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Clausewitz vs. The Scholar: Martin Van Creveld's Expanded Theory Of War
CSC 1992
Title:  Clausewitz vs. the Scholar:
	Martin Van Creveld's Expanded Theory Of War
Author:  Major K. M. French, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  Many people view Martin van Creveld's views on the
nature of warfare in the twentieth century to be radical and
even heretical.  Yet on close examination, his model on the
nature  of  warfare  provides  a  useful  framework  for the
evaluation of non-conventional warfare.
Background:  Carl von Clausewitz is widely accepted and re-
vered as the father of modern strategy.  Yet he has not been
without critics.  The most recent critic of the writings of
Clausewitz is Martin van Creveld, who makes his case in his
book,  The Transformation of War and in a series of lectures
at  the  U.S.   Marine  Corps  Command  and  Staff  College,
Quantico,  VA in  1991  and 1992.   Van  Creveld  proposes a
nontrinitarian model for the analysis of war and argues that
Clausewitz's  model of  a trinitarian arrangement  among the
people,  army and government is no longer valid.  This paper
examines  van Creveld's  thesis,  explains his framework and
contrasts it to Clausewitz's conventional theory.  Two cases
are examined which illustrate  that  Clausewitz's model does
not hold for all types of warfare.  First, Medieval warfare
is shown  to  be  totally  outside  of  Clausewitz's theory.
Next,   trends  in  warfare  since  1945   are  examined  to
illustrate that  forces are  currently at work that  are not
well explained by Clausewitz's strictly political framework.
Conclusion:  While still  valid  for  conventional warfare,
Clausewitz's trinitarian model does  not  satisfactorily ac-
count for all types of  warfare,  specifically most forms of
low intensity  conflict and unconventional war  common since
Thesis Statement.  Many people view Martin van Creveld's
views on the nature of warfare in the twentieth century to
be radical and even heretical.  Yet on close examination,
his model on the nature of warfare provides a useful
framework for the evaluation of non-conventional warfare.
I.    War Theories
	A.    Clausewitz
		1.    Background
		2.    Political Nature of Warfare
	B.    Van Creveld
		1.    Contrast to Clausewitz
		2.    Trinitarian Warfare
		3.    Five Basic Issues
		4.    Nontrinitarian War
II.   Historical and Contemporary Analysis
	A.    Medieval Warfare
		1.    State
		2.    Army
		3.    People
	B.    Golden Age of Clausewitz
		1.    Consolidation of State System
		2.    Dominance of State System
III.  War Since 1945
	A.    Technology and Nontrinitarian War
	B.    Nuclear War
	C.    Current War
     Carl von Clausewitz,  who first set his  ideas down  in
the  1820's  while Superintendent  of  the  Prussian Kriegs-
akademie,  is probably the most revered  and quoted military
theorist of  this  century.   Yet, for all his popularity,
many people over the years have  challenged  the primacy and
validity of his positions.  Over the ensuing decades, other
writers have come to disagree with,  even disparage the work
of Clausewitz as naive, pretentious, even monstrous.[1]  One
of the recent assaults on the theories of the father of mod-
ern strategic  thought has been  engineered  by  the Israeli
military historian,   Martin van Creveld.   Van Creveld pre-
sents his case on Clausewitz  in a work entitled  The Trans-
formation of War.[2]   He has further advanced  his thoughts
in this area in a series of  lectures given at  the U.S. Ma-
rine Corps Command and Staff College in 1991 and 1992.
     Many people view van Creveld's propositions as radical,
even heretical.   Compared to Clausewitz's turgid prose, van
Creveld makes for somewhat more exciting reading.  His writ-
ing is clear and direct,  and his approach is to load up the
pages with  heaps of  historical examples to  drive home his
points.   Never one to mince his  words, his non-traditional
views are often at odds with conventional wisdom.   The pur-
pose of this paper is to examine the main premises which van
Creveld advances  about strategic thought  and  evaluate his
new model in contrast to traditional Clausewitzian thought.
