As noted above, “limited war” is often defined in relation to the term “total war” and its various dysfunctional brethren such as “general war” and “major war.” As I wrote recently at The Strategy Bridge, when writers use the term “total war,” their definitions are inevitably dominated by discussions of the means used by the combatants. To brand these conflicts as “limited wars” is simplistic. Destroying communism on the battlefield in one epic confrontation was not an option. Their job is to win wars. Carl von Clausewitz and his theory of war are not an exception. Save Time and Improve Your Marks with Cite This For Me 10,587 students joined last month! War of course involves a contest of physical force. Such blind throwing of the “limited war” blanket over any conflict, especially if it is not “big” (whatever that means), is a flawed method of attempting to analyze, understand, and fight these wars. h�bbd``b`Z$�A��`�$�O�$�A�8�D؁���=�e$��3012��!�3.�` �3 endstream endobj startxref 0 %%EOF 76 0 obj <>stream ‘Absolute war’ was the logical end of all wars, but one that was constrained by political considerations and the advantages of a defensive posture. Clausewitz proposes late in his work the possibility of a war circumscribed by a limited aim, that is, one whose object is less than the total overthrow of the enemy. Clausewitz uses this philosophy as his primary model for exploring war, in stark contrast to Jomini, who leverages an enlightenment adhered. Ignatius is hardly alone in his approach. On War, vol. (2014). Because “[w]e live in an age of unwinnable wars.” In the author’s defense, he insists that his work will help the U.S. reverse its “military fortunes and start winning again,” but the task of military and political leaders is not to lose wars more efficiently. h�b```e``Rg`f`�e`@ & �8��������I�7J�P``�Z��q��ni�j�JTY �g�}$����$�(� $��_�r`�a Why does this matter? He also offers a list of 59 conflicts that occurred — or almost did — during this same period and breaks down all of these into three types: conventional wars, unconventional wars, and deterred wars. His most notable work, Vom Kriege ( On War ), was unfinished at his death. Clausewitz states that "...it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less vigour in [the] application [of force]". War is a trial of moral and physical forces by means of the latter. David Halberstam. CLAUSEWITZ AND THE THEORY OF LIMITED WAR Clausewitz’s theoretical writing was based on the idea that understanding the nature of war required understanding the interaction between non-quantifiable moral factors and a physical environment characterized by uncertainty and violence.1Clausewitz argued that, in theory, both the political aims and military means to achieve them … The relevance of past wisdom to our modern affairs has always been debatable. But the point that he is making about the inner tendency of war also applied to wars that were constrained by more limited aims, or which, in the case of small wars, were fought by peoples’ militia. Too often works about limited war (which are all rooted in Cold War publications and concepts, Bernard Brodie being a key early convert) cloud rather than clarify our understanding of conflicts. He classifies all of these as limited wars. This simply explains the means being used. The Best and The Brightest. The military theoristCarl von Clausewitz(1780-1831) wrote about two kinds of war. In May 1951, when asked during the Senate hearings on Korea how he would describe this struggle he remarked: “I would characterize it as a limited war which I hope will remain limited.” Since then, “limited war” has become a descriptor of choice for every American conflict. Russia has applied limited war as a means by which to achieve its political goals since the early 1990s. New York. To purposefully fight a war one must — at a minimum — know why one is fighting, what they hope to achieve, understand the enemy, know what victory looks like, and chart a sensible path for getting there. As soon as they tell me “surgical,” I head for the bunker. Waging war in this manner is either an expression of ignorance or an example of dishonesty — intentional or not — on the part of political leaders for short term political purposes that have long term effects on U.S. public opinion and the men and women who are being sent to fight wars their leaders don’t call wars and have no interest in winning. %PDF-1.3 %���� Image: California State Military History Museum, Signing up for this newsletter means you agree to our data policy, veteran of more than two decades in the U.S. foreign service. Since On War was posthumously published in 1832, many conflicts have taken place beyond its pages.Equally the international system has changed character several times, states have infused and diffused, and politics has become generally more … It was only partially completed