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Gulf War and the Effect of Clausewitz

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  • Gulf War and the Effect of Clausewitz

    Hello everyone,

    I am currently writing my dissertation on the 'Influence of Clausewitzian theory on the U.S military in the First Gulf War'. As its a topic chosen by myself I have found my opinion largely slanted toward Clausewitz's influence having a successful effect on American performance in the First Gulf War, for a whole host of reasons I can provide and explain if anyone is interested!

    I was wondering if anyone else had any opinions on this matter as I would love to hear them! Hoping that healthy debate may strengthen my argument and fill any gaps I may not have noticed!

    Thanks

  • #2
    Originally posted by Clausewitz94 View Post
    ...

    I was wondering if anyone else had any opinions on this matter as I would love to hear them! Hoping that healthy debate may strengthen my argument and fill any gaps I may not have noticed!

    Thanks
    My opinions on this are not well developed. It would be easy to remark how the observation that 'war is a extension of politics' applied to the 1990-91 Gulf war. But, developing a remark or two is another matter. Actually at this point I'm not even sure if that is what you are looking at, or if it is some other aspect of Clauswitzian theory?

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    • #3
      I have not known the US elites to show any interest in Clausewitz in any world conflict ever. They have not demonstrated any effect of having understood Clausewitz. I must admit I am not an expert on the subject but I have a loose understand thereof. It would be interesting if you could explain how you think the US elites have any interest in Clausewitz in a truthful sense and not propaganda to cause a falsehood.

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      • #4
        After ruminating over this for a couple days three items dredged up out of my memory.

        Back circa 1968 a US Army Captain lived next door for two years. He was assigned to the ROTC unit at the university. He had a copy of Clauswitz on his shelf, loaned it to me to read, & was able to understand my questions about it. So, he had read it .

        In the 1980s during the mid way of my career Clauswitz was on the required reading list of about every CO. I read it a second time then, had to agree that a through knowledge of early 19th Century German or European culture, knowledge of 18th & early 19th Century German philosphy, and a of 18th Century and Napoleonic era warfare would aid in understanding 'On War' in better depth.

        During the Fox Conner mentoring period Eisenhower read and discussed 'On War' with Connor. He read & discussed a lot of other military literature in those years so its difficult to say if all that helped or hindered Clauswitzs influence on Eisenhower.

        I could say more or less the same for Sun Tzu in all three examples so we might thing Clauswitz was present but the influence is not clear?

        I found the study 'The American Way of War' useful for understanding the actuality of how the US has practiced warfare vs theory through the 18th, 19th, & most of the 20th Centuries. Maybe reading that (its a long one) would help ?

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        • #5
          Thanks I'll give that a read, sounds like an interesting one!

          'War is an extension of politics by other means' is in fact one of my lynch pin quotes for my work, as I believe that typifies U.S involvement in the Gulf.

          I have been reading Colin Powell's 'My American Journey', and on my way through there are many references to Clausewitz in a positive sense. He saw the teachings of Clausewitz as a 'revelation'. But as regard's to elites, that it as far as my research has gone into that. So I do apologise.

          I am focusing majorly on the strategy of the conflict itself, and whether it bears any resemblance to Clausewitzian theory. So far I have found many similarities between the two. This could be a case of the U.S adopting this strategy and not fully realising how Clausewitzian it was! I have read however in multiple sources that after Vietnam, Clausewitz's 'On War' became something of solution for military theorists in the U.S, as they clearly needed to change their approach. As you said, copies of 'On War' did start to become prevalent in multiple Army College's throughout the 1980's.

          Also, the Weinberger Doctrine of 1984 is considered by some commentators to be the blueprint for strategy in the First Gulf War, and its cites Clausewitz's work. Which for me shows a degree of influence!

          Again, I apologise if any of this seems thin on the ground. But I think I can make a stronger argument as I continue! Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Clausewitz94 View Post
            ..
            Again, I apologise if any of this seems thin on the ground. But I think I can make a stronger argument as I continue! Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it!
            Well, you have to start somewhere.

            If Colin Powell read On War thoroughly then it says something about the books influence. Commandant Grey USMC also read it, tho from the several remarks of his in those days he had delved into Sun Tzu just as deeply. And, Greys influence from the theorist Lind is very clear. Checking on if the various secretaries & under secretaries in the DoD had read On War, or any other theory for that matter. Dick Cheny had read a lot of theory in his early days, tho I don't know what influenced him.

