Archive for March 2008
This post continues the series of “Jomini on the Nature of War.” Part I: Introduction is available here, Part II: The Burgeoning Military Theorist here, Part III: The Founder of Modern Strategy here, Part IV: The Basics here, and Part V: Lines of Operation here.
Jomini cautions that there are a number of other circumstances that can affect the “nature and conduct of war” including that…
- “a state may simply make war against another state
- a state may make war against several states in alliance with each other
- a state in alliance with another may make war upon a single enemy
- a state may be either the principal party or an auxiliary
- in the latter case a state may join in the struggle at its beginning or after it has commenced.
- the theater of war may be upon the soil of the enemy, upon that of an ally, or upon its own.
- if the war be one of invasions, it may be upon adjacent or distant territory: it may be prudent and cautious, or it may be bold and adventurous
- it may be a national war, either against ourselves or against the enemy
- the war may be a civil or a religious war.”[i]
He insists that war should always “be conducted according to the great principles of the art; but [that] great discretion must be exercised in the nature of the operations to be undertaken, which should depend upon the circumstances of the case.”[ii] “A regiment should always fight in nearly the same way; but commanding generals must be guided by circumstances and events.”[iii]
So the “principles of strategy are always the same,” but differences occur with the “political part of war, which is modified by the tone of communities, by localities, and by the characters of men at the head of states and armies.”[iv]
Jomini outlines these specific circumstances in a description of each type of war and the principles and rules to follow (or not follow) in every one. For example, in “Offensive Wars to Reclaim Rights,” he indicates that no rules can be laid down but to watch and to profit by every circumstance.[v] This leads to his conclusion that “war knows no rules.”[vi]
“Military science rests upon principle which can never be safely violated in the presence of an active and skillful enemy, while the moral and political part of war presents these variations. Plans of operations are made as circumstances may demand: to execute these plans, the great principles of war must be observed.”[vii]
[i] Jomini, Antoine Henri de. The Art of War, trans. by G. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill., Special Edition, (El Paso: EL Paso Norte Press. 2005), 10-11.
[iv] Ibid., 13.
[v] Ibid., 12.
This post continues the series of “Jomini on the Nature of War.” Part I: Introduction is available here, Part II: The Burgeoning Military Theorist here, Part III: The Founder of Modern Strategy here, and Part IV: The Basics here.
“Principles were guides to action, not infallible mathematical calculations. The specific application of principles would vary with the thousand changing physical and psychological factors that made war ‘a great drama.’ Genius would defeat the military pendant, just as talent and experience would outdo the bumbling novice. But the principles themselves, whose truth is demonstrated by all military experience, could not be ignored without peril and, when followed, had ‘almost invariably’ (Presque en tout temps) brought victory.”[i]
Jomini’s arguments for “immutable ‘principle’ of war” rested on the concept of “lines of operation” by which he meant…
- “where an armed force fights,
- for what objective, and
- in what force relative to the total available military power of the state.”[ii]
He identified two types of lines of operation, those that are:
- deserts, and
- sheer distance through, over, and around which military operations must be conducted.”[iii]
- Also included in this category are man-made, permanent structures that constrict the conduct of warfare including: fortifications, military bases, political boundaries and road networks.[iv]
- Concerned exclusively with strategic choice about:
- where to fight,
- to what purpose,
- in what force, etc.[v]
[i – v] John Shy, “Jomini,” in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 154, 166.
Photo: Union entrenchments near Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., 1864. 111-B-531. The National Archives.
Map: First Manasas
If you haven’t yet read John McCain’s account of his five-plus years as a POW, I recommend it. I ran across the 18-some page account today published on U.S. News and World Report here and it’s a fascinating read. McCain describes his landing and rough rescue from Truc Bac Lake near Hanoi which was captured in a photo viewable here. I’ve not uploaded it because it’s copywrite appears in question.
No political agenda on my part, just a fascinating story.
Photo above of Nixon greeting McCain is in the public domain [Wikipedia Commons].
For those interested, I have posted the full program of study for my Masters program on “the courses” page here. It’s pretty solid at this point with the exception of an elective.
I’ve now purchased all required books for my upcoming course, “Studies in U.S. Military History” which starts April 7th. It’s a BIG stack. As is my custom, the full reading list is posted on “the courses” page. I had previously posted more detail on that course here. Recall that it covers most of America’s major wars and should provide an excellent survey. Can’t wait!
The review of Jomini’s theories on the art of war brought back some thoughts about the purpose of military philosophy itself and a debate we had in class over whether the conduct of war – in all of its complexity – should be reduced to principles, systems, models, tactics, etc. I suggested that war has both quantifiable and unquantifiable aspects. Arguably, it is the unquantifiable – human passions, values, and beliefs – that bring us to war as nations and as individuals. These same things certainly contribute to war’s unpredictability. To mitigate against the unpredictable, we focus on that which is quantifiable: structure, planning, training and execution. Systems, categorization and modeling allow better problem solving, preparation, and control. In war, as in any complex human endeavor, they can also reduce the risk of failure and conversely increase the probability of “the win.”
All of that said, I would suggest that there are deeper reasons why those responsible for the conduct of war focus on systems and organization and it has to do with their innate personalities. While there is debate about whether successfully military leadership can be attributed to personality type, I believe that there is good evidence that it can. David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates built upon the research of Carl Jung (archetypes), Katheryn Briggs, Isabel Myers (Myers-Briggs Trait Indicator), and a host of others in identifying distinct types of personalities. Keirsey introduced the concept of “temperaments” which, he suggests, “places a signature or thumbprint on each of one’s actions, making it recognizably one’s own.” While I won’t go into details on the building blocks of the temperaments, I will focus on description of those traits Keirsey suggests are often seen in commanders of the military and I’ll give an example from the Civil War. It’s fascinating stuff. More in the next post…