Clausewitz's Elusive Center of Gravity
ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The 1986 edition of FM 100-5, Operations, is significant with respect to our discussion here because it provides the Army for the first time with a set of concepts central to the design and conduct of campaigns and major operations. Found in Appendix B, they include the theoretical concepts of the center of gravity, lines of operations, and the culminating point. The manual thus now provides the Army with a good starting point for discussion, but the definition of center of gravity there presented cries for refinement. If it is indeed the key to all operational design, as FM 100-5 claims, then soldiers are going to have to start using the term correctly and with uniform understanding. The concept of the center of gravity the German term is schwerpunkt forms a principal building block in Clausewitzs edifice On War. In order to understand this we must consider his mechanistic view of war. Clausewitz develops this theme quite early on in Chapter 1 of Book One with a definition of war. It is important to realize that, though the manuscript we know as On War was in fact an unfinished draft, this first chapter is regarded as the most refined and complete. It forms the touchstone for the rest of the work.
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