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Thread: Sir Carl Quote of the Week

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    Sir Carl Quote of the Week

    Since I need to actually make a disciplined attempt to organize some notes on On War, I will take the opportunity to sprinkle the thread with some CvC quotes and commentary. I've titled the thread with "Quote of the Week," acknowledging that a QOTD would be too ambitious. Time will tell whether QOTW become QOTM . . .

    All citations will be from the Howard/Paret translation, Amazon.com: On War (9780691018546): Carl von Clausewitz, Michael Eliot Howard, Peter Paret: Books.

    Sometimes commentary will accompany the quote, and sometimes the quote will be left to stand alone. Please add your commentary about the quotes and/or challenge any interpretation of them.
    Last edited by Shek; 21 Dec 10, at 14:45.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 24 (page 87)

    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. What remains peculiar to war is simply the peculiar nature of its means. War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means. That, of course, is no small demand; but however much it may affect political aims in a given case, it will never do more than modify them. The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose.
    This, to me, is the most beautiful insight that Sir Carl left to us, and lays the bedrock for the proper civil-military relationship. In fact, I'd argue that Eliot Cohen's thesis in Supreme Command takes it cue precisely from this particular passage from On War, and instead of being controversial, it should be regarded as the correct view.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    A specific case study that this passage hits on directly would be GEN Eric Shinseki's testimony to Congress during the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Shinseki's actions are a perfect application - as the service chief whose responsibility was to ensure the training and readiness of Army forces for employment by the joint commanders (i.e., the "means"), he was the person to talk about what means were required for the policy objectives, and at the same time, he did not talk against the policy, just as CvC counsels.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    "War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means."

    Therein lies the rub. Entitlement suggests the senior commander responsible for the training and deployment of forces suitable to supporting the political goals will have input WRT aligning "means" to "ends". If the decision to deploy forces is deemed inadequate to the overarching political objective, the senior force commander should unequivocably object. At that point the force commander becomes personally vulnerable to the whims of his political masters whom may seek, perhaps, a more compliant military perspective.
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    "War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means."

    Therein lies the rub. Entitlement suggests the senior commander responsible for the training and deployment of forces suitable to supporting the political goals will have input WRT aligning "means" to "ends". If the decision to deploy forces is deemed inadequate to the overarching political objective, the senior force commander should unequivocably object. At that point the force commander becomes personally vulnerable to the whims of his political masters whom may seek, perhaps, a more compliant military perspective.
    I think we saw this play out to an extent with how the Bush 43 OSD denigrated GEN Shinseki while proclaiming that the CCDR (GEN Franks) was satisfied with the forces provided. Unfortunately, I think in the case of Franks, it was more an inability to operate within the strategic realm (thus creating flawed operational planning) rather than a compliant perspective.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Shek Reply

    I don't wish to digress from the thread's central theme but two issues come to play WRT your comment-

    "...while proclaiming that the CCDR (GEN Franks) was satisfied with the forces provided. Unfortunately, I think in the case of Franks, it was more an inability to operate within the strategic realm (thus creating flawed operational planning) rather than a compliant perspective."

    Whom held responsibility for reviewing and approving Franks' operational plans and how they dovetailed to the overall objectives and, more importantly (to me), where did the CJCS sit in the lines of authority leading to the OSD?

    I'm uncomfotable with regional commands having the technical ability to circumvent the chain-of-command or, alternatively, civilian authority reaching around the backs of its senior military leaders to solicit other views. OSD should have access on operational matters to one voice and only one voice. CJCS should have final say in reconciling operational means to strategic ends and making that presentation to civilian authority.

    I'm unsure how Clauswitz might perceive my personal view when calibrating the civil-military balance on matters of war.
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    shek,

    Unfortunately, I think in the case of Franks, it was more an inability to operate within the strategic realm (thus creating flawed operational planning) rather than a compliant perspective.
    in your view, does flawed strategic planning necessarily lead to flawed operational planning?

    continuing the example of the iraq war, while i note that on a strategic level there were multiple problems, operationally it seemed to be fairly well-executed given the constraints put on by poor strategic planning.

    to me, this seems to be emblematic of the US way of war, which can be more accurately described as the US way of battle. somewhat akin to the wehrmacht in WWII, only thankfully not half as bad.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Steve,
    More to follow, hopefully tonight. It's nap time for the kids and so I have to go try and finish wiring up their tricked out Barbie jeep. Anyways, look at Figure II-2. It provides the skeleton of an answer.

    http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp1.pdf
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Steve,

    As I recall Franks was less about not understanding the full strategic environment...he was more about being in lockstep with SECDEF, CJCS and Wolfowitz's special projects office.

    Franks may have harbored some misgivings but he did not state them....ask COL John Agoglia, Chief of CENTCOM G3 Plans who was stunned that Franks did not fight the SECDEF regarding the troop levels.

    Eric Shinseki was the only one willing to say that the emperor was naked. He did what he was supposed to do and told the truth....and Fransk never came to his defense whcih is inexcusable.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
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    So the chairman's role is advise and consent but he doesn't rest within the chain-of-command. So, back to Clauswitz-

    "War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means."

    it seems that, denigrated or otherwise, Shinseki had no authority or responsibility towards generating forces or plans that would be used to satisfy the political objectives. Equally, OSD was obligated to consider the plans and requirements of Franks- either accepting those views or seeking changes in those requirements/plans or in Franks if he objected.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    So the chairman's role is advise and consent but he doesn't rest within the chain-of-command. So, back to Clauswitz-

    "War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means."

    it seems that, denigrated or otherwise, Shinseki had no authority or responsibility towards generating forces or plans that would be used to satisfy the political objectives. Equally, OSD was obligated to consider the plans and requirements of Franks- either accepting those views or seeking changes in those requirements/plans or in Franks if he objected.
    Steve,

    Essentially, you can think of the services as the supply part of the equation and the geographic combatant commands as the demand side of the equation. Thus, the CSA is responsible for generating the Army forces that will be employed by the joint force commander (JFC). In the case of OIF, Shinseki was responsible manning, training, and equipping the forces that Franks would employ, while Franks was responsible for generating the plans that would match the ends and means through ways.

