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The decision for republication is solely left to the discretion of Infinity Journal. Such articles and all information within the articles e. Infinity Journal. Antulio Echevarria Editorial Advisory Panel. I agree that we, the western military, have elevated something that was prescribed as a tool for understanding how you should plan campaigns and battles and have made it into a cornerstone, albeit highly abstracted, short-cut to success. In my own views, based of a rather non-academic and non-rigorous scanning of On War, is that we have elevated the COG from being a lesson and heuristic on how we need to concentrate force at an appropriate time to achieve tactical effects and victory, into a shortcut to victory.
If we apply force to an opponent's COG it should be expected that he will be pushed off balance and either shift his COG or realign it, extending the wrestling metaphor via Newtonian physics. To expect that pressure against a metaphorical COG to result in systemic collapse is naive, yet that is what our teachings compel us to do. Instead, if we concentrate force against a proper, tangible part of the enemy system and expect him to adjust his response 'shift' his COG which we link into our campaign plan or operational concept, then we have a chance of bridging the theory-practice divide.
If we 'demote' COG from being the central short-cut that tells us how to defeat the enemy and instead return it to an instructional concept on how we can shape the enemy towards defeat, fully expecting his COG to shift and adjust to changes in the situation, then we are leaving behind the ivory tower of disconnected and theoretically-fixated staff and instead viewing unfolding operations with greater clarity and realism - which, in my view,is what CvC was advocating all along.
You raise some valid points which were actually known back in 50's and 60's era of systems analysis and the solution was apparently forgotten to. Einstein came along and gave Newton fits with his General theory of Relativity but there were times when it didn't work! So he also had a Special Theory for when the General theory didn't work! The Army used to have a theory of General Warfare very CvC but it also had a theory of Special Warfare because sometimes just like Einstien General dosen't work and requires a Special approach. Like I wrote earlier even CvC recognized his theory has problems when you "arm the population" and he did not truly understand it.
But for whatever reason this part of CvC is overlooked. We need to go back and have a General Theory of Warfare and a Special Theory of Warfare because what we are doing is not working! September 11, , and the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced post-modernism as a competing and I'd argue now dominating paradigm within American society, and especially foreign and military policy. Western Europe began its slow death spiral with post-modernism after the Second World War. However, perhaps as the Enlightenment's Eldest Daughter, America carried the banner far longer: defeating Nazism, Imperial Japan, containing and defeating Soviet Communism, landing and returning men from the Moon, leading a multi-generational period of peace and global prosperity, etc.
Now, at the hands of some backward semi-literate tribes, we are prepared to call our operating paradigm into question, and quickly join Western Europe's death spiral with post-modernism. Newtonianism is far from perfect.
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But, as the author alludes, it had a profound impact on not only war, but the entire Enlightenment, and thereby Western Europe and especially our country, founded deliberately as a grand Enlightenment project. Newtonianism was used as the lens through which not just the mechanics of physics was interpreted but pretty much everything: economics free markets , politics separate but equal branches of government , and of course, war.
Adam Smith, James Madison, and Carl von Clausewitz all were applying a version of Newtonianism when they developed their respective theories. The Newtonian model within these other fields of human society is not perfect. But its saving grace is the Newtonian association with empiricism and rationalism: That we can fix ourselves based on observation and evaluation over time.
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The new models proposed under post-modernism are highly speculative and very theoretical within even the field of physics. Physicists will admit that many of these areas of speculation chiefly within the extremes of observable universe [at the cosmic and sub-atomic levels] are not open to the scientific method of empirical observation, testing, evaluation, falsification, etc.
They will remain speculative until better speculations are developed. Are these the models that we want to tie our military or foreign policies to? Rashly abandoning models tried and tested over centuries and replacing them with models that are nearly if not entirely impossible to test and evaluate is madness. The end-state of post-modernism within foreign and military policy is a weakened military.
It's the logical conclusion. If we break the hold of the Newtonian worldview and we may already be well past that point [e. This has been the logical conclusion within Western Europe. The military exists to apply force. If the Newtonian Laws of Motion no longer have central application in human events, what need we of a large capacity for generating and applying force? You're entitled to your opinion. Personally, I think that most of On War is truly timeless, a manifestation of the Ecclesiastical wisdom that "there is nothing new under the sun.
Some of it's certainly very dry, and a lot of it is difficult though not impossible to relate to modern operations, but I've been absolutely gobsmacked by the amount of Clausewitz's magnum opus that could be applied directly to current events without any updating or clarification. And, given the recent performance of all of those "smart people" in the "21st century military", I'm more inclined to listen to the "dead German guy", deathbed disclaimer or no. Before CvC died he left a warning letter!!!! So the final fact is nobody will ever truly know what he meant they can only guess,assume and conjecture.