by the time of his death, but just how close to completion it was is a matter of considerable scholarly dispute. ‘Absolute war’ was the logical end of all wars, but one that was constrained by political considerations and the advantages of a defensive posture. A New York. But once new governments were formed, the United States fought to preserve these and thus its political objectives became limited in these respective nations. Dr. Jim Helis, Chairman, Department of National Security and Strategy, leads a discussion about Carl von Clausewitz in Bliss Hall Sept. 6. St. Martins. Such thinking has helped undermine the U.S. and Western ability to clearly identify the political objective or objectives for which it is fighting any war (the ends), create intelligent strategy for achieving this (the ways), and harnessing national power — especially military power (the means) — sufficient to achieve the desired end. All previous interpretations of Clausewitz's concept of war have treated it as something that must be understood in connection with the three interactions to the extreme, and consequently with his concept of the absolute. When that is not possible, the second type is limited war. A better but still problematic example appeared in a 2015 issue of The National Interest, and another in a 2013 Breaking Defense article. It does not in any way describe what the United States hopes to achieve, and the political objective being sought is the keystone for what is being done — or at least it should be. In the last analysis it is at moral, not physical strength that all military action is directed … Moral factors, then, are the ultimate determinants in war. If the war is not important enough to win, is it important enough to even fight? This is most often because one of the parties to the war does not have the capability of completely annihilatingtheir enemy. Here, Corbett used the term “unlimited war” to describe a conflict waged to overthrow the enemy government, and “limited war” for a war fought for something less. As the stated U.S. political objective seems to be the destruction of the de facto ISIL state, it would be more accurate to define the American political objective as an unlimited one. A 2010 book noted: The term limited war implies regular military operations by one nation-state against the regular military force of another nation-state and excludes irregular operations by terrorist organisations against state or by other non-state actors like warlords against a state or against other warlords. War according to Clausewitz is complicated. Among the common features of recent studies on Clausewitz, there is a tendency to balance the primacy of politics in war, expressed in the famous dictum of Book 1, chapter 1 of On War: ‘war is nothing but a continuation of politics by other means’. Dueling With Clausewitz: Games of Preemption, Wars of Attrition, and Deconstructing a Classic Analogy for Understanding the Fundamental Nature of the First World War Carl von Clausewitz, “What is War?” On War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 75–89; excerpt reprinted in US Army Command and General Staff College, H100 Book of Readings (Fort Leavenworth, KS: USACGSC, … c. 'Real war' is limited Why does how we define limited war matter? This is merely another variation of a definition based upon means with the addition of the opponent’s doctrinal warfighting methods. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Limited war by its nature is the opposite of absolute war, and absolute war is a theory that fails as a construct. • As of 10 Jul 1827, Clausewitz regarded the first six books "merely as a rather formless mass that must be thoroughly reworked once more." This work largely concerns itself with learning to lose wars better. Until 1991 the theory of limited war was shaped by the experience of two critical conflicts — Korea and Vietnam. In his classic 1957 work, the best-known theorist of limited war, political scientist Robert Osgood, defined this kind of conflict in terms of the objective sought and (among other things) by the fact that the combatants “do not demand the utmost military effort of which the belligerents are capable.” This description is nebulous at best and fails to offer a firm and usable explanation of “effort,” or what some would term the means used. In Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 the United States pursued regime change and thus unlimited political objectives. In other words, we should learn to lose at a lower cost. ]), Prussian general and military thinker, whose work Vom Kriege (1832; On War) has become one of the most respected classics on military strategy. 