Enduring Truths of War

War and the
American Military
Reality of Warfare
• War will happen…
– At the worst possible time
– In the worst possible place
– With the worst possible
• YOUR job is to wage war…
better than the enemy
Professional Responsibility
• Learn HOW we wage war in ALL of its
forms—against ANY/ALL of our enemies
• “Being a warrior is not an AFSC…it’s a
condition of the heart!!!” – Gen Jumper
Enduring Truths of War
Definition of War
Basic Themes of War
Viewpoints on War
Factors Dominating War
Elements of War
Enduring Truths of War
• An instrument of national policy
• A complex and chaotic human endeavor
• A clash of opposing wills
Definition of War
“War is nothing but a duel on an
extensive scale… Each strives by
physical force to compel the other to
submit to his will… War therefore is
an act of violence to compel our
opponent to do our will.”
~ Carl von Clausewitz
Enduring Truth #1
War is an instrument of
national policy
Basic Themes of War
• Politics and violence are intertwined
• War is policy “…that fights battles instead of
writing notes”
• War is the continuation of politics with the
addition of other means
National Policy through War
• War is a last resort of policy
– We exhaust diplomatic efforts!
– When military engages, the political process
doesn’t stop
• Bottom line: Success in war can only be
measured by whether political objectives
are achieved
Better State of Peace
• Wage war in a civilized manner
– Law of Armed Conflict
– Geneva & Hague Conventions
– Rules of Engagement (ROEs)
Sir Liddel Hart
• Leave the combat zone better than when we
entered it
• Failure leads to unstable peace!
Viewpoints on War
• Realism
• Holy War
• Pacifism
• Just War Theory (JWT)
• Wars are clashes of power and interest
• Moral constraints should never be put above a
nation’s self-interest
• Focuses on military necessity, where all
methods can or should be used to achieve
– Burning of Atlanta in Civil War
– Bombing civilian centers in WWII
Adolf Hitler
Holy War
• Wars aren’t merely human affairs:
– Divine instruments of judgment
– Authorized by God
– God responsible for outcome
• Cosmic battle between Good
and Evil
“Returning violence for violence multiplies
violence, adding deeper darkness to a night
already devoid of stars.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Opposes war as a means of settling disputes
and advocates use of arbitration, surrender, or
even migration
• Spectrum ranges:
– Avoidance of war at all costs
– War only as a last resort
Mahatma Gandhi
Just War Theory
• Killing is morally unacceptable…
• Determine when war is morally justified and
define actions that are permissible
• Focuses on:
– Protection of non-combatants
– Wage war by clearly defined rules
St. Thomas Aquinas
• Bottom line: Fight for a just cause and employ
just means
Enduring Truth #2
War is a complex and
chaotic human endeavor
Factors Dominating War
• Fog
• Friction
• Chance
• Difficulty to see and understand what’s
happening in battle
• Once a literal “fog”
• Now more figuratively:
– Too much happening
– Misinformation
– Conflicting information
Battle of Waterloo,
June 1815
• Overwhelmed with too much info
• Murphy’s Law at its worst!
– Troops are lost
– Bombs miss their target
– Enemies don’t act as expected
• Friction is that which seems easy in war
planning made difficult in reality!
“Everything in war is very
simple, but the simplest thing
is difficult.”
~ Clausewitz
Plain dumb luck and fortune.
Assassination attempt on
Col Stauffenberg
Sinking of USS
Enduring Truth #3
War is clash of
opposing wills
Elements of War
Scope of War
Level of Violence
Means Used
• State vs. State
– Iraq-Iran War
• Groups within a State
– Former Republic of Yugoslavia
• Non-State entities
– IRA, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, etc.
Secular ideology—Communist vs. Capitalist
Ethnic/tribal hatred—Tutsis vs. Hutus
Religion—Crusade, jihad, etc.
Territory—German conquest in WWII
Economic gain—Hitler’s rise to power
Revenge—Spanish-American War
Preemptive—6-Day War of 1967
Usually a mixture of some or all the above!
• Total: Political overthrow and/or
extermination of your enemy
(ethnic cleansing and/or
• Limited: Concessions
Scope of War
• Global
– WWI and WWII
• Regional
– Six Day War
• Local
– Bosnia, Somalia,
Rwanda, etc.
Levels of Violence
• Total (Unlimited) War
– Complete mobilization, both of forces
and national resources (e.g., WWII)
• Limited
– Restrain forces being used
Means Employed
• Weapons of Mass Destruction
• Conventional
• Guerilla/Urban warfare
– Irregular forces vs. Regular
– Urban warfare brings its own
unique challenges
• Terrorism
– Theme of modern warfare!
• Adversaries NOT fighting the SAME war
– Different motives, objectives, means, etc.
– Capitalize on these differences
• GWOT exemplifies this “unevenness
concept….” Consider:
– Are the participants the same?
– Do we employ the same means?
– Are our motives the same?
Asymmetry (cont’d)
• Poses very real threat to US interests
– Consider 9/11 & Al Qaeda
– Hijacked an AF = 75% success ratio!
• Asymmetric warfare requires us to adapt our
doctrine to counter this new threat
– Adapt our own asymmetric capabilities
– Capitalize on strengths our enemy can’t adapt to
– Exploit our advantages from asymmetry
Enduring Truths of War
Definition of War
Basic Themes of War
Viewpoints on War
Factors Dominating War
Elements of War

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