Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: It's Not What We Thought
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI
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Over the last two decades, the U.S. military has struggled to understand the center of gravity concept as developed by Carl von Clausewitz and to find practical ways to apply it. In the process, however, each of the services-shaped as they are by different roles, histories, and traditions-has brought individual perspectives to Clausewitzs expression and redefined it in its respective image. Thus, the U.S. Marine Corps, a relatively small force designed more for winning battles than fighting campaigns or wars, prefers to strike at enemy weaknesses. Accordingly, it initially equated enemy centers of gravity CoGs with key vulnerabilities. Recently, however, Marine Corps doctrine has distinguished between CoGs and critical vulnerabilities, considering them different but complementary concepts CoGs, for the Marines, are now any important sources of strength. By comparison, the U.S. Air Force, which takes a targeting approach to warfare, sees centers of gravity as multiple strategic and operational critical points that it can attack with its bombing assets. Airpower theorists like John Warden, with his notion of concentric rings, have in fact identified so many CoGs as to reduce the concept to absurdity.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics