General Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (01/06/1780 – 16/11/1831) wrote between 1816 and 1830 his acclaimed and (even now in the 21st Century) influentially pivotal text ‘On War‘.
‘On War‘ is the strategic thesis that effectively dictates what will win and what will lose the modern military battle.
Von Clausewitz’s thought-provoking exploration in to the logical rule of war is required reading at most modern military colleges – the Army college at Sandhurst is no exception.
The learned General makes it plain that ‘a war should never be fought on two fronts’.
Book 6, Chapter 7 – The Offensive Battle – is particularly interesting in the following observation of the flanking/outflanking manoeuvre:
‘To be able in turn to operate with success against the flanks of an enemy, whose aim is to turn our line, it is necessary to have a well chosen and well prepared position.’
Indeed Von Clausewitz’s contemporary, the Prussian Field Marshall Alfred Graf von Schlieffen sought to ignore this rule when he put forward a plan to fight a campaign on two fronts.
Von Schlieffen’s plan was later executed by the advancing German forces in the early stages of the First World War and resulted in a massive, costly (in human terms) and unbelievably painful period of trench warfare in which the better-armed, better-fed and better-equipped Germans comprehensively lost the battle.
It seems that two modern-day Generals haven’t read von Clausewitz’s definitive philosphy on warfare.
Bush and Blair.
It was a huge error in military judgement for Bush and Blair to commit a massive amount of military materiel to the open-ended and undefined ‘War or Terror’ which has resulted in the wilful slaughter that now defines the US-led invasion of Iraq.
But this error was compounded and magnified a hundred times when taken in the context of the other two military fronts that the US and UK were already fighting.
Yes, the war in Afghanistan is being fought on two fronts – and that’s something worth reminding ourselves of:
Afghanistan is currently host to the NATO-led military force which includes a large number of US forces.
Outside of this deployment – and external to this military structure, chain of command and communications model – are the US-led forces (almost exclusively composed of US ‘Special Forces’) who are fighting the local ‘War on Terror’.
So we have two distinct military operations in Afghanistan:
* The ‘regular’ forces that comprise the NATO operation and,
* The ‘special’ forces that comprise the ‘War on Terror’.
And in Iraq we have a third military operation; tens of thousands of staff fighting under the US-led ‘War on Terror’ (Iraqi Chapter) banner.
So the ‘alliance’ is actually fighting a war on three fronts.
I wonder what von Clausewitz would have said about that?