The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H107: 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. Moreover, most General officers do not command combat formations.  Most generals are responsible for organizational leadership and decision making in non-operational environments.  In essence they are senior managers.  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 national 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 4, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Diplomacy should be part of a general’s decision making. For example, what determines the rules of engagement for any conflict is a decision based on: 1) diplomatic and policy factors; 2) operational requirements; and 3) the law. Therefore, ROE decisions, which are made by generals, requires diplomacy considerations. The importance of diplomacy in order to understand the operational environment is mentioned in ADRP 6-22.

    Comment by adamjbushey | October 7, 2016

  2. The fact that most officers are evaluated based on their ability to be the best worker (Jominian) until they are considered for general officer is unfortunate. This school of thought prevents officers from truly exercising creative thinking because they are bound by the expectations set from those above them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be no surprise that officers have difficulty in making the transition from Jomini based thought to Clausewitz based thought. If the military truly seeks creative thinkers, then perhaps the boundaries need to be adjusted, or as MG White said “reshape the box.” While both schools of thought are necessary, there should be equal emphasis given to both since so many tactical decisions have the potential to affect things on the strategic level. But, just as we discuss in Leadership, it take a long time to change cultural norms and create shared beliefs and understanding. If cultural change is the expectation, then the time to begin was a long time ago.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | October 13, 2016

  3. One of the implicit assumptions regarding the analysis between “Jominian” thought qualities and “Clausewitzian” thought qualities seems to be that while they are definitely two distinct talents, talent at “Jominian” thinking precludes an officer from having talent as a “Clausewitzian” thinker. I don’t think the relationship between the qualities is that clean. That is, there is considerable overlap in these fields that makes it possible for a General Officer to demonstrate capacity for both, and then get selected and further promoted on his/her ability to distinguish between what talent requires emphasis given the job title.

    Having said that, I do think that there can be some improvement in identifying and selecting officers that demonstrate “Clausewitzian” thinking but perhaps are punished in an environment that values “Jominian” thinking up until the General Officer level. Officers that demonstrate a penchant for strategy and problem solving (while perhaps not possessing the dynamic personality traits of a commander) could be groomed through testing, advanced degrees/study opportunities with the goal of serving as “career planners.” This would potentially allow for a pool of General Officers that would be well-suited to take on the administrative jobs that currently get filled by General Officers who have demonstrated excellence in Jominian thinking.

    Comment by Scott | October 18, 2016

  4. The assessment that a Brigade Commander is solely focused on Tactical-Level operations is somewhat skewed because he is typically asked to manage the entire spectrum of operations within his Brigade’s AO. Though a typical Brigade Commander may not be arguing with Congress over strategic implications to decisions that are made, but his actions can be very telling as to whether he is suited for a role where Clausewitz-ian thought is a necessity. When a Brigade Combat Team deploys, it’s the Brigade Commander who is utilizing all of the Instruments of National Power, but at a smaller scale. He is the official for the Brigade, creating ties with local leaders and in direct communication with them. He is the linchpin in the usage of the Information to put his brigade in a position of advantage. Military operations are a given, but even Economically, a Brigade Commander is capable of influencing the populous in his Area of Operations through small grants, work programs, large contracts, etc. His actions while in command show that he is capable of operating at a higher level to implement national, strategic elements of power to win.

    Comment by Pete Farese | October 21, 2016

  5. Thanks sir for providing us with that kind of articles that increase our creative and critical thinking,I fully agree with the above analysis, as it enable us to understand the nature and the difference between the art and science. we can see that the low-rank officers prefer and understand Jomini where they find what to do as everything clear, on the other hand, the high-rank officers prefer and use Clausewitz where he gives them how the key to deal with a situation which is ambiguity, complex and unpredicted.
    I think the process of selecting the general officers should be reviewed because the systems ( Clausewitz and Jomini) are required and the selective general officer should have a very high the performance,and also able to deal with the ambiguity, complex and unpredicted situation. Officer likes that will be able to coordinate with the higher and lower, lead from below, and motivate the subordinates.
    I think that the Jominian approach to war does not dominate the American way of war. Even American national culture demands a demonstrated, positive, scientific approach to all activity But also they like challenges and the culture here play the big role that the American apply both approaches of Clausewitz and Jomini but may be that vary depends on the age.

    Comment by mohamedmillataryleader | November 4, 2016

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