The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H106: 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 10, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I do not think it is meaningful to say whether the scientific approach to war of Jomini is right or the artistic approach of Clausewitz is right. Because military science and art is already widely known as a combination of science and art. The study of how to win in war has been going on for a long time and has been established to some extent, especially by Jomini. But it would be possible for a great leader to combine the principles of the war and lead the war to victory. Also, if the war only succeeds in the principles of the war that Joe Minnie says, the war will not happen if all can win. Because war is unpredictable and a war can happen through the belief that weak countries believe that they can win a war. And they sometimes win a war against a strong country. This is to add to the claim of Clausewitz that the area of ​​the army fulfilling the war is connected with the probability. Nonetheless, Jomini’s claim is very practical because the best people can do is to find the principles of war and strive to win the war.

    Comment by kwon.moon | October 11, 2018

  2. I do agree that brigade commanders are the military’s senior tacticians. BDE CDRs live and operate in the tactical environment where the relationship between cause and effect are more direct. I also believe that depending on the situation and operational environment, general officers operate at the tactical environment. However, the expectations of general officers make the issues and decisions they make inherently more complex.

    General officers are faced with seemingly impossible situations. Especially considering the preponderance of their experience is at the tactical level versus the strategic level where they will spend the remainder of their careers. Leaders have several opportunities to attend and participate in different military education, however there is little room for practical application prior to being placed in key leadership positions as a general officer.

    I do believe our military culture and society demand a demonstrated, positive, scientific approach to identifying and training leaders to serve at the highest level of the military. I also believe the Jominian approach to war dominates the American military at all levels, but fails to appropriately prepare our senior leaders for operating at the strategic level effectively.

    Comment by Aaron S. Griffin | October 14, 2018

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