The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

American Military Leadership –Carl or Antoine?

Jomini and Clausewitz coexist in many modern militaries. Jomini, with his emphasis on principals and application may dominate at the tactical level of war. Clausewitz, with the emphasis on ambiguity, complexity and politics tends to become more important at the more senior leadership levels. The break point logically seems to be at the level of brigade command. Brigade commanders are the military’s senior tacticians. They are involved in the day to day operations and maintenance of the force and have the responsibility to planning, leading, and executing operations. Brigade commanders live in the tactical environment. Cause and effect relationships at the brigade level are more direct and the certainty of factors influencing decisions is higher. Some general officers operate in the tactical environment as well –depending on the operational situation. However, at the general officer level the tendency is for issues to become more complex and for effects to become more separated from causes. Politics, media, and other factors beyond the military’s control begins to intrude on decision making at the general officer level.

Do you agree or disagree with the above analysis?

A challenge facing the effectiveness of general officers is two-fold. First, how does one select the best officer to operate in the Clausewitz world (senior leader) based on the performance of officers who are typically operating in the Jominian world (tactical)? In addition, how does the army train senior leadership (Clausewitzian) thinking before the leader makes the general officer ranks, if there is little or no opportunity to practice it for most of an officer’s career at the tactical level?

Some analysts believe, whether the above described relationship exists or not between Jomini and Clausewitz’s ideas, its irrelevant because American culture demands a demonstrated, positive, scientific approach to all activity and thus the Jominian approach to war dominates the American way of war at all levels. Do you agree?


October 12, 2012 - Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. In general, I agree with the assessment of the poster. It seems that there is a significant emphasis on the tactical level, and that performance is rated based on performance at that level. Ultimately, this creates incentives to take a tactical approach and view problems (and solutions) from a tactical rather than operational or strategic level. However, I think that brigade commanders today have a greater incentive to consider the operational and strategic level. This incentive stems from the fact that actions at the tactical level can have a significant impact on strategic approaches, and brigade commanders must be mindful of how their actions (or those of their subordinates) could impact the strategic environment. Arguably, one example of this is the detainee abuse scandal at Abu Gharib prison. As details of that abuse came to light, it changed how the Army approached detainee treatment, influenced the environment on the ground in Iraq and diminished support for the war in the eyes of the population (Clausewitz’s “passion”). Brigade commanders now deal with at least setting the stage at the tactical level to avoid straying into situations that cause ambiguity and tension that lie more in Clausewitz’s realm than Jomini’s.

    Comment by Kenneth Mortimer, 11A | October 16, 2012

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