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 2, 2014 - Posted by | H100


  1. Questions: Compare/Contrast Clausewitz and Jomini
    Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Heri Jomini were considered as major theorists of modern warfare. Both of them studied Napoleon’s tactics on warfare. Unlike Clausewitz, Jomini military career did not begin at the military academy. He served as a volunteer to Marshal Ney. He was recognized by Napoleon and commissioned in the French Army and later received a commission in the Russian Army. Napoleon admired Jomini and continuously promoted him through the ranks.

    Jomini was fascinated with military history and military art. He was a rational and optimistic officer who believed that warfare was heroic, easy, and certain. Unlike Clausewitz, Jomini was always on the winning side of war. His theories, the Principles of War, were based upon the science of warfare on the operational level. The theory of deployment focused on gaining the advantage over an adversary through the concentration of strength against weakness. His writings were studied during the Civil War and later at the United States Military Academy. He also wrote and published the Treatise on Grand Military Operations which was based upon the military campaigns of Frederick the Great.
    Unlike Jomini, Clausewitz believed the nature of war consisted of uncertainty, danger, exertion, and friction. He believed that “war is an act of force” and “war is merely the continuation of policy by other means.” The three elements of his paradoxical trinity are political, probability, and passion. These elements directly impact the decision of going to war. The “Real War” and “Ideal War” theories discussed in his book On War are relevant today and studied throughout the military.

    Comment by Proctor-Matos, SG 17C, H107 | October 4, 2014

  2. I agree that the Brigade Commander sits at the fulcrum between the art of war (Clausewitz) and the science of war (Jomini). At levels below this, the proper application of doctrine and principles starts to become more prevalent. However, at every level war there needs to be an appropriate mix between Jomini and Clausewitz principles. This mix is constantly shifting, but the farther you descend in the chain of command, the more important Jomini’s principles become. However, even at the platoon level, leaders must be ready to face the realities that Clausewitz touts, that war is filled with ambiguity. If a commander blindly touts only the science of war and disregards the art of war and its constant mix of fog and friction, he will soon become irrelevant.

    I will also add that as technologies have further enabled command and control at the national command level even into tactical situations, the line between Jomini and Clausewitz is becoming even muddier. As drone reconnaissance has enabled constant over-watch, lower-level commanders are going to have to learn the art of war at an earlier part in their career. This is both good and bad, as this will ensure our future strategic commanders are better Clausewitz leaders, but this could also detract from these individuals to properly employ Jomini’s principles. The worst situation caused by these technologies is the possible eroding of the levels of war. However, we are not going to be able to wish away this technology because it is only going to expand so we must learn to adapt to this new friction in war.

    Comment by Eric Peterson, Major, SG 17B | October 10, 2014

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