     The basis for this comparison shall start  with an era
which Clausewitz chose to ignore, since according to him, it
had almost nothing to say about the nature of warfare  as he
saw it being practiced.  Yet, Medieval warfare, despite what
Clausewitz may have  thought,  provides an interesting coun-
terpoint on which to evaluate  the theories  which the Prus-
sian master advances.  Then we shall turn to  an examination
of  modern  trends  in  warfare  in  terms  of Clausewitzian
thought and van Creveld's model.   But first we will set the
stage with an  introduction of the two  theorists, beginning
with Clausewitz.
War Theories -- Clausewitz
     To acknowledge that Carl von Clausewitz occupies nearly
unequalled prominence  in  the  galaxy  of  Western military
theorists   is  a  position  that  is  hardly controversial.
For over a century and a half,  his  propositions, set forth
in the unfinished masterwork On War,  have framed the debate
from   which nearly all serious writings about war have pro-
ceeded. [3]
     Authors  of  every military work of  lasting importance
seem unable to set pen to paper without at  least  a mention
of Clausewitz's name or the citation of at least one  of his
many very  quotable passages.  Prevalence  aside, most stu-
dents of strategy would agree  with Peter Paret  that On War
is by  far the single most influential work on  the subject
ever written.[4]
     Over one hundred sixty years after  the author's death,
On War  is still studied in every major Western  command and
staff college by those who wish to understand the  nature of
war.   In order to attain even a rudimentary level of compe-
tence in strategy,  one  must become at  least familiar with
the basic postulates of Clausewitz.   This fact alone could
be sufficient proof of his enduring and widespread influence
in the modern world of military thought.
     Yet,  the influence of On War lies much deeper than the
frequency  with which it is  quoted.   The postulates of the
Clausewitzian  model are basic,  almost  axiomatic to under-
standing modern warfare.  So elemental are his observations,
if Clausewitz had not done it first,  later theorists would
have found it necessary to identify the  same issues in or-
der to even begin a discussion of war.
     Certainly it is not possible to attempt to  summarize a
work such as On War  in a few short pages.  For the purposes
of this analysis,  that is not necessary.   We are primarily
concerned here with what has become the foundation of nearly
all   discussions of modern warfare.   Namely, the political
nature  of  war.   The central contribution which Clausewitz
made was his assertion that war is above all else, a politi-
cal activity.
     It is important to understand why Clausewitz saw war as
primarily a  political act.   For this,  we must look at the
nature of  the world in  which his thinking  was influenced.
Before he was anything else,  Clausewitz was a Prussian sol-
dier.   He  entered military  service at  the tender  age of
twelve as  an  officer-candidate in Prussia  under the great
Scharnhorst and died in uniform some thirty-nine years later
in  1831.   During this time,  Prussia suffered a  series of
defeats at the hands of the most dynamic and powerful armies
that Europe had ever witnessed.  As did many thinkers of his
era,   Clausewitz  set out to  understand the  nature of the
Napoleonic  genius and  to understand the  lessons which the
revolution in warfare demonstrated to the world between 1793
and 1815.  He had personally experienced Prussian defeat and
saw that governments needed to harness societies  as well as
armies to conduct war on the same scale as Bonaparte.
     As early as 1807, while still a war prisoner in France,
he came to believe that war was an instrument to  be used by
governments in the conduct of  foreign  policy.[5]  By 1827,
Clausewitz had finished  nearly  all of  On War  at least in
draft form.   In a   progress note on his work,  he tells us
what he believed to be the foundation of all thought  on the
conduct of war.  This is contained in perhaps the most quot-
ed passage in  all his work.   Namely,  that "war is nothing
but the continuation  of  policy  with  other means."[6]  In
fact,  his plans were to reinforce this point  in a re-write
of Book Eight of On War  which was intended to be  a discus-
sion  of the  organization of war as  a whole.   Even in its
unfinished state,  On War repeatedly emphasizes Clausewitz's
vision of the political nature of war and its necessary sub-
ordination to politics.
