Clausewitz and the Persian Gulf War
NATIONAL WAR COLL WASHINGTON DC
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The central conception of von Clausewitzs philosophy of war, and the basis of his reputation as perhaps the greatest of the military theoreticians, is his oft-quoted maxim, war is merely the continuation of policy by other means. Thus, to von Clausewitz, war divorced from political objectives is meaningless violence, and military objectives must of necessity be subordinate to, and designed to attain, the political objectives of the nation. In his words, policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa. No other possibility exists, then, than to subordinate the military point of view to the political. Von Clausewitzs formulation of the role of war in statecraft seems today axiomatic and almost simplistic. However, it is neither. A student of history might justifiably conclude that more often than not, war has subsumed, rather than been subordinate to, national policy. Moreover, the implications of von Clausewitzs notion are both numerous and, in many cases, subtle. The purpose of this paper is to explore one of those implications by analyzing the meaning of policy and then analyzing the degree to which the conduct of the Persian Gulf War attained the Clausewitzian ideal of perfect harmony between policy and the use of military force.
- Military Forces and Organizations
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics