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Theoretical Differences Between Jomini And Clausewitz Despite Analysis Of Same War History

The theories of Henri Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz can sufficiently enlighten people about the realities of modern-era warfare. Many current military professionals who choose to ignore these theories despise Jomini’s and Clausewitz’s earlier successes and failures in warfare and limit their comprehension of the fundamental doctrines of war at operational and strategic levels. Both Jomini and Clausewitz fought in the same militaries, and the majority of their key principles encapsulated similar ideas; hence, they were coordinated. However, their logistical and philosophical conclusions tend to differ.[1] Although Jomini and Clausewitz analyzed similar histories—providing a comprehensive, albeit imperfect, view of the principles of warfare—their theories seem at odds with each other. Jomini’s theory focuses on operational military aspects, while Clausewitz delineates strategic and political factors. Nevertheless, a careful analysis of their dramatics and fallacies reveals that their ideologies complement each other.

Jomini and Clausewitz appear to have opposite perspectives, based on their historical context of time and place, yet their views on the art of war are dissimilar. Jomini and Clausewitz both served in the Russian Army, meaning they share similar war experiences. Still, the outcomes of their experiences help modern-day scholars understand why their theoretical perspectives differ. Jomini’s viewpoints were mostly positive because his associated units won most of their battles, while Clausewitz’s units suffered losses until the early 1810s.[2] Military theorists such as Albrecht Boguslawski and Alfred Thayer Mahan respected Jomini and Clausewitz equally, despite being followers of one or the other. For example, Boguslawski argued that Jomini and Clausewitz made similar statements, and Albert Thayer Mahan asserted that both were influential figures for understanding warfare.

Jomini’s most influential writing, Summary of War, proposes the fundamental principles of the rules that must be adhered to by all military commanders and leaders. On the other hand, Clausewitz’s work, On war, essentially considered a philosophical approach to war, in which he discussed the specifics of what warfare entails. Knox MacGregor and Williamson Murray assert that the military has changed, and success requires professionals to understand the theoretical perspectives of war.[3] The authors’ ideas align with Clausewitz, who claims that war is a sociopolitical phenomenon that one must study to establish operational strategies. The two theorists used each other’s work to refine their theoretical concepts, which led to the mutual validation of their arguments.

Unlike Jomini, who seems to accept that war exists and designs guidelines for executing warfare, Clausewitz tries to define why war exists. Jomini spends little time discussing the strategic reasons for war and moves on to delineate military policy, tactics, and strategy.[4] Jomini’s theoretical perspectives focus on the operational level; hence, his application of troop deployment theories to explain war execution. For instance, Jomini discusses the 17 maxims on operation lines, which focus on the tactical deployment of forces, and uses Napoleon’s actions to expound on his viewpoint.[5] Additionally, the maxims provide a set of ground rules that military professionals should adhere to to ensure success in battle. According to Peter Paret, the way people approach to war has evolved due to increased artillery and nuclear technology.[6] Jomini argues that those involved in war should utilize not only cavalry and infantry but also engineers and artillery support for success. The notion that leaders should focus on how to win a war is evident in Jomini’s military strategy.

In contrast, Carl von Clausewitz indicates that understanding the cause of war remains fundamental to winning it. Clausewitz’s theoretical perspective focuses on warfare’s strategic and political levels and provides theoretical reasoning that claims war is a continuation of current policy by any means.[7] Another argument one can draw based on Clausewitz’s theory is that competition is not static but interactive. The theorist explained that many generals and leaders are making progress, but in reality, they are static because they continue working on a similar strategy and plan. Thus, a good leader thinks several steps ahead of the rival, and thinking about the next step helps compete well. This argument can be exemplified through army training, structure, planning, and strategy changes. Before World War, leaders invested their thoughts towards this perspective. Therefore, he claims that war theory and practice are related, as they are both mutually enhancing. In this case, theoretical insights can improve practice, while practical insights can improve the theory.

