Sunday, January 20, 2008

Santa Clausewitz Coming to Town

Just a thought on Clausewitz, the Taliban and insurgents in Iraq. Clausewitz in section 25 of chapter one speaks about intense and weak motives for war. Weak motives will lead to a divergence of political and military aims and a situation where the political nature of the war dominates. Intense motives will lead to a close association of political and military aims, where the military aims dominate. To what extent might it be fair to say that, in the current conflict between U.S. forces and various elements of the insurgency in Iraq (a lumping together of both religious- and politically-motivated individuals) is the U.S. waging a war based on weak motives while the insurgency is waging a war of intense motives?

The public reasoning for U.S. forces engaging in combat in Iraq has included a number of justifications, including WMD's, preventing the harboring of terrorists, democratization, countering Iran, securing energy interests, etc... Might the fact that it's hard to ask any 10 people why the U.S. is really in Iraq and get fewer than 20 answers indicate what Clausewitz would qualify as "weak motives"?

On the other hand, the insurgency in Iraq seems to be a combination of those who just want the U.S. out, those fighting for religious extremist reasons, those who want to fight the U.S. wherever they can, et al. Can these contrarywise be considered "intense motives"?

If this is so, what does this say about the military engagements in Iraq? Do they make up one war, or are there multiple wars going on? Does this have any significance whatsoever?


Big 'un said...

I think that is a fair assesment. I took Clausewitz' position in a smilar manner, thinking about motivations regarding WWII. Because almost every civilization involved (quite possible the US as well) was facing either immintent destruction or assimilation into Nazi Germany, WWII most closely resembled what we consider to be the "ideal" concept of war. Motivation was extremely high for all sides.

Now of course almost every war we fight is low intensity and relatively far from the convention of ideal war, because we lack motivation which is very much what you proposed in your blog.

Molvanian Ambassador said...

Yeah, and I still have to wonder what Clausewitz would say about war as waged by non-state actors. Europe was familiar with the idea of the militant anarchist at the time of On War, but how would Clausewitz qualify a "global jihad" or a "war on terror". Probably with a long sigh and an "oi vey"

However, there's an article from the Hoover Institution called Clausewitz in Wonderland which seems to look at Clausewitzian theory as applied to these questions. I should probably read that.