     In a few brief paragraphs we have  sketched  the essen-
tial  basis  for  warfare  from  Clausewitz's  time  to  the
present.   That is, war is a political activity conducted by
states,  against other  states as a rationally  employed in-
strument of policy.
     This brings us to the question of the continuing valid-
ity of On War.   The theory is strongly biased in its narrow
applicability to the system  of  nation-states extant during
Clausewitz's time.  Is the theory, therefore, general enough
to be useful in all  cases found in  our current experience?
For an answer  to this let us  turn  now to one  of the more
recent critics of the Clausewitzian model.
War Theories -- Van Creveld
     Against  the backdrop of the  traditional Clausewitzian
model,  authors have  advanced alternate theories as  to the
nature of  war and the shape of  future  warfare.  Beginning
with Baron Antoine Jomini,  theorists have advanced opposing
views on the nature of war and strategy.   More recently, in
1978,  Ambassador Robert T. Underhill advanced the idea that
wars are no longer useful or rational in  modernized societ-
ies.[7]  This he felt was due in large part to the huge cost
which modern societies would have to bear in order to toler-
ate warfare in their midst.   Modern societies are so depen-
dent   on  the   delicate  infrastructure   of  electricity,
communications,  and transportation  that  if  war did break
out, the society  itself would cease to exist.  He predicted
that this trait would tend to  force wars into the  less de-
veloped  corners of  the world.   To him, paradoxically, war
should be most common precisely where there is  little worth
fighting over.
     In  1990  Martin  van Creveld  picked  up  some  of the
threads of Ambassador Underhill's ideas and proposed  an al-
ternative  view of warfare.   In The Transformation  of  War,
Van Creveld defines the  current  strategic  framework  as a
trinitarian  model by tracing  its roots to  the theories of
Clausewitz.   Namely,  he points  to that passage  which de-
scribes war as
     . . . a paradoxical trinity -- composed of primordial
     violence,  hatred and enmity,  which are to be re-
     garded as  a blind natural force;  of  the play of
     chance  and probability within which  the creative
     spirit is free to roam; and of its element of sub-
     ordination,  as  an  instrument  of  policy, which
     makes it subject to reason alone.
	 The first of these aspects mainly concerns the
     people; the second the commander and his army; the
     third the government.  These  three tendencies are
     like different codes of law,  deep rooted in their
     subject and yet variable in  their relationship to
     one  another.   A theory which ignores any  one of
     them  or  seeks to  fix an  arbitrary relationship
     between them,  would conflict with reality to such
     an extent that for  this reason alone it  would be
     totally useless. [8]
The passage is rarely quoted and less often seen in  its en-
tirety.  Yet,  as Michael Howard noted,  it sums up the es-
sence  of  Clausewitzian  doctrine.[9]   It  defines  the
elements of war and assigns these elements  to  three actors
which  interrelate  in  ever changing ways:  the people, the
army, and the government.
     So we find the essential requirements  for  the Clause-
witzian model.   First we need a social system  which recog-
nizes states.   Then,  the forces within the state that must
be managed are the trinity of people,  army, and government.
Based on the primacy of these elements, van Creveld proposes
that  a new term  -   trinitarian  strategy,  is appropriate
for what military thinkers have until now thought of as con-
ventional strategy.  While he never really defines the term,
for our purposes it will be taken as that conflict  which is
undertaken  by  sovereign  states  against  other  sovereign
states in order to further political interests.
     Van Creveld sees  much  lacking in  the comfortable as-
sumptions  under lying the trinitarian  approach to strategy.
Clausewitz limits his view of the history of warfare to that
system which emerged after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
This treaty signalled the end  of the post feudal  era which
was dominated by the Thirty Years War.   Since then wars had
been waged predominately by states against states.  In fact,
since that time,  common convention and an evolving  body of
international law helped to solidify the  notion that states
are the only entity morally and legally allowed to wage war.
Acts of violence by other entities tended to not be regarded
as  wars  at all,  but rather as  uprisings, rebellions, and
people's wars.
