446-467. As strategist Edward Luttwak has pointed out, many of these same figures view the term itself with suspicion. 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. 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. 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. To brand these conflicts as “limited wars” is simplistic. 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 is that “victory” — both in battle and in war itself — has generally disappeared from the statements of analysts and policymakers. Ironically, these aspects of war and conflict that today’s world undergoes, can render Clausewitz more relevant than ever. Clausewitz considered that the French Revolution had removed many of the constraints that had kept war separate from the rest of society. A better but still problematic example appeared in a 2015 issue of The National Interest, and another in a 2013 Breaking Defense article. 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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 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. 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. 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. 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. The political objective sought explains the war, not the means employed in an effort to achieve it. Create your citations, reference lists and bibliographies automatically using the APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard referencing styles. One can easily find other recent examples from academics  journalists, and policymakers. 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. Successful strategy requires constant evaluation and intellectual humility. 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. 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. 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. His most recent book is Clausewitz: His Life and Work. This idea was later criticized by maritime strategist Julian Corbett, who believed that the theory, though genius, was deeply flawed. 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. 'Real war' is limited by policy: leaders will try to keep a war on track, to achieve its purpose. 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. Limited war by its nature is the opposite of absolute war, and absolute war is a theory that fails as a construct. 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. Indeed, one could argue that he is firmly aligned with current as well as past U.S. strategic and analytical thought. He does all this without clearly defining limited war. b. 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. 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. 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. 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. Again, we turn to John Garnett: “In limited war ‘winning’ is an inappropriate and dangerous goal, and a state which finds itself close to it should immediately begin to practise restraint.” Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired general Colin Powell once noted: As soon as they tell me it [war] is limited, it means that they do not care whether you achieve a result or not. He classifies all of these as limited wars. Also, your enemy is trying to win. This is most often because one of the parties to the war does not have the capability of completely annihilatingtheir enemy. 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. From Limited War to Limited Victory: Clausewitz and Allied Strategy in Afghanistan. • As of 10 Jul 1827, Clausewitz regarded the first six books "merely as a rather formless mass that must be thoroughly reworked once more." Examining a war based upon the political objective sought provides an anchor for analyzing any war. ‘Limited and absolute war’ considers the limiting factors on the scope of war. 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. 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�� His most notable work, Vom Kriege ( On War ), was unfinished at his death. 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 … %PDF-1.3 %���� We find another example in an article by a veteran of more than two decades in the U.S. foreign service. This strategic error undermined the intervention and made success difficult or impossible. Dr. Jim Helis, Chairman, Department of National Security and Strategy, leads a discussion about Carl von Clausewitz in Bliss Hall Sept. 6. 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. New York. ))v�%U׊H� The military theoristCarl von Clausewitz(1780-1831) wrote about two kinds of war. (2014). 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. But, as he later on explains, that concept cannot exist in practice as it will always be limited by human and environmental factors. The definitions haven’t improved with the passing decades. 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. 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. 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. 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]". Fortunately, the political leaders who fought against the Nazis understood the necessity of victory. The term probably reentered the modern lexicon thanks to an innocent remark by then Secretary of Defense George Marshall. If the war is not important enough to win, is it important enough to even fight? 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. Save your 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. 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. c. 'Real war' is limited 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. Naval War College’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. It was the political motive behind the war which determined the appropriate intensity, from limited to absolute: Clausewitz’s concepts of grammar and logic have stood the test of time. 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. Moreover, if we don’t understand what we mean by “limited war,” we don’t understand what we mean when we describe any war. War according to Clausewitz is complicated. A This is merely another variation of a definition based upon means with the addition of the opponent’s doctrinal warfighting methods. The first was the improbability of success; the eeeond an excessive price to pay for it. Destroying communism on the battlefield in one epic confrontation was not an option. 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 1969. 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. . Clausewitz uses this philosophy as his primary model for exploring war, in stark contrast to Jomini, who leverages an enlightenment adhered. Why does this matter? Put simply, limited wars were fought because total war was no longer conceivable in the shadow of possible nuclear annihilation. 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. It clearly contains material … The Wise Men. David Rees. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. The Napoleonic period removed many of the political and social conditions of limited war. This simply explains the means being used. ‘Limited and absolute war’ considers the limiting factors on the scope of war. ‘Absolute war’ was the logical end of all wars, but one that was constrained by political considerations and the advantages of a defensive posture. Yet defining a war by the means used fails to provide a clear, consistently applicable basis for critical analysis. Contemporary Security Policy: Vol. Ignatius is hardly alone in his approach. 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. 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. 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). 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." 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. Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. `�b���䓂 D�� �@� 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. 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. 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 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. Clausewitz's work as a historian and theorist of war rested upon these experiences, without being limited by them. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Carl von Clausewitz and his theory of war are not an exception. But once new governments were formed, the United States fought to preserve these and thus its political objectives became limited in these respective nations. 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. All of this demonstrates a Western world intellectually at sea in a strategic sense. This creates a stable underpinning for all subsequent clarifying analysis. Until 1991 the theory of limited war was shaped by the experience of two critical conflicts — Korea and Vietnam. Clausewitz, nevertheless, makes a last stand. COPYRIGHT © 2019 WAR ON THE ROCKS. Bad limited war theory has helped rob the United States and other Western nations of the awareness that wars should be waged decisively. Why? Russia has applied limited war as a means by which to achieve its political goals since the early 1990s. ‘Absolute war’ was the logical end of all wars, but one that was constrained by political considerations and the advantages of a defensive posture. 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’. The fuzziness of our approach to defining limited war can be seen even in classic texts on the subject. If leaders cannot clearly define what they want, how can the military hope to deliver it? Abstract. In Vietnam, the United States fought for a limited political objective, but the North Vietnamese pursued an unlimited political objective against South Vietnam. Clausewitz asserted that war exists on a spectrum of intensity that ranged from “wars of limited object” to “absolute” or “total” war. 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. 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 … * Carl von Clausewitz in On War teaches that war is a powerful extension of politics by other means, emphasizing balance of power strategies. 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. This error also robs the discussion of any firm ground for critical analysis. New York. 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. The British maritime theorist Sir Julian Corbett expanded upon Clausewitz’s foundation in Some Principles of Maritime Strategy. It is also a blatant manifestation of the current conceptual problem Americans have in regard to defining all wars. 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. 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. This chapter discusses the similarities and the difference between Clausewitz's concept of absolute war and modern total war. In the Gulf War, the United States pursued a limited objective, but wavered on this at the end with calls for regime change. 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 Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 the United States pursued regime change and thus unlimited political objectives. In many respects, the new wave is a reaction to a Cold War vision of Clausewitz. It's fast and free! In other words, we should learn to lose at a lower cost. 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. Random House. 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, Clausewitz did not deny the existence of limited war or, indeed, of ‘small wars’ as they are now known. 35, No. 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. 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. Korea became the archetype “limited war” in books such as the well-known 1964 work by journalist David Rees. 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