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Essay on Von Clausewitz: Similarities And Differences

Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier who later became a major military thinker of the 19th century. Antoine-Henri Jomini was a Swiss man that joined the French revolution and even joining Russia and would become the most popular thinker of his time. Both Jomini and Clausewitz share many similarities more than their differences yet they both do focus on two different camps of ideas, the importance of strategy and chaos in war.

One of Jomini’s main points of interest in war is the importance of lines of operation, which is essentially the direction of army in land from its headquarter to a military target, in respect to the enemy. In this way, what he would concede to be the challenge of war is,”… establish them in reference to the bases and the marches of the army as to seize the communication of the enemy without imperiling one’s own, and is the most important and most difficult problem in strategy,” (Jomini, 120).

Clausewitz shows the greatest problem of war is that there is confusion in war, with both sides never truly knowing what the other side is doing or going to do. “This enormous friction which is not concentrated… by chance, and thus produces incidents quite impossible to foresee, just chance it is to chance that to great extant they belong. ” (Clausewitz, pg 322) In this way, Jomini and Clausewitz show their greatest contrast in their opinion of war. Jomini presents the idea that it is upon the military officer to create a plan that would allow victory, while Clausewitz argues that wars are not something you truly can predict but incidental.

A characteristic between Jomini and Clausewitz both share is the politics, but differ in significance it is given. Jomini provides a lot of importance of the order of how wars are organize from grand strategist to the tactician. The first step of a war is,”… commander should be to agree with the head of state upon the character of the war… ” (Jomini, pg 66). In this way, although throughout Art of War there is little mentioning of politics, in this passage the leader of a country takes a role.

Clausewitz makes the claim that “The war of a community- of whole nations and particularly of civilized nations- always arises from the political condition and is called forth by a political motive,” (Clausewitz, 279). Jomini throughout his Art of War focuses mostly on the acts of war while waged, but Clausewitz recognizes the importance of the state by showing that motivations for war are significant. People will fight in war with more dedication and courage for an ideal than for war’s own sake.

Jomini has politics as an exogen factor for war that does not need to be involved while Clausewitz places it in the center by showing the way in which war is just a continuation of a political act. The main similarity between Clausewitz and Jomini is in the idea that they both believe in total war principles and were influence by Napoleon but differ in what they saw as important in his military campaigns. Jomini when describing the principles of war he makes the argument that “To throw by strategic movement the mass of an army, successively, upon the decisive point of a theater of war… ” (Jomini, pg70).

Clausewitz makes it clear that war is serious and therefore a country cannot limit their war effort saying, “He who uses his forces ruthlessly, shrinking from no amount of bloodshed must gain an advantage if his adversary does not do the same,” (Clausewitz pg 265). Both of these men learned many of ideas of military success came from the Napoleonic wars. The French under Napoleon’s regime shows the way in which a population that practices total war principles, an army in mass and ruthless no prisoners policy, would be able to defeat any army that does not also practice this same mentality.

Napoleon incorporated both the ideas of strategic movement with those of principles of ruthless military campaign. The way in which Clausewitz and Jomini essentially maintain the same principles of war but only differ in what they consider significant such as the idea of movements of armies, the significance of politics and total war principles. Jomini throughout his art of war has shown the importance of planning and strategic movement yet Clausewitz recognizes the significance of other factors of war that are hard to quantify, such as the fog of war, the politics involved in war and the need to be barbarous in war.

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