     We will return  to this theme in  a later  section, but
first we turn to  a summary of  van Creveld's nontrinitarian
model of war.
A New Analytical Framework
     Van Creveld proposes a more general  approach to under-
standing the nature of warfare.  The approach centers around
five key issues which attempt to describe  the critical fac-
tors inherent  in war.   The issues are meant  to define the
nature of the conflict in terms of the  principles involved.
The  aim is to  define  war,  as  did   Clausewitz,  in non-
prescriptive terms.   But van Creveld goes farther  and also
seeks to describe it in a manner  which is  not dependent on
the  existence  of  the  system  of  sovereign  states which
Clausewitz's trinitarian approach requires.
     The first of the issues,  by whom war is  fought, seeks
to  define  the roles assumed by  those who are  involved in
making war.   In modern  conventional  terms,  the answer to
this  question is that wars  are fought  by uniformed, well-
regulated armies under the direction of the state.  But seen
through history,  the role  of  states could be taken  up by
various leagues,  associations,  city-states,  religious or-
ders,  and other entities, which throughout history, can and
have conducted war.
     The second issue, what is war all about, identifies the
relationships among those  who participate in  war and those
who may be caught up  in its currents.   One must understand
jus in bello  in order to gain a full understanding of how a
war is conducted and what its affects might be.  Included in
the  analysis  are treatment  of  prisoners,  civilians, the
types  of weapons allowed,  how one surrenders,  and how the
societies  involved draw  the line between acts of  war and
crimes or atrocities.
     Next comes the question  of  how war  is  fought.  This
question  addresses the classic  issues  of  modern military
strategy   in   terms   of   force   creation    and   force
application.[10]  In truth, there is  nothing new here.  Van
Creveld  addresses  the question  in  terms  of  the classic
Clausewitzian problems of friction,  chance and the skill of
the commander.   He adds  to  this  the task  of creation of
force and how it  is  best  applied.   As did Clausewitz, he
emphasizes that  distinctive aspect of  conflict typified by
the interactive nature of  combat  between  two intelligent,
independent wills.
     The next issue to  be  addressed is what war  is fought
for.   To  this Clausewitz would reply with  the  now famous
dictum, "War is a continuation of politics with an admixture
of other means."[11]   Perhaps no other line from On  War is
quoted so  often.   Yet,  the implicit assumption which lies
behind this declaration should be examined.  It implies that
armies  must  be  governed  by states and be  subservient to
their will.   War becomes an instrument in the hands  of the
state, a means to an end.  As we shall discuss later, it may
be too restrictive to assume that  war is always a  means to
an end.   A strong argument could be made that war can be an
end in  itself.   Van Creveld identifies  conflicts  such as
political wars,  religious wars,  and struggles for national
or ethnic existence which became  much more than  mere means
to an  end.   Put another  way,   it is possible for policy,
interests, and the definition of  what is rational to change
over time and to  differ among cultures.   To understand the
nature of war, we must be sensitive to this possibility.
     The last question to be addressed and perhaps  the most
critical is  why war is  fought.   Van Creveld believes this
question must  be  considered  at  the most  personal level.
That is,  what is  it that motivates a soldier  to  risk his
life?   This question  allows one to understand  the sources
and motivators of an army's fighting spirit.  The politician
and military leader must be very clear about just what it is
that  motivates men to  fight and understand very well what
can cause men not  to fight.   Similarly, one must look very
carefully at  the factors  that makes  one's opponent fight.
History provides numerous examples of  fighting spirit which
are totally alien to  Western society.   One need look only
as far as World War II to find examples of Japanese kamikaze
pilots and more  recently  to  Khomeini's  waves  of Iranian
youth marching  to heaven through Iraqi mine  fields  to see
examples of motivators totally foreign to Western practice.
     Taken  together,  these  questions overlap considerably
with many of the key points  first delineated  by Clausewitz
over one hundred sixty years ago.   Yet,  they offer a means
to  probe deeper  than the  old master would  have us, based
strictly on the content of On War.
