Essay: War Theories

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Jomini is considered as being somewhat the exact opposite of Clausewitz. A number of military scholars quite often put forward the label "Jominian" and "Clausewitzian" together and thereby implying that those both these words, together, summarize their viewpoints, their strengths and defects of individual character. In contrast, some military scholars have viewed the discrepancies between Jomini's and Clausewitz's theories and deemed them to be rather insignificant. In this paper a comparison of the strategic literatures of Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Henri Jomini have been carried out. Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Henri Jomini were the 19th Century military strategists. The geo-political forces will be discussed in the paper along with the individual experiences that were of crucial importance in forming the hypothesis of each one of these theorist regarding the war. In the conclusion a discussion about the major contributions made by Clausewitz to the strategic thought are discussed.

Analysis of Jomini's and Clausewitz's war theories:

Although the contributions made by both the theorists hold their own significance and even today these theories have a significant impact on the strategic thinking, the different approaches taken by both the theorists didn't coincide a lot. Prussian military doctrine and Napoleonic wars influenced the individual views of both of these theorists to a vast extent.

Similar to Clausewitz, Jomini had a firsthand experience of the French Revolution, the upheaval that it created and the dramatic events that changed the history in the Napoleonic time period. It was in the very beginning of his military career that Jomini got interested in the strategic study and he was 25 years of age when he published his first work with the guidance of General Ney who was not only a mentor but also an important officer within the French Army (Elting, 1964; Corn, 2006).

This French influence has been discussed in John Shy's essay, the Makers of Modern Strategy. War was revolutionized by the French and as a result of this they were able to enjoy the extraordinary results. The force was mainly conscripted, command was decentralized whereas the power, political as well as military was focused on one leader. Napoleon wasn't all that interested in the individual victories, he was more concerned about completely defeating the enemy by the use of largely concentrated forces. Most of the times the acquisition of the territory was something that was considered later on. Shy believes that it was this experience which Jomini got first hand through observation that played the most important role in the formulation of theoretical ideas (Shy, 1986).

The work that Jomini is most known for is his Treatise on the Precis of the Art of War and the Grand Military Operations, most importantly the interpretations that he did of Napoleonic experience. It is the opinion of most of the writers that the Jomini's intent was to publish a 'field manual' or a 'handbook' in which he would have summarized the principles that in his opinion were responsible for the extraordinary successes that Napoleon had. It was noted by Colonel Swain that, "... The principles of the strategy were timeless for Jomini (and)... there were a set of principles at the end of the theory that served as a guidance for action."

According to Shy simplicity and clarity were the things sought by Jomini and he was quick to "...praise the Napoleonic model of attacking, massing and rapidly winning the important victories." If the principles are kept in mind it should be noted that these attacks should be made against the weak points that existed in the enemy formations or the territories that have not been defeated before and trusting the doctrine of "lines of operation." In Jomini's point-of-view the key was to figure out the "decisive point" and then strike.

There were three categories that Jomini separated the military activities into:




Logistics and


Grand tactics.

Early definitions for modern concepts such as "COMMZ" and "theatre of operation" were given by him as well.

An important difference between Jomini and Clausewitz is that Jomini didn't have a lot of concern for the political implications. According to Shy the lesson was plain and simple for Jomini, he believed that, " the best military commander should be chosen by the government and then he should be left free to wage war in accordance with the scientific principles."

Critics of Jomini have accused him of not being flexible and over simplifying everything. If his theory wasn't supported by some empirical evidence, he would simply ignore it. Another dissimilarity between him and Clausewitz is that Jomini was vague and he also contradicted himself on the significance of genius. Clauewitz has been accused of being obsessed with the great battle to the extent of suicide and this same criticism has been made for Jomini as well.

There are a lot of similarities in the military careers of Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz was an early student of the strategy as well and he too trusted relatively identical empirical encounter in order to create and nurture his philosophies. He had a very relationship with his mentor Gerhard von Scharnhost, as well. Gerhard von Scharnhost was a Prussian Army General and Clausewitz benefits from this relationship as well. Jomini and Clausewitz both got to the ranks of General and both of them grew disinterested with the situations that they were in and ended up in the Russian Army by accepting appointments there.

The work that Clausewitz is most famous for is his treatise on War. It was noted by Shy that, "to Clausewitz it was of little importance to make strategic schemes that would be effective and to take the tactical measures, he was more interested in the identification of the permanent elements of the war and to find out how they function." Clausewitz strongly believed that the leaders need to be schooled when it comes to the philosophical study of war and that theories like this should be extremely flexible.

In Clausewitz's opinion war was is an extreme measure but it is a normal extension of the political policy or the ultimate diplomacy. He himself said that, "War is nothing more than the continuation of policy with alternative means." He strongly believed that war comprised of dual nature as well as that warfare might be limited or absolute, it depends on how the modern writers term objectives that make up the political grand strategy.

War was seen as an act that was composed of passion and violence by him. He felt that war comprised of chance, passions, probability, uncertainty as well as political purpose and effect. He believed that friction in combination with the individual genius could make a huge difference in the result of a meeting between two forces that have otherwise equal strength.

Clausewitz and Jomini both agreed that it was only through complete attack that a victory could be achieved.

One of the important criticisms in case of Clausewitz that have been noticed is his apparent failure to take notice of the ethical considerations of the war. Ethics was viewed by him as something of a political question not as an issue that should be concentrated upon for the pure theory. He also failed give even a bit of consideration to the sea power (which was at least given a passing reference by Jomini). However, it has to be kept in mind here that in case of Clausewitz, his theories could be adapted to the complete force concept (sea, land and air).

The winning of the 'Cold War' as well as the gulf war and the Viet Nam experience does validate Clausewitz. It is irrelevant here that one is thought of as the failure; while the others as amazing successes. All that a teacher can do is educated and impart knowledge, how that knowledge is used is not the fault of that teacher. Although it is less likely for a total war to take place on a grand scale but limited wars carried out for limited reasons will continue taking place. These are probably the reasons because of which the ideas given by Clausewitz are a lot more important to the strategists today than they were at any time in the modern history.

The importance of all this is associated mainly with the attempts that are being made in order to restore Jomini. Partly, the reason for these attempts is the reaction in the country against the predominance of Clausewitzian theory since the time of Vietnam war. In the past it has happened that Clausewitz was declared to be obsolete for sometime but it remerged with an even stronger influence. In arguments of this sort the problem that is focused upon the most is nuclear war. However, it seems like instead of Clausewitz it is the other nuclear theorists who have actually become obsolete.

Largely this criticism to the new Clausewitzianism is merely a reaction. The so-called competitors want to remove the Prussian philosopher from his post-Vietnam primacy. While, there are also some who… [END OF PREVIEW]

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War Theories.  (2013, June 5).  Retrieved June 17, 2019, from

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"War Theories."  5 June 2013.  Web.  17 June 2019. <>.

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"War Theories."  June 5, 2013.  Accessed June 17, 2019.