The Civil-Military Relationship
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“La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires.”
“War is too serious a matter to leave to soldiers.”
This section of Military Review features a thematic selection of articles that examine the relationship of the military as an institution to its civilian political overseers and the civil-military political process overall in the direction and management of war. It provides particular focus on those aspects salient to explaining the unsatisfactory conclusion to the Global War on Terrorism. This section provides well-known notable extracts from Carl von Clausewitz’s masterwork On War on his theory behind civil-military relations but begins with equally salient, and perhaps less known, observations on the same subject by Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini, a Swiss contemporary and rival of Clausewitz during the Napoleonic wars, in his master work, The Art of War. These quotes are intended to provide possible theoretical insight into the relevance of their observations to the current milieu of twenty-first-century civil-military relationships both in the United States and elsewhere.
- Epigraph. J. Hampden Jackson, Clemenceau and the Third Republic (1959, repr.; London: English Universities Press, 1946), 228.
Summary of The Art of War
Extract from The Art of War, by Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini, General and Aide-de-Camp of the Emperor of Russia
Definition of the Art of War
The art of war, as generally considered, consists of five purely military branches: Strategy, Grand Tactics, Logistics, Engineering, and Tactics. A sixth and essential branch, hitherto unrecognized, might be termed Diplomacy in its relation to War. Although this branch is more naturally and intimately connected with the profession of a statesman than with that of a soldier, it cannot be denied that, if it be useless to a subordinate general, it is indispensable to every general commanding an army: it enters into all the combinations which may lead to a war, and has a connection with the various operations to be undertaken in this war; and, in this view, it should have a place in a work like this.
To recapitulate, the art of war consists of six distinct parts—
- Statesmanship in its relation to war.
- Strategy, or the art of properly directing masses upon the theater o!’ war, either for defense or for invasion.
- Grand Tactics.
- Logistics, or the art of moving armies.
- Engineering—the attack and defense of fortifications.
- Minor Tactics.
It is proposed to analyze the principal combinations of the first four branches, omitting the consideration of tactics and of the art of engineering.
Familiarity with all these parts is not essential in order to be a good infantry, cavalry, or artillery officer; but for a general, or for a staff officer, this knowledge is indispensable.
Chapter 1: Statesmanship in its Relation to War
Under this head are included those considerations from which a statesman concludes whether a war is proper, opportune, or indispensable, and determines the various operations necessary to attain the object of the war.
A government goes to war—
To reclaim certain rights or to defend them;
To protect and maintain the great interests of the state, as commerce, manufactures, or agriculture;
To uphold neighboring states whose existence is necessary either for the safety of the government or the balance of power;
To fulfill the obligations of offensive and defensive alliances;
To propagate political or religious theories, to crush them out, or to defend them;
To increase the influence and power of the state by acquisitions of territory;
To defend the threatened independence of state;
To avenge insulted honor; or,
From a mania for conquest.
It may be remarked that these different kinds of war influence in some degree the nature and extent of the efforts and operations necessary for the proposed end. The party who has provoked the war may be reduced to the defensive, and the party assailed may assume the offensive; and there may be other circumstances which will affect the nature and conduct of war, as—
- A state may simply make war against another state.
- A state may make war against several states in alliance with each other.
- A state in alliance with another may make war upon a single enemy.
- A state may be either the principal party or an auxiliary.
- In the latter case a state may join the struggle at its beginning or after it has commenced.
- The theater of war may be upon the soil of the enemy, upon that of an ally, or upon its own.
- If the war be one of invasion, it may be upon adjacent or distant territory: it, may be prudent and cautious, or it may be bold and adventurous.
- It may be a national war, either against ourselves or against, the enemy.
- The war may be a civil or a religious war.
War is always to be conducted according to the great principles of the art; but great discretion must be exercised in the nature of the operations to be undertaken, which should depend upon the circumstances of the case.
For example: two hundred thousand French wishing to subjugate the Spanish people, united to a man against them, would not maneuver as the same number of French in a march upon Vienna, or any other capital, to compel a peace; nor would a French army fight the guerrillas of Mina as they fought the Russians at Borodino; nor would a French army venture to march upon Vienna without considering what might be the tone and temper of the governments and communities between the Rhine and the Inn, or between the Danube and the Elbe. A regiment should always fight in nearly the same way; but commanding generals must be guided by circumstances and events.
To these different combinations, which belong more or less to statesmanship, may be added others which relate solely to the management of armies. The name Military Policy is given to them; for they belong exclusively neither to diplomacy nor to strategy, but are still of the highest importance in the plans both of a statesman and a general.
- Source: The Art of War, Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini, originally published in 1838 as Precis de l’Art de Guerre. Translated from French by Capt. G. H. Mendell, U.S. Army, and Lt. W. P. Craighill, U.S. Army, and published in English in 1862 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott). Reprinted by Greenhill Books, Lionel Leventhal, London, 1992 (pp. 12–16).
Extracts from Vom Krieg (On War), by Carl von Clausewitz
When whole communities go to war—whole peoples, and especially civilized peoples—the reason always lies in some political situation, and the occasion is always due to some political object. War, therefore, is an act of policy….
… Policy, then, will permeate all military operations, and, in so far as their violent nature will admit, it will have a continuous influence on them….
… We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means.... (pp. 86–87)
… The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, not trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive….
… War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone. The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government. The passions that are to be kindled in war must already be inherent in the people; the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army; but the political aims are the business of government alone. (pp. 88–89)
- Source: Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 1984. Vom Krieg was originally published posthumously by Clausewitz’s wife Marfie von Bruhl in 1832.
Invites your attention to
Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: A False Idol?
During the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) 2001–2012, a single idea came to dominate the U.S. approach to counterinsurgency, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. The necessity of a “population-centric approach” was promulgated by the Army’s capstone Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, published in late 2006, in a perceived effort to redress shortcomings in fighting what was then perceived as the losing effort in the insurgent war in Iraq.
The manual called for increasing dramatically nonkinetic means to redress popular grievances by shifting the effort away from the use of raw force and balancing it against other sociological and humanitarian means, as dictated by the situation.
Critics have long argued that the U.S. Army has a severe bias toward conventional war that makes it “uncomfortable” when called upon to deal with the messy and complex factors that must be incorporated into counterinsurgency operations, giving it a predilection toward conventional warfighting because it is easier.
The monographs in Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: A False Idol? provides thoughtful and provocative critiques of the concept overall.
To view Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: A False Idol?, visit https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/Population-CentricCounterinsurgency.pdf.
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