Nontrinitarian War
     Van Creveld's model readily accepts the  existence of a
type of  warfare which  does not fit  well into Clausewitz's
primarily political model.  He proposes that if Clausewitz's
theory Is based on a three part system of people,  army, and
government, then  the appropriate term for this type of war-
fare is trinitarian warfare.  It follows that anything which
does not fit this model is something else entirely, that is,
nontrinitarian warfare. [12]
     If we examine the  type of warfare included  by Clause-
witz in his search for examples,  we see that he relied pri-
marily  on  what  was for  him  recent  experience.   In his
chapter,  "On Historical  Examples",  he  explains that less
recent historical  examples  should  be  avoided.  He states
that conditions were so different in  other times  that ear-
lier wars have few practical lessons for us.[13]
     This  is not to say that  Clausewitz  dismissed all an-
cient history as  useless.   He did consider certain lessons
from antiquity to  be relevant.   Yet his overwhelming reli-
ance was on what for him was recent experience:  wars begin-
ning with the Wars of Austrian Succession (1740  - 1748) and
the Silesian Wars (1740 - 1745).[14]
     It is important to  point out the implications of this
position.   For Clausewitz,  this meant his  model  would be
based on the system of nation states which were then in con-
 trol of the European continent.  Modern  war,  as he experi-
 enced it,  was  waged on  a huge scale  by  vast, expensive
 armies.  These armies were managed  by a large and evolving
staff  system of highly  trained officers.   It was probably
inconceivable to one who had witnessed  first-hand the power
of the grande armee that real war could be waged by any oth-
er means.   For  the nearly  three hundred  years  since the
Peace of Westphalia,  this perspective was accurate  for the
most dominant forms of war.
     Yet,  this point of view had a constraining effect when
it came to understanding the various other  forms of warfare
which  existed in other times,  with  other technologies, or
with other political arrangements.   If Clausewitz was right
about warfare in  the  eighteenth  and  nineteenth centuries
because  he drew the right lessons  about  the relationships
among people,  army,  and governments,  then what happens if
the relationships are radically changed  or even eliminated?
This is the essence of van Creveld's nontrinitarian war the-
ory:  war may be conducted by entities other than states and
by means other than  armies.   To illustrate  the concept we
will examine two cases.   First,  we will look at warfare in
medieval times to show that it is possible to have war under
radically  different social  and political  conditions than
envisioned by Clausewitz's trinitarian model.   Then we will
advance to  the present to  examine some  trends  in warfare
since 1945  which indicate that even now we may be living in
a  period  which does  not lend  itself  well to examination
strictly within the trinitarian framework.
Medieval Warfare
     To understand why  Clausewitz chose to base  his theory
in recent experience,  one need only look at what passed for
warfare prior to the modern era.   Feudalism was finally re-
placed by a system of sovereign states  which the  Treaty of
Westphalia codified.  Prior to this, the predominant form of
political organization was a chaotic blend  of alliances be-
tween individuals and various religious allegiances typified
in the feudal systems of Europe.
     We have the luxury of being able to take a  longer view
of history and can look back at feudalism and recognize that
this  was an  intricate social  and legal  arrangement which
required a fluid and  complex  relationship  of  power among
the entities.   Viewed in terms  of Clausewitz's trinitarian
model,  the discrete roles of people,  army,  and government
were very much different than those seen in his own day.
     To  begin,  the concept of  a sovereign state  does not
really apply to the feudal period.  Holdings of feudal lords
were non-contiguous, small, and usually independent areas of
real estate administered as private holdings.[15]  War could
be  waged by  any man of  honor who had the  desire  and the
means.   In fact,  the intricate web of  feudal obligations,
duties,  and rights gave  rise to many  disputes which natu-
rally resorted to violence since there was no higher author-
ity  to  which one could turn  except  God's judgement.[16]
In such a system,  the  fief holder was himself  the govern-
ment,  if indeed, the term government applies at all to this
arrangement.   Battle was a  matter  of