The Influence of Carl von Clausewitz Theory on warfare since 1815
Carl Von Clausewitz is among the fathers of modern warfare. He was a great military strategist with theories on the military doctrine used to set a framework for many nation’s military structures that are still used today. Over the years, military theorists and strategists have paid attention to the strategies and ideas of Carl Von Clausewitz. Clausewitz’s theory has influenced warfare since 1815, with the various aspects of the theory changing how military experts approach, think about, and conduct wars. This paper will focus on Carl Von Clausewitz’s theory and its influence on warfare since 1815. Clausewitz theory is among the most influential ideas that have changed the art of war since 1815.
Clausewitz brought to light the role of politics and its interaction with politics and peace. This brought the political logic of war which changed the approach and attitudes towards warfare. The impact of politics on war cannot be ignored since it is the central issue in war. War has been considered a branch of political activity. This is because the military evens are restricted and progress on the political lines that continue through peace and war. The influence of politics on war has contradicted the nature of war.
Ideally, Clausewitz also revealed that the political policies that contribute to the rise to war are also used in moderating and circumscribing it. This has led to a new perception of warfare as a matter of political choice rather than an autonomous game produced by fixed internal or external constraints. Therefore, war is nothing but the persistence of politics by other means. Clausewitz’s perception of war, peace, and politics makes his works the most comprehensive in the modern contribution of strategic, political, and military thoughts.
The three main objectives of the theory have changed the approach of war and facilitated modern strategic thinking. Carl Von Clausewitz’s war theory is categorized into three main objectives take possession of material, overcome the enemy and win public support. Overcoming the enemy’s armed power has been the primary force in the war prosecution. In the past, the focus was attrition and depleting the enemy’s equipment and troops until they can no longer fight. However, this method led to death, destruction, and unacceptable levels that swayed public opinion.
Carl Von Clausewitz has changed warfare from the destruction of the enemy to overcome the enemy through destroying their will to fight. Taking control of people and resources was a guiding measure for war prosecution and ensured future control and strength. Through mercy and conditional surrender, the commanders could gain more support from the captured forces. Winning public support entailed setting acceptable limits of depletion, destruction, and death to gain support from the captured forces and the political and social powers. Clausewitz claims that moral factors have definitive importance since full-hearted support of the public leads to encouragement, morale, and motivation. However, a lack of encouragement from the general public leads to self-doubts and undermines motivation.
Carl Von Clausewitz’s theory of war exemplified new war thinking, thus changing the nature of war. Clausewitz considered war as a social phenomenon aimed at striking one’s will on the enemy. War can have various manifestations depending on the purpose, actors, and means available during the interaction between the opposing forces. The theory emphasized that war is a human affair that is distinguishable from natural phenomenon and science. Therefore, war should not be considered a rigid system of rules and principles in how war should be conduct.
Clausewitz argues that war strategists should focus on the moral forces of war and the ever-changing historical conditions, the need to operate war freely and in a genius manner, and focus on the role of uncertainty and chance in warfare. According to Carl Von Clausewitz, the counteractions of the enemy make the war a non-linear affair dependent on uncertainty, chance, and elements of genius rather than principles and rules that military theorists had been possessed with in the past.
Clausewitz offered a systematic approach to war which has remained significant in formulating tactical thoughts of defense and war. Carl Von Clausewitz argued that one of the major challenges in theorizing war is the effect of psychological aspects such as the intellectual understanding of the commander, the unreliability of information during wartime, danger, and the interactive nature of war. Genius and talented soldiers and the intellectual capacity of the commanders are major determinants of success rather than principles and rules. Clausewitz argues that the passions that ignite war must be innate in the people. This is because the talent and courage of the commander and entire army play into the realm of chance and probability of success.
War is unpredictable to the point that every action depends on the reaction, which means that principles and rules could not be formulated to solve the uncertainty as stated in previous military theories. Military groups create their future through strategies that they follow. Clausewitz argued that there is a need for a shared process motivated by right thinking. The survival of a military force depends on the mastery of the dynamic process for gaining ongoing renewal through constant unlearning, learning, and relearning. This has greatly changed the adaptive capability in warfare and strategic dynamics in war.
Fog and friction have changed the conduct of warfare and military preparedness on the battlefields. Clausewitz’s Theory focus on the concept that differentiates the real war from war on paper. Ideally, there are surprising things that occur during wartime that make it difficult even for the simplest to occur. Clausewitz refers to friction as the only concept that corresponds to the factors that distinguish paper war from the real war. This is the force that makes war challenging or easy.
Unexpected events such as accidents and weather changes are sources of friction that generally impact the commanders’ and subordinate warriors’ morale, decisions, and actions. Ideally, fog and friction are considered impediments that create barriers to the effective use of military force. These have played a significant role in the progression and outcome of historical wars. With this in mind, the military strategists have focused on friction which is the interaction between action and chance caused by various factors such as friendly actions, enemy forces, and the environment.
Clausewitz’s theory has changed in the engagement strategy to warfare since 1815. The idea of surprise has been used at tactical and operational levels of warfare to advance the military-strategic levels. Surprise has literally changed war from a strategic interaction into a matter of logistics and accounting. The concept of surprise led nations into embracing the doctrine of tactical strikes to defeat the enemy. Considerably, great military strategists failed to engage in frontal and simple assaults but instead focused on devising complex plans to manipulate, deceive, and surprise their enemies. The main aim of an optimal military strategy is to position forces in such a way that battle victor is guaranteed even before the actual fight occurs.
Paying attention to the enemy’s weakness and catching the enemy commander off guard are some indirect approaches that are heavily dependent on surprise. Since the inception of the concept of surprise, military strategies have adopted the indirect approach to build their military effectiveness and reduce the performance of their enemies. Surprise has been seen as deception whose secret purpose is to trick the enemy and cause them to make mistakes that will reduce their military effectiveness.
Surprise has been considered as a force multiplier and something that increases the effectiveness of the forces. Across history and cultures, military doctrines have advised soldiers to integrate surprise and other force multipliers to increase the chances of success and lower causalities. Considerably, an effective unanticipated attack will enable the destruction of a sizeable portion of the enemy’s forces and low the costs of the attacker by reducing enemy resistance. Surprise has served as a force multiplier that allows the attacker to achieve the temporary superiority required in launching offensive operations.
In summation, Clausewitz’s theoretical concepts of war indicate that there are no special tactics for war. Clausewitz has revealed the true nature of war and changed the formulation of strategic thoughts on war. As one of the theorists of modern warfare, Clausewitz has revealed the role of politics in warfare, the nature of war, the role of uncertainty, fog, and friction, which changed the approach of warfare since 1815.