a planner avoid a strategy policy mismatch by aligning political and military objectives, and the calculus of effort can determine what kind of war they will be fighting based on the value of the object in view. Both insights require examination to illustrate their continued applicability. The first insight, primacy of policy, …show more content…
In this particular case, the U.S. military planners must clearly communicate the shortfall to political leadership. Further, it is incumbent on planners to provide options for realigning military strategy with political objectives. This could mean vertical escalation of the conflict and may include the request for additional manpower, increased funding, or approval for the escalation of force. The Vietnam War clearly shows that a strategy policy mismatch can remain unresolved for a long period. However, the 1991 Gulf War depicted a closer match of political and military objectives. The primary political objective (the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait) was clear enough for planners to translate into military action. The Gulf War political objective also allowed enough latitude for military planners to revise the plan as military means increased. Regardless of the situation, the planner must ensure that military strategy aligns with political objectives because war is the continuation of political …show more content…
If his insights are still relevant today, they must withstand criticism. One critique from Martin Van Creveld discounts Clausewitz’s primacy of policy and claims that war is not the continuation of politics but rather, “a social activity resting upon some kind of organization.” He believes that a person has no “interest” in war because there is nothing gained in death, and further that individual interests often run counter to the interests of a group. Van Creveld approaches his opinion on war with the understanding that it is not a rational experience. This approach runs counter to Clausewitz who believed that war was a rational experience. Van Creveld’s argument rings hollow when it attempts to separate individual aspirations from those of the state. People align themselves in societies, the vast majority of which are nation-states. Regardless the form of government, long-term solvency of the state hinges on placating the interests of the population. Further, an existential threat to a state directly affects the citizen’s wellbeing, and a threat of this magnitude often causes peripheral angst with the state to fade. In this case, a person has interest in not dying, thus willing to go to war. War in fact is rational, and the value of the object in view most clearly illustrates Clausewitz’s rational view. The value of the political object does

Related Documents