Ends in War More Precisely Defined

The aim of war in conception must always be the overthrow of the enemy; this is the fundamental idea from which we set out.

Now, what is this overthrow? It does not always imply as necessary the complete conquest of the enemy’s country.
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All that theory can here say is as follows: that the great point is to keep the overruling relations of both parties in view. Out of them a certain centre of gravity, a centre of power and movement, will form itself, on which everything depends; and against this centre of gravity of the enemy, the concentrated blow of all the forces must be directed.
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Alexander had his centre of gravity in his army, so had Gustavus Adolphus, Charles XII, and Frederick the Great, and the career of any one of them would soon have been brought to a close by the destruction of his fighting force: in states torn by internal dissensions, this centre generally lies in the capital; in small states dependent on greater ones, it lies generally in the army of these allies; in a confederacy, it lies in the unity of interests; in a national insurrection, in the person of the chief leader, and in public opinion; against these points the blow must be directed. If the enemy by this loses his balance, no time must be allowed for him to recover it; the blow must be persistently repeated in the same direction, or, in other words, the conqueror must always direct his blows upon the mass, but not against a fraction of the enemy. It is not by conquering one of the enemy’s provinces, with little trouble and superior numbers, and preferring the more secure possession of this unimportant conquest to great results, but by seeking out constantly the heart of the hostile power, and staking everything in order to gain all, that we can effectually strike the enemy to the ground.

But whatever may be the central point of the enemy’s power against which we are to direct our operations, still the conquest and destruction of his army is the surest commencement, and in all cases the most essential.

Hence we think that, according to the majority of ascertained facts, the following circumstances chiefly bring about the overthrow of the enemy:

1 Dispersion of his army if it forms, in some degree, a potential force.

2 Capture of the enemy’s capital city, if it is both the centre of the power of the state and the seat of political assemblies and factions.

3 An effectual blow against the principal ally, if he is more powerful than the enemy himself.

We have always hitherto supposed the enemy in war as a unity, which is allowable for considerations of a very general nature. But having said that the subjugation of the enemy lies in the overcoming his resistance, concentrated in the centre of gravity, we must lay aside this supposition and introduce the case in which we have to deal with more than one opponent.

If two or more states combine against a third, that combination constitutes, in a political aspect, only one war, at the same time this political union has also its degrees.

The question is whether each state in the coalition possesses an independent interest in, and an independent force with which to prosecute, the war; or whether there is one amongst them on whose interests and forces those of the others lean for support. The more that the last is the case, the easier it is to look upon the different enemies as one alone, and the more readily we can simplify our principal enterprise to one great blow; and as long as this is in any way possible, it is the most thorough and complete means of success.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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