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Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu

Monday, December 13th, 2010


This article at SWJ blog has stirred a lively debate in the comments section with some very able practitioner-scholars weighing in.

….Sun Tzu?s ancient military philosophy of indirectness and gradualism runs counter-culture with much of mainstream western military strategy. Western reliance on superior technology and firepower shaped American counterinsurgency doctrine to be largely lethal in nature and enemy focused. Clausewitz instructed generations of military officers that the destruction of the enemy?s army is the primary goal in all combat1; therefore, all political-military conflict results in offensive action where attrition of the enemy force becomes a universal requirement. Clausewitzian war theory „worked? in both world wars in that the Allies did accomplish their desired goals; however critics such as Israeli strategist Shimon Naveh raise valid questions on whether Clausewitz?s fixation on offensive action and attrition warfare helped or hindered the Allied causes2. Despite Clausewitzian strategy?s seemingly illogical structure, application of his theories in the major 20th century conflicts created an enduring military school of war strategy with „On War? taking a sacred position.

In fairness to Clausewitz, this is over the top.

The US military could use more Sun Tzu; it is far more Clausewitzian in the perspective of the officer corps than it is “Sun Tzuite”, but the armed services are not the Children of Clausewitz. Not even the US Army. We’d probably be better off if the American military was more thoroughly one or the other in terms of strategic culture than the industrial age, bureaucratic, ad hoc, legacy thinking non-strategic hodgepode that currently prevails.

I do not expect that to change. American military organizational culture is driven more by appropriations than by ideas.

Some Related Links:

Sonishi.com Interview with Martin van Creveld on Sun Tzu

Sonishi.com Interview with Chet Richards on Sun Tzu and Boyd

Christopher Bassford on Sun Tzu, Jomini and Clausewitz

Colin Gray on Clausewitz and the Modern Strategic World

The Clausewitz Roundtable

Strategy of the Headless Chicken

Friday, June 29th, 2007


Going to take the kiddies to see this one on Saturday or Sunday. I’m wondering how the movie handles the world-devouring Galactus that I remember from my childhood of thumbing through Marvel comic books.

It occurred to me that Stan Lee ( along with the late sci-fi writer, Philip K. Dick, another example)may go down as one of the great, unintentionally prolific, screenplay writers.

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