'Real war' is limited by policy: leaders will try to keep a war on track, to achieve its purpose. A limited war is one in which the belligerents do not expend all of the resources at their disposal, whether human, industrial, agricultural, military, natural, technological, or otherwise in a specific conflict. This creates a stable underpinning for all subsequent clarifying analysis. The term probably reentered the modern lexicon thanks to an innocent remark by then Secretary of Defense George Marshall. He does all this without clearly defining limited war. 1969. ����� |F^� �Z endstream endobj 54 0 obj <> endobj 55 0 obj <>/ProcSet 75 0 R/XObject<>>>/Rotate 0/Type/Page>> endobj 56 0 obj <>stream This error also robs the discussion of any firm ground for critical analysis. The political objective sought explains the war, not the means employed in an effort to achieve it. Therefore, war in its most natural manner would involve each state continually reciprocating each other'… The scrutiny has led to assertions that the protracted and bloody stalemate of the First World War was largely because of the decision by the then leaders to stubbornly rely on the theories of Clausewitz. b. It was the political motive behind the war which determined the appropriate intensity, from limited to absolute: He wrote a careful, systematic, philosophical examination of war in all its aspects. Clausewitz, nevertheless, makes a last stand. Why? In the Gulf War, the United States pursued a limited objective, but wavered on this at the end with calls for regime change. Indeed, in contrast to early predictions, the evolution of policy with the knowledge of the potential of nuclear warfare has had a restraining effect on war overall. Winning (or losing) a war matters, particularly to the people who live directly with the results. He gave no clear definition of limited war and seems to believe that the most recent Iraq war is limited because the United States is using very little of its military means. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on strategic subjects and is currently writing a book on limited war. Moreover, if we don’t understand what we mean by “limited war,” we don’t understand what we mean when we describe any war. 1 Vol. `�b���䓂 D�� �@� Clausewitz, On War (1831) Book II—On the Theory of War Context: (1780-1831) Prussian major general who first encountered war as 12-year old lance corporal going to be a staff officer with political/military responsibilities at the very centre of the Prussian state. This is despite the fact that the Truman administration changed the political objective to an unlimited one on September 9, 1950 (and back to a limited political objective in May 1951). Refusing to pursue victory can produce an endless war. This essay discusses the two groups or types of war (absolute and limited) and the category subsets of those two groups that Carl von Clausewitz first discussed in his treatise On War. The first was the improbability of success; the eeeond an excessive price to pay for it. Ironically, these aspects of war and conflict that today’s world undergoes, can render Clausewitz more relevant than ever. ))v�%U׊H� This strategic error undermined the intervention and made success difficult or impossible. War, as Carl von Clausewitz wrote in On War, is a political tool, and when nations go to war they do so to either overthrow the enemy regime, or for something less than this. But the point that he is making about the inner tendency of war also applied to wars that were con-strained by more limited aims, or which Carl von Clausewitz. The result is that “victory” — both in battle and in war itself — has generally disappeared from the statements of analysts and policymakers. Clausewitz concludes that actual war, ruled by frictions, uncertainties and the consciousness of danger, resembles nothing so much as a game of chance, an insight that introduces his discussion of “Genius in War”; that is, the intellectual and moral Unfortunately, this type of conceptual weakness is typical in the theoretical and historical literature. The refusal to define or value victory in warfare, as well as the refusal to seek it, is a political problem that affects the ability of the military to wage the conflict effectively and deliver victory. Clausewitz, On War. Clausewitz was a professional soldier who was involved in numerous military campaigns, but he is famous primarily as a military theorist interested in the examination of war. And if sufficient means for getting the job done are not provided merely because the war has illogically been branded “limited,” how can one win? Also, your enemy is trying to win. These help determine how the war is fought, but not what the war is about — the political aim — and this is what matters most because it is from here that all the other elements contributing to the war’s nature derive their value. 