Busting the Icon. Restoring Balance to the Influence of Clausewitz
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL STRATEGIC STUDIES QUARTERLY
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Many US military thinkers and practitioners have embraced a view of war that is out of touch with current circumstances--and, consequently, dangerous. This has a direct effect on the present global war on terror that is focused largely on Islamic extremists. There are two main problems. First, US military leaders--especially in the ground forces--continue to view war as a climactic, and usually bloody, clash of arms. Muddy boots and bloody bayonets and occupation of territory are the liturgies of these people, a maxim that current operations in Iraq against Muslim terrorists have shown to be increasingly bankrupt. In addition, the American military is culturally tone deaf. It does not sufficiently take into account the fundamentally distinct traditions, mores, behaviors, and beliefs of the people that we deal with around the world--especially those in Asia and the Middle East. These are not new problems, and the root of the militarys myopia is the continued infatuation with the ground-centric and Eurocentric ideas of Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz has become an icon among military officers of all the services, and his ideas are taught in every war college, staff college, and service academy in the country. It is common for a military writer or briefer to begin or end an argument with a quote from Clausewitz, presumably lending the authorspeaker an aura of credibility. We need to broaden our thinking. Clausewitz was a Prussian general who fought in the Napoleonic wars two centuries ago. Afterwards, he served as the director of the Prussian War Academy, where he wrote a number of historical and theoretical books. His most notable work was On War, universally considered the classic study of war.
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