Clausewitz and ISIS

Carl von Clausewitz’s book On Warfare is required reading at almost every military academy. It has its imperfections, but it offers some useful ideas on how war can be used to implement policy. James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the Naval War College has written an interesting essay on how Clausewitz might have viewed President Obama’s ISIS strategy.

Such is the topsy-turvy challenge before Washington. Administration leaders must put policy and strategy, not artificial limits on military means, in charge of the counter-ISIL campaign. If U.S. policy is to destroy ISIL, let us figure out what that entails in terms of ground, air, and sea forces and set those forces in motion. If it is to contain ISIL through airpower, let us say that and resign ourselves to an open-ended effort promising few satisfactions.

The United States can wage unlimited war against the Islamic State, or it can wage war by contingent. Trying to do both opens up a world of strategic problems.

Read the whole thing.

3 thoughts on “Clausewitz and ISIS

  1. Currently we have the “Go annoy them, but don’t hurt anyone” strategy. Which doesn’t even rise to the level of the “mischief making” strategy that Clausewitz mentions. Sadly, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone as Obama has shown zero interest in foreign affairs beyond pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Remember, this is the same president that has publicly stated he has no strategy to take on Daesh and the military needs to know what their job is before going in. In the meantime, Obama has only allowed a small number of our aircraft to do the equivalent of an occasional bee sting over the last year which is simply a waste of military resources so he can have some political cover for “doing something” since he refuses to allow any serious number of American “boots on the ground.”

    Daesh needs to be destroyed and everyone is agreement there. Sadly it won’t happen until Obama has moved out on Jan 20, 2017.

  2. I was hoping to see an explanation for the down-twinkle. Shall we simply assume that Bill is in a pique?

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