446-467. The inherent tendency of war is to be limited. . COPYRIGHT © 2019 WAR ON THE ROCKS. He criticized examinations of American wars as being too “victory centric,” faulted them for using a “victory-tinted lens,” and insisted that searching for a reason for not winning a war “treats victory as the norm and military frustration as an aberration, an attitude that distorts our understanding of conflict and its unpredictable results.” Instead, the focus should be upon cutting one’s losses to avoid a protracted conflict. Dutch political scientist Rob de Wijk insists that when fighting “to be successful, liberal democracies must use force decisively.” This seems a statement of the obvious, but it is no longer so obvious to many American political leaders, journalists, and academics. 53 0 obj <> endobj 66 0 obj <>/Filter/FlateDecode/ID[<29A79E386753669E7C52E060FC3B2B83><952695C799384EE1B9000207AB1B239A>]/Index[53 24]/Info 52 0 R/Length 72/Prev 832551/Root 54 0 R/Size 77/Type/XRef/W[1 2 1]>>stream The fuzziness of our approach to defining limited war can be seen even in classic texts on the subject. Consistently, its leaders don’t know how to set clear political goals, don’t understand how to conceptualize the wars they launch in pursuit of often fuzzy political objectives, and don’t value victory — or tell the people what this means. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The concept of absolute war was a theoretical construct developed by the Prussian military theorist General Carl von Clausewitz in his famous but unfinished philosophical exploration of war, Vom Kriege (in English, On War, 1832). The result was his principal work, On War, the West's premier work on the philosophy of war. His most recent book is Clausewitz: His Life and Work. The definitions haven’t improved with the passing decades. First, all of the wars in which the United States has been involved since the Japanese surrender in 1945 have been branded limited wars — regardless of whether or not the term accurately depicts the nature of the conflict. It's fast and free! The given definitions of limited war generally imply that the level of means used by the combatants determines whether or not a conflict is a limited war. Clausewitz said that there were two thinge which, in practice, could take the place of the impossibility of further resistance ae motives for making pezca. In undermining the ancien regime and introducing the concept of the “nation in arms,” itprepared the way for a popular nationalism far less congenial to the limitation of war than the pragmatic Realpolitikof the eighteenth ce… This chapter discusses the similarities and the difference between Clausewitz's concept of absolute war and modern total war. In many respects, the new wave is a reaction to a Cold War vision of Clausewitz. tion of limited war. Indeed, though Ignatius’ discussion of limited war leaves much to be desired, he makes the interesting argument that one of the problems with fighting limited wars is that they don’t resolve problems, which is certainly a conversation worth having. Carl von Clausewitz, in full Carl Philipp Gottlieb von Clausewitz, (born June 1, 1780, Burg, near Magdeburg, Prussia [Germany]—died Nov. 16, 1831, Breslau, Silesia [now Wrocław, Pol. Clausewitz lived in a transitional period when warfare was rapidly changing from ‘limited war’ (restricted to armies and in geography) to ‘total war’ (involving entire societies and many countries). ‘Limited and absolute war’ considers the limiting factors on the scope of war. In Korea and Vietnam the spectre of the nuclear genie forced a new kind of warfare to the forefront– limited war. . Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Abstract. Create your citations, reference lists and bibliographies automatically using the APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard referencing styles. Korea became the archetype “limited war” in books such as the well-known 1964 work by journalist David Rees. This idea was later criticized by maritime strategist Julian Corbett, who believed that the theory, though genius, was deeply flawed. Clausewitz did not deny the exis-tence of limited war or, indeed, of ‘small wars’ as they are now known. Clausewitz did not deny the existence of limited war or, indeed, of ‘small wars’ as they are now known. 