Consequently, having a deeper understanding of why war exists can help one succeed in actual warfare. It is possible to demonstrate that war existence largely depends on leaders’ need to show their strategic marvel and that strategy is concerned with the overall purpose and priorities of war while also mapping the road toward war. Additionally, all wars should be considered the sum of decisions, actions, and reactions in dangerous contexts, which explains why the concept of war is complex.[8]

Clausewitz and Jomini’s theories intersect on multiple ideologies despite having many parallel points. For instance, in his 1812 work Principles of War, young Clausewitz addresses the strategic upper hand an army under attack has over their opponents, especially when the latter has weaker forces. In his statement, he acknowledges the correctness of Jomini’s earlier work on the same concept. Clausewitz also accepted Jomini’s theory of warfare on how warring parties may achieve preponderance on material advantages and physical forces based on how they materialize decisive points. Here, a Clausewitzian and Jominian knowledge intersection helps war strategists on calculating moral factors, including having the impression of creating and taking a daring action, calculating the enemy’s mistakes, and anticipating one’s desperation. Although Clausewitz also sneers and regards some of Jomini’s work, such as the idea of interior lines, as lopsided ideologies, a close analysis proves Clausewitz agreed with Jomini on multiple warfare concepts, including the impossibility of fixed rules, importance of morale, and skepticism of mathematical calculations.

On the other hand, Jomini also acknowledges Clausewitz standpoint on politics and war. For instance, Jomini agrees with Clausewitz on the need for war commanders to consult and be on the same footing with the head of state. In Clausewitz work, he makes a similar statement that indicates that the ultimate judgment concern for a war commander should entail establishing what war they are embarking on with the head of state.[9]  While each theorist distinctly distinguishes his work from the other, multiple instances of agreements in their work have practical implications on the intellectual and tactical aspects of warfare.

Both Jomini and Clausewitz offer fascinating yet concrete reminders to military professionals a strong reminder of the need to recognize the different perspectives and philosophies of theorists they analyze to gain insights. A profound lesson evident in studying these theorists is that military theorists provide individual inputs for developing solutions rather than providing solutions to winning war. In this regard, one should not take their principles and teaching at face value without questioning them. A major point of consideration is how these prominent scholars lived the same era, examined same events, yet made strongly differing conclusions. For this reason, military professionals need to take warning on merely following theoretical concepts. Instead, broadening one’s scope of study to help in identifying one’s biases, blind spots, and creating a constant reminder of the need to perform extensive analysis as possible. When looking at the two theorists works, a blend of philosophical framework and experience plays an indispensable role in elucidating their work, yet they offer an incomplete rationale as to why these theorists differed. It is until one conducts an intensive review of their work and comprehends what motivated their writings that one grasps that these theorists wrote for completely different and nearly opposite reasons.

In conclusion, both Jomini and Clausewitz are prominent military theorists whose ideologies feature different tenets despite analyzing the same history. The Clausewitzian strategic theory describes how war results from many decisions, actions, and reactions happening in an uncertain context. Therefore, Clausewitz uses political and strategic perspectives to explain his theoretical approach to war. On the other hand, Jomini addresses the operational levels of warfare, arguing that one must be decisive in confronting the enemy to succeed in any confrontation.

Bibliography

Clausewitz, Carl von. “On War.” Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976.

Knox, MacGregor, and Williamson Murray, eds. The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1300–2050. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Paret, Peter, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

“CGSC Learning Resource Center.” Combined Arms Research Library. E-mail submission. November 2, 2021. Reviewed for grammar, punctuation, and clarity of expression.

 

[1] Paret, Peter, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 6.

[2] Clausewitz, Carl von. “On War.” Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 5.

[3] Knox, MacGregor, and Williamson Murray, eds. The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1300–2050. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1.

[4] Paret, Peter, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 143.

 

[5] Ibid., 177, 180.

[6] Ibid, 182.

[7] Clausewitz, Carl von. “On War.” Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 8.

[8] Paret, Peter, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 143.

[9] Clausewitz, Carl von. “On War.” Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 32.

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Theoretical Differences Between Jomini And Clausewitz Despite Analysis Of Same War History . (2022, June 22). Essay Writing . Retrieved December 10, 2022, from https://www.essay-writing.com/samples/theoretical-differences-between-jomini-and-clausewitz/
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