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.