1 of Clausewitz’s magnum opus in which he ponders the revolution in military affairs made possible by the “nation at arms” during the French Revolution. Clausewitz considered that the French Revolution had removed many of the constraints that had kept war separate from the rest of society. Successful strategy requires constant evaluation and intellectual humility. It is also a blatant manifestation of the current conceptual problem Americans have in regard to defining all wars. Third, writers on limited war, as well as the experience of the Cold War itself, helped teach many in modern liberal states that victory should not be pursued because its achievement was actually bad. The revision would aim to bring out the two kinds of war more clearly: first, war that aimed to "overthrow the enemy;" and second, war that aimed "merely to occupy some of his frontier districts." Clausewitz’s concepts of grammar and logic have stood the test of time. He did not live to see the book appear in print but its influence was profound in Prussia and then in the unified German nation state during the course of the 19th century. Contemporary Security Policy: Vol. ‘Limited and absolute war’ considers the limiting factors on the scope of war. Indeed, one could argue that he is firmly aligned with current as well as past U.S. strategic and analytical thought. However, in practical experience, Clausewitz’s own concept of a limited war became the new paradigm and arguably the refocussed logic to restricting warfare in the nuclear age. It is his theory that can sharpen our understanding of war as a human affair, which is invested with violence, uncertainty, and political disputes. Carl Philipp Gottfried (or Gottlieb) von Clausewitz ( / ˈklaʊzəvɪts /; 1 June 1780 – 16 November 1831) was a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (meaning, in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. Clausewitz considered that the French Revolution had removed many of the constraints that had kept war separate from the rest of society. The British maritime theorist Sir Julian Corbett expanded upon Clausewitz’s foundation in Some Principles of Maritime Strategy. The means applied to reach those objectives certainly help to determine the nature of the war being fought — as does the political objective of the opponent — but defining a war based upon the means used (or not) lacks universality because it is not concrete. All of the following are true of 'real war', according to Clausewitz, except … Select one: a. Only Western liberal democracies in the post-World War II era go to war without the expectation of victory. Yet defining a war by the means used fails to provide a clear, consistently applicable basis for critical analysis. For example, in a 2014 article, journalist David Ignatius described what the United States began doing in Iraq in June 2014 as a limited war. In the American military tradition, the misleading term 'limited war' (a term neither coined nor used by Clausewitz, though it is usually attributed to him) is associated with the constraints placed on war-making during the Cold War by the ever-present fear that localized con- flicts might escalate to war between the superpowers, likely leading to an 'all-out' nuclear exchange incinerating the planet. Through an examination of Clausewitzian thought about popular war, limited war and the culminating point of victory, this article shows the enduring value of Clausewitzian In Book One of On War, Clausewitz introduces the concept of war as “merely the continuation of policy by other means.” This most famous of Clausewitz’s dictums introduces a critical perspective of war as both a tool of grand strategy that is dominated by … In 1981, John Garnett, one of the founders of modern strategic studies, wrote: “Only conflicts which contain the potentiality for becoming total can be described as limited.” Diplomat Robert McClintock wrote in 1967: “Limited war is a conflict short of general war to achieve specific political objectives, using limited forces and limited force.” Both of these typical definitions explain limited war in relation to other types of conflict (“total war” and “general war”) that also lack clear, generally agreed upon definitions. Alex Deep. Save your Some authors have carried the mistake beyond American wars and tried to brand almost every conflict “limited.” Seymour Deitchman, in his 1964 Limited War and American Defense Policy, provides a list of 32 wars fought between 1945 and 1962 that include such different conflicts as the Chinese Civil War (1927 to 1949), the Philippine Hukbalahap Rebellion (1946 to 1954), and the 1962 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. * Carl von Clausewitz in On War teaches that war is a powerful extension of politics by other means, emphasizing balance of power strategies. But, as he later on explains, that concept cannot exist in practice as it will always be limited by human and environmental factors. One can easily find other recent examples from academics  journalists, and policymakers. David Rees. Second, the problem of not understanding the nature of the war is directly related to how we currently define — or more accurately — fail to define limited war. The Wise Men. CLAUSEWITZ AND THE THEORY OF LIMITED WAR Clausewitz’s theoretical writing was based on the idea that understanding the nature of war required understanding the interaction between non-quantifiable moral factors and a physical environment characterized by uncertainty and violence.1 Clausewitz argued that, in theory, 1964. Putin, Clausewitz, and Ukraine. If