More on Clausewitz and the Commander-in-Chief

Pursuant to today’s column, here’s a few more thoughts contrasting Clausewitz’s dictums and how the War on Terror and Afghanistan and Iraq and the Iranian puppet militia is being waged by the Bush administration.

“It is clear that war is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means”

The deeper concern here is that the president is applying this entirely too literally.

“Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity”

The execution of the invasion of Iraq was audacious, the invasion itself was not. Invading Saudi Arabia and Iran, that would have been audacious.

“Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity. If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.”

Do we even know what the president’s aims are? He isn’t telling us. And if he’s filled with seriously high ambitions and is pursuing them in secret, we’re in for some serious trouble.

“The majority of people are timid by nature, and that is why they constantly exaggerate danger. All influences on the military leader, therefore, combine to give him a false impression of his opponent’s strength, and from this arises a new source of indecision.”

The direct danger from al-Qaida to the USA is somewhat exaggerated, even as the long-term threat from the global jihad is underplayed. Al-Qaida is only a small operative arm of the jihad. But his point is broadly salient even outside of military matters; one has only to watch the local news to recognize the truth.

“We must, therefore, be confident that the general measures we have adopted will produce the results we expect.

This one is clearly shot to Hell. For all that the administration insists that things are going to plan, it is highly dubious that the increase in violence a full year after the cessation of hostilities

“After we have thought out everything carefully in advance and have sought and found without prejudice the most plausible plan, we must not be ready to abandon it at the slightest provocation. Should this certainty be lacking, we must tell ourselves that nothing is accomplished in warfare without daring; that the nature of war certainly does not let us see at all times where we are going; that what is probable will always be probable though at the moment it may not seem so; and finally, that we cannot be readily ruined by a single error, if we have made reasonable preparations.”

I don’t think that things have been planned without prejudice, considering the general bias towards an Iraqi attack, but the administration does seem flexible enough to abandon plans if necessary. That being said, the single error of not targeting the central enemy would seem to be potentially fatal.

“The first and most important rule to observe…is to use our entire forces with the utmost energy. The second rule is to concentrate our power as much as possible against that section where the chief blows are to be delivered and to incur disadvantages elsewhere, so that our chances of success may increase at the decisive point. The third rule is never to waste time. Unless important advantages are to be gained from hesitation, it is necessary to set to work at once. By this speed a hundred enemy measures are nipped in the bud, and public opinion is won most rapidly. Finally, the fourth rule is to follow up our successes with the utmost energy. Only pursuit of the beaten enemy gives the fruits of victory.”

Let’s see…. one, no. Two, pretty much. Three, no. Going to the UN and coalition-building is a massive waste. Four, no. Instead of moving on to Iran when we had momentum, we sat and handed over the initiative.

“The best form of defense is attack.”

This has been done reasonably well.

“The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.”

One wishes the president, the great defender of “the religion of peace”, would keep this in mind.

“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking.”

This is possibly the most worrisome. The administration has clearly decided on an amorphous war without tangible goals against a nameless enemy. Shades of 1984 indeed.

“no one starts a war-or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

I’m not sure that one can’t make a stronger case for bin Laden’s rationale than the president’s. Granted, bin Laden’s goals are so high as to appear insane, but at least he’s identified his enemy and made his case. The president hasn’t.

“Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.”

Still wondering what that is supposed to be. Unfortunately, so are our soldiers. What, precisely, is the one great decisive aim?

“If the enemy is to be coerced, you must put him in a situation that is even more unpleasant than the sacrifice you call on him to make. The hardships of the situation must not be merely transient – at least not in appearance. Otherwise, the enemy would not give in, but would wait for things to improve.”

Not even close. This is particularly dangerous against an enemy with a proven long-term outlook.