    CvC would not have envisioned such a divide, but then again, I don't think that he would have envisioned a military with the span of the USA. Thus, in this case, while he refers to "the commander," we have to apply it to the Title 10 divide that the Goldwater-Nichols Act (GNA) created.

    Lastly, I don't consider this a derailment of the thread - theory for theory's sake is not worth anything. It must be able to be contextualized and provide value, and so exploring what Clausewitz's theoretical means to the practical is important.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Shek Reply

    I was operating under a very bad memory-related misconception and didn't check my assumption that Shinseki was the CJCS and not the CSA. As such, Shinseki had administrative control over the manning, training and equipping of forces ear-marked for deployment.

    I see that now.

    Your supply-demand analogy is clear. So too understanding Clausewitz through contextual relevance. Under Joint Pub. 1, the chain-of-command for operational matters bypasses Shinseki. Further, the chain-of-command for administrative matters interjects the Sec'y Of The Army between Shinseki and OSD.

    How did it come about that Shinseki was required to offer testimony to Congress that included his views of force levels balanced against mission obligations? It seems not within his portfolio to determine suitability of mission to overall force size. Instead, his job seemed providing the combatant commander with the forces requested and assure that those forces were trained and equipped IAW the mission and doctrinal practice.

    Should Shinseki have declined to comment before congress on this specific matter and, instead, defer to OSD and the combatant commander?
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose.
    This part of the quote bugs me as it is written as a maxim when in truth it is advice. If can was traded for should it would read better. Also the reverse holds as well. Goals should never be considered without reference to means History is full of examples where the means and the goal or vice verse have become divorced.

    In fact, I think much of the Iraq war is testimony to this duality. From roughly "Mission Accomplished" to the surge- goals did not match means. An argument can also be made that Bush went into Iraq because he could and because Congress let him, not because he should- means did not match goals.

    Although the president is the CinC, the quote itself does not make the distinction between policy makers and policy executors in any particular political system. If honest communication breaks down then disaster follows. You guys were talking about Shinseki trying to point out what he felt was dangerously low troops levels (means) compared to the goals. And S-2 was complaining about the various by-passings of the on paper chain of command in the run up to war.

    While Franks could have done better, in fact he may have done exactly what was needed to achieve what he thought the goal was. Shek, you argue Franks failed to operate within the actual strategic environment, "I think in the case of Franks, it was more an inability to operate within the strategic realm (thus creating flawed operational planning) rather than a compliant perspective."

    I think Franks has 3 mitigating circumstances

    1-If I am not mistaken, he wanted the 1st Cav Division either as part of the initial invasion or as an immediate follow on unit but this was quashed by Rumsfeld. The division might have been able to play a crucial role in stabilizing the country.

    2-Likewise Franks had little control of the de-Baathification that turned the flower of Iraq's manhood into a mass of unemployed, humiliated but military trained tribesmen.

    3- The civilian leadership did not sell the war, or what victory would look like and how it would be achieved. "Lets get em boys," is not effective planning on the civilians part. Bush and his team didn't understand this and neither did Congress.

    Finally because we did not go in there and impose a vision of the future, we left the future up to chance. Again this is a civilian blunder not Franks. We never should have gone in half cocked. I don't think anyone can really express the why(goal) of the war and this means the how is never going to be imbalance.

    You'll notice the surge did not suffer from the this. The why- end the sectarian violence was mated to effective means . Not just more troops, but how they were used and how our national treasure and prestige was used to exploit fissures between AQI and the Sunni's in Anbar.

    This kind of focus is missing early on. Get Saddam and find the WMD's is a great mission for a battle not a war. Saddam had more time at the top than Hitler. Like Hitler in Germany, Saddam had warped Iraq to his vision.

    expecting Frank or any general to point this out to the civilian leadership is probably folly. Generals and admirals in our system look at how to do something, not if it should be done.

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    Zraver Reply

    "And S-2 was complaining about the various by-passings of the on paper chain of command in the run up to war."

    Not really. As I'd displayed, I've a poor understanding of the chain-of-command at the highest levels of decision-making. I'd put Shinseki in place of Myers as the CJCS- my first mistake.

    I also failed to separate operational from administrative chain-of-commands and their associated functions. I'm still trying to determine where those merge and who's responsible for de-conflicting any issues.
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    Steve,

    More on the role of the services. They have to have situational awareness of every single war plan because they have to be able to know if they can source them or if not, which ones will not be sourced and what risk that poses. They also have to be able to recognize these demand signals and determine if they need to change force structure. These might be reflect in a couple of different ways. If all the war plans call for 1000 x mess tent repair platoons and the Army only has 200, then maybe the Army needs to add 800. Or perhaps, maybe the demand signal is 200, but the timing is such in that these are needed right away. Maybe the Army needs to shift mess tent repair platoons from the Reserves or Guard to the Active force. Or, maybe the training $$ haven't been there and so only 50 mess tent repair platoons have gone through NTC or JRTC, and so you have to source 250 to cover down on the doctrinal work of 200 platoons.

    Thus, the service chiefs need to be read in to the combatant commanders' war plans because they are part and parcel of the force packaging that sources the plans. Shinseki was in a position to provide military advice to the Congressional Committee. However, because Congress provides a oversight functionality, he waited until he was asked a specific question, and even then, he was deferential to the combatant commander (Franks) and left the answer in vaguer terms.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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