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            • #7
              I attended a lecture at Birmingham University in 2014 by a recently retired US Major General. The subject was the Operational Arts and the German March offensive and he certainly knew his Clausewitz. Doesn't of course mean that the US upper levels used it but does suggest that if they did not it was not necessarily out of ignorance.
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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              • #8
                I think a better topic would be the Challenge of the Gulf war to Clausewitz which has it warfighting aspects based on Newtonian Mechanics, such as friction, fog of war, in an age when an army changed it operations after a catastrophic defeat.

                Under the sciences of chaos and complexity friction is replaced by entropy and the fog of war is better known and understood where the edge of chaos begins. These sciences also offer better insights to chaos through understanding the application to warfighting of the concepts of self-organization, dissipating structures, strange attractors.... Intelligence collection and redundancy in communications has reduced Clausewitz's fog of war. On the other hand from the new sciences, we know that if the rate of flow of information does not match the rate of flow of forces chaos will be induced.

                These are just some general observations but can see them manifest themselves to the lowest and inner levels of armies and modern warfare. Using the Gulf War as a foil would be an interesting paper to explore the impact of the new sciences and challenge an Enlightenment concept of warfare.
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Clausewitz94 View Post
                  Hello everyone,

                  I am currently writing my dissertation on the 'Influence of Clausewitzian theory on the U.S military in the First Gulf War'. As its a topic chosen by myself I have found my opinion largely slanted toward Clausewitz's influence having a successful effect on American performance in the First Gulf War, for a whole host of reasons I can provide and explain if anyone is interested!

                  I was wondering if anyone else had any opinions on this matter as I would love to hear them! Hoping that healthy debate may strengthen my argument and fill any gaps I may not have noticed!

                  Thanks
                  Hi

                  You should chat to Sealous one of my fellow Mods on here, he's doing his thesis on a not to dissimilar subject if my memory serves.

                  I'm sure you've read it but I can recommend Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age as a good basis for.......
                  http://www.amazon.com/Makers-Modern-.../dp/0691027641

                  Regards

                  Andy H
                  "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

                  "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

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                  • #10
                    My recommendation is to throw out Clausewitz and use Machiavelli THE PRINCE as the latter was used by the Great Prince of Saudi Arabia. This would then be a truthful intellectual framework for the telling of the past and present history of US foreign policy and on the ground decisions in the entire Middle East. What a wonderful thesis this would make!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Andy H View Post
                      Hi

                      You should chat to Sealous one of my fellow Mods on here, he's doing his thesis on a not to dissimilar subject if my memory serves.


                      Regards

                      Andy H

                      How would I contact him on here? Unless it would be more polite to drop an email, as I would love to hear about his thesis! Antulio Echevarria has interesting thoughts on this, so I'm delving into his book 'Clausewitz and Contemporary War'. I'll let you know what I find!

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                      • #12
                        Send him a invite to this thread. Let him know your interest , & maybe drop a hint about direct correspondence.

                        Now I wish I had a copy on my shelf. Be nice to do some quick checks on a few points.

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                        • #13
                          Hello all,

                          Thank you so much for your contributions to beginning my research, I appreciate it massively! I would like to let you know that I completed my dissertation on this topic and was extremely happy with the results! Sadly with a word count of 10,000 I had to cut out 7500 words on the interesting concepts and theories of Clausewitz, which was a sad thing to do! If anyone is interested in the conclusions I drew from it, or if you think anyone will be please let me know! Thanks again everyone.

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                          • #14
                            Didn't Clauswitz fight to win? How is he relevant in a world where we don;t?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                              Didn't Clauswitz fight to win? How is he relevant in a world where we don;t?
                              Clausewitz's reference was the Napoleonic Wars, a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars, from 1792-ish to 1815. So if the nations of Europe were fighting to win for 23 years, they don't seem to have been very good at it.

                              Maybe that is Clausewitz's complaint? And given that it is counter-factual, is it even realistic?

                              Which leads to... are there realistic alternatives to way things are now? You know, that don't lead to World War III or require doubling or tripling the size of current armed forces.

                              Comment

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