Clausewitz's Principles of War

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Feb 04 2007 17 mins   2
Carl Von Clausewitz was a military philosopher during the time of Napoleon. His most famous contribution is the book, On War, which outlines nine principles of war that are used in officer schools for many Western armies including the United States Army. They are:
  • Mass
    • "Get there first with the most"
    • Example: Mass-based armies of Russia (ex. infantry) and the US (ex. M4 Sherman Tanks) during WWII led to general victory
  • Objective
    • Choose an objective and stick with it
    • Example: Coalition troops maintained the objective in Operation Desert Sabre and didn't try to do too much by entering Iraq, which we now know would have caused major problems.
  • Offensive
    • Seize the Initiative
    • Example: General McClellan's Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War failed to seize the initiative
  • Maneuver
    • Move to more advantageous positions
    • Example: Hannibal's Army at the Battle of Cannae maneuvered around the larger Roman Army and defeated it
  • Unity of Command
    • Place your entire force under the command of a single entity
    • Example: Japanese defenders on Iwo-Jima wasted lots of time and effort by switching commanders halfway through the preparation effort
  • Security
    • Don't let the enemy rob you of your advantages
    • Example: Japanese Navy at Midway lost its element of surprise (because its communications were intercepted) and lost
  • Simplicity
    • Keep your plans clear and simple
    • Example: Guerrilla militiamen (ex. Aidid's militia in the Battle of Mogadishu) have a much simpler plan that the professional armies they have to fight
  • Surprise
    • Attack when the enemy least suspects it
    • Example: Germanic tribes slaughtered 24,000 professional Roman soldiers at the Battle of Teutoberg Forest
  • Economy of Force
    • Allocate your limited forces wisely
    • Example: Germany Army during WWII did not get immediately overrun despite a 13million-56million numerical disadvantage
For more information, read:
Armchair General: War College
How to Make War by James Dunnigan
On War

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