leaders cannot clearly define what they want, how can the military hope to deliver it? Shoddy thinking lays a foundation for defeat. One of the critical problems with much of the writing on strategic subjects is a failure to define the terms being used in a clear and universally applicable manner. For Clausewitz the ‘absolute war’ was the theoretical, unbound manifestation of war, with a tendency towards unlimited violence in order to achieve one’s objectives. Fortunately, the political leaders who fought against the Nazis understood the necessity of victory. Clausewitz's work as a historian and theorist of war rested upon these experiences, without being limited by them. Naval War College’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. War, as Carl von Clausewitz wrote in On War, is a political tool, and when nations go to war they do so to either overthrow the enemy regime, or for something less than this. Bad limited war theory has helped rob the United States and other Western nations of the awareness that wars should be waged decisively. 1 Summary America's limited war theory, which provided the intellectual justification and guide for our involvement in Vietnam, suffered from all the flaws which Clausewitz had seen in such abstract approaches to war 130 years earlier. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not represent the views of the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. We find another example in an article by a veteran of more than two decades in the U.S. foreign service. hޜWkk[9�+�����R�c�-�ei�v!��mrqLc;��n��w�H��_5r��fF�*>)|Z;�P:HA�8#���(�����[�0Iz�Ɉ7o���ð�Њ�.��~�=n�����_� ��S^���D%��Er�?�����͟��q�\.�߻���y�p��>Bv��q�� Further reading: Korea: The Limited War. Examining a war based upon the political objective sought provides an anchor for analyzing any war. Clausewitz asserted that war exists on a spectrum of intensity that ranged from “wars of limited object” to “absolute” or “total” war. Putin, Clausewitz, and Ukraine Alex Deep Russia has applied limited war as a means by which to achieve its political goals since the early 1990s. In Vietnam, the United States fought for a limited political objective, but the North Vietnamese pursued an unlimited political objective against South Vietnam. theoretical distinction. Random House. The Napoleonic period removed many of the political and social conditions of limited war. In the first kind, the goal is total destruction of an enemy. For all its faults, Harry Summers's On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, CA: Presidio, [1982] 1995) uses Clausewitz to expose some of the difficulties in the theory of limited war. 3, pp. From Limited War to Limited Victory: Clausewitz and Allied Strategy in Afghanistan. B���(�l�q�^�J�x���0'����t���ϗ�7B|���f���)a;޾�^��*q��xXb���lq�X���7��zs�ԯ��ޅG�?w�������7����m������� �w:�e^&�e�DpA���*�"A�ͣ5a�9އ . Korea was responsible for a concept geared to an east-west confrontation and dependent on the limitation of objectives in order to have any realistic hope of limiting means. One of the more influential and famous uses of the term “total war” occurs in Clausewitz’s On War, where he uses it in a theoretical sense as an unobtainable “ideal type.” I deal with this in detail in the current issue of Infinity Journal. ��6:�S|�.���Y�z-�Jl).�4�)�G�P��t���%�y�E�ul��8�2���d!���{K�Ѿޑ\YJ+ɕZ��5�5/�؇�F*a���I�;�Q�/�G�}�Lu����P�6qtc(�N��mx�\1�m��Ǯ,���]��T!W]�_5D��������RV�Q�.g���m���#3�*�y ե�@[�#Z�$ǎ��DI\�87��8�Rt �-��An�-�im�} �TI$��֡�~�����z�y9�� !_peO�pvY�Ԅ-�zi["�zK�Z�B��[[.���]�cå���������������dϏ'U��0*�:Ũ�FU4����v�w�2kĝ0�n�p4���[$�+wG�Ⱥ�jsU�Y���[Z�7��"�A��Ķ�����8�)��VtyNk,]� �~X�9�����Հ=�wγ�eȉ7L +�m2c݇l�r����Z�>����ƾ�b��Z� Y���?��0v�u�����+�S�`�hm�2���F�#�R�&'�aX^�W#� P�#��1��h���������mth>4�~^�!�F9�y��-j�(u�C�ڝ"AUC�J�"A��f4��3�6$�����z��N�&�m���=�$��u�>~���z��v��=��')/��. Most interpreters of Napoleonic warfare were inclined to see it as the epitome of the military art, in which principles and practices dimly anticipated in earlier times had at last been fully realized. It is a blood sport. 35, No. Put simply, limited wars were fought because total war was no longer conceivable in the shadow of possible nuclear annihilation. In addition to the various concepts behind the war, Clausewitz theories of war have come under increased scrutiny with regards to their influence on World War I. Since the time of the Korean War, U.S. political leaders have too often sacrificed the lives of American men and women in wars without having a clear idea of what they mean by victory, and sometimes without a desire to even achieve it. As strategist Edward Luttwak has pointed out, many of these same figures view the term itself with suspicion. These political leaders don’t often phrase things this way, but that is the reality of the result of their decisions. 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