Is that really anyway to run a 21st century military?
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We have many smart people in the military and I think we can do better than wondering what some dead German guy meant about War. There's a lot to say about this article, and I'll try to be brief, but I'll fail. The author presents some convincing evidence, but I disagree that it supports his conclusion. This essay does not effectively argue that the Clausewitzian "COG" concept is obsolete or fallacious.
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Rather, it argues that America suffers from a shortage of competent senior officers, and faulty joint doctrine, the result of which has been underwhelming results in the battlespace. Several of the author's sentences point to the leadership vacuum:. Have commanders been led astray? Are there plenty of examples demonstrating the danger of misapplication or misunderstanding of COGs?
Do American generals suffer from a stunning inability to identify and defeat the enemy center of gravity? This points to shortfalls in competence and strategic literacy, rather than shortfalls in Clausewitzian doctrine. I also simply disagree with the author's assertion that there are no historical examples underpinning the "COG" concept. Clausewitz's magnum opus is chock full of historical examples to illustrate his major points.
When I was learning these concepts, my peers and I were regularly required to identify the COGs in various battles and campaigns. Clausewitz also warns of the danger of misused historical examples, and of the importance of unity of command. Examples of the latter of these are pervasive in the author's essay. The author is entirely right that "clearly, the Prussian could not have intended such confusion"; he also wouldn't have intended for the sort of disunity of effort that results from wars being run by committees of operational planners masquerading as strategists, representing multiple echelons and four independent services, all answerable to a Commander-in-Chief who may have zero background in strategy or foreign policy.
That doesn't negate the "COG" concept, it points to breakdowns in American joint doctrine and a resulting disunity of command. Again, this doesn't negate Clausewitzian doctrine, it negates the non-Clausewitzian manner in which command has been diluted by too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen, as well as the pervasive belief that everything can be reduced to a "warfighting function" that can be codified, plugged into a formula, and written into a Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks.
Following from this, Clausewitz also discusses friction and the fog of war, which further undermine the proposition that a formulaically-identified COG can be attacked, resulting in victory. I'm also concerned that author's case rests upon a variety of examples in which the strategic culture of the U. Air Force, the least Clausewitzian of the four services, has been disproportionately influential. The Air Force has enjoyed a long history of what might be described as strategically failing forward. My biggest concern about the "COG" concept is that when I was learning it, it was commonly confused with the concept of "critical vulnerabilities".
I would hope that senior field grade and flag officers would gain a better understanding of the distinction, but given some of the evidence of what is and isn't taught at the war colleges, I'm not confident that the distinction is well understood by war college graduates. In reponse to your post. I was not trying to provide evidence. CvC is such an institution that he has become an immovable "Center of Gravity" almost a religion.
So the only hope is for a counter balancing theory.
CvC has many good and valuable lessons but fhe has some serious flaws. The most serious is his definition of war It should be closer to the definition of a crime America is especially vulnerable to such a misunderstanding IMO becuase we seem to think that if somebody isn't shooting at you then everything is fine. Re: 4, I do not believe that you or the author have provided sufficient evidence to support the suggestion that "we need a counter balancing loop to the CvC concept s ".
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I am particularly concerned that you would recommend Sun Tzu as that counter-balance, as Sun Tzu's analysis, while strong in some spots, borders more on philosophy than on actual strategic theory. I concur with MF that undue stock put in Warden's theories is also cause for concern. So mf, I hang out mostly at the Small Wars Council and if you check my older postings you'll find I grew up in Florida and then moved to Alabama, always following the leading Space technology states.
Almost lived in a place called Rockey City ,Fl. As to my 4th grade class we were very smart, back in those days the purpose of the Public Education system was Systems analysis back then early 60's had no math just a little arithmetic, it dealt with biological stuff.
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By the 11th grade they were calling it Ecology. Hello Slapout, AL and longtime no see. Did not realize you had another teaching life in Florida and sounds like your 4th graders were much smarter than me. Apparently, the 19 semester hours of calculus and higher math, and other courses leading to my Bachelor of Science degree were a total waste ;.
With that postulated, the five rings may actually obstruct the period of stability operations that necessarily follows major conflict. Remember the Chinese embassy in Serbia, the targeted underground complex in Iraq, and recent hospital in Kunduz? That is one reason why a year of targeting ISIL from the air has had limited results since until recently no effective ground force has been in play to attack the CoGs of the ISIL ground force.
