Clausewitz advocates attacking enemy “schwerpunkt” or centers of gravity. How does this compare with Sun Tzu’s prioritization for attacking important elements of national power? Which theorist provides the most useful guidance for determining the object of a strategy or strategies?
Clausewitz’s attack of enemy centers of gravity and Sun Tzu’s prioritization of attack of important elements of national power provide contrasting approaches to the development of effective strategy. These contrasts are reflections of each author’s perspective on how war should be waged, the proper use of force, their definitions of the ideal victory and how best to achieve that victory as well as their methodologies, styles, and levels of analysis (Handel, p. 18-19). The understanding of these varying points of view enable us to better appreciate how each man arrives at his own unique solution to the common problem of identifying and overcoming the enemy’s most critical point.
Clausewitz uses systematic, empirical methods in arriving at his concept of the center of gravity being the critical strategic objective. This approach is both a product of his era, the age of enlightenment, where scientific thought was beginning to exert its primacy, as well as his view of war and how it should be waged. To Clausewitz war is armed conflict. It is “…an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will” and “…equips itself with the inventions of art and science.” (Clausewitz, p.75) Following his logical approach, if war is fighting, then war is waged according to Clausewitz, primarily by military means. All other means, such as diplomacy, are secondary and are not the concern of the milita...
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...y be considered as it applies to ones own individual context.
Take for example our present day context. War today, because of advances in weaponry that make war more violent and destructive than it has ever been, has been a circumstance that nations have attempted to avoid. The potential economic and human losses are just too costly to sustain. In this environment, many world leaders have sought to achieve their objectives through non-violent means. If the goal is to achieve victory in this sense, at the lowest costs, then Sun Tzu may be the more appropriate guide.
1. Clausewitz, Carl Von. On War. New Jersey. Princeton University Press, 1976.
2. Handel, Michael I. Masters of War. Classical Strategic Thought. London. Frank Cass and Company, 1992.
3. Sun Tzu. The Art of War. London. Oxford University Press, 1963.
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