That then might be one place where CoG and the Five Rings merge. We also seem to forget that when few resources are applied to quickly address every phase of a conflict, the conflict will last longer and the adversary has more time to adapt, adjust, and shift efforts. You raise a good point about the ball bearing factory but the article is incorrect from the standpoint of it being a COG. The fledgling Air Corps was using what was called the "Industrial web design" theory to analyse German war production. In some after war studies the Air Force found German industrial production cities were laid out very differantly than American cities, which were the models that were being used.
Von Braun came to my elementry school and I can tell you he certainly understood Systems Theory. And so do I and my 4th grade class! So what are some of the benifits? The 's Army was almost all based on proper Systems Analysis but sadly little remains of it despite what you are being taught. I can give examples of how easy and benificial it is if you are interested? Perhaps Clausewitz only lacked the vocabulary and experience necessary to produce a theory that would be relevant today.
Understood and agreed with most of his points up until this paragraph and the last two paragraphs of the article that alluded me. That is the entire problem of Design and a Systems Approach. Normal humans without Physics degrees cannot understand it so why would normal Soldiers? Do we want military planners with unique vocabularies and Jedi knight views that differ from the rest of the Army that still must understand the commander's intent? Yet this Design and Systems stuff baffles me while the concept of Center of Gravity ies is pretty understandable.
Something needs to be the doctrinal main effort for particular tactical, operational, and strategic missions and CoG seems related with all others being supporting efforts. He uses the ball bearing bombing as an example of a flawed CoG yet we cannot possibly comprehend how that may have slowed German development of top-of-the-line technology or at least limited its mass production in numbers like ours that were not hampered by bombing.
Given Werner von Braun and many astounding technologies on the drawing board at the time the war ended, it is easy to envision counterfactuals that could have resulted had the war lasted longer. After all, we could not keep Baathists in charge in a Shiite majority state, but we could have formed a Sunni state and military that Baathists would have run, while allowing Shiites and Kurds to have their own governments and separate armies. We also display recent hesitancy to go sufficiently-in. Outlaw shows incredible insight in describing events in Syria and in showing the lack of true vs.
Yet Putin shows no such reluctance which may make his efforts less of a quagmire than our own that appear to be slow motion and limited in effect. Too late now for Iraq but not too late for that approach in Syria unless we exclude any possibility of a ground component in safer sanctuary of Kurd territory. Our other failing is unwillingness to "stay the course" long term.
That is part of the CoG equation versus starting from scratch each time. As Europe, Korea, and other past conflicts show, if we leave forces in safer areas where they still deter and influence events, peace is facilitated or a response to conflict more rapid. Kuwait is one recent example. The MFO in the Sinai is another. Okinawa Marines are another.
The forces in the Balkans still another. Runways can be repaired and the adversary rapidly runs out of missiles if he must attack multiple points of entry and our massing of ground forces that more easily can disperse and hide. In addition, if you have deterrence forces in place there is a smaller Gray Zone. The adversary either goes all-in with the Second Artillery Corps risking total war or he has less opportunity to make slow motion major territorial acquisitions.
No, and if we rotate forces there regularly to multiple locations for practice, that scenario is less likely. Yet we believe future Presidents would penetrate nuclear states to attack deep CoGs and "Systems Approach" targets with manned stealth bombers and not create risky escalation? A superb article that further discredits the concept that underpins joint and service doctrine.
I worry about O-4s coming out of ILE who harp the intellectual merits of a concept that repeatedly has contributed to failure throughout history. The concept is certainly seductive, especially if you don't examine its long history of failure. We are more than capable of identifying what are main and supporting efforts without a COG concept as applied in joint doctrine that states every objective must be tied to it. There are many sources of power that an adversary can resist with, yet we continue to search for the silver bullet solution.
CvC also points to independent wills who are quite capable of adapting, how the character of a war will change, and how our strategic aims will evolve as we come to grips with as ever evolving situation. The real issue is the COG further separated military ends from political ends, and there is nothing more anti-CvC than this. Many have challenged the utility of the COG, but this article does it best in my view. Overcoming the dogma that informs our doctrine will be a challenging task. He is absolutely right Excellent article Share this Post.
End Notes. Robert Dixon. Sir, I enjoyed the article and detailed assessment of COG and critical factors analysis. I like to get some thoughts from you and the community on the below: "The model is useful in identifying important characteristics associated with COGs, but does not actually help planners or commanders actually correctly identify a COG.
We are living in interesting times, JC. With regards to the good Colonel, thank you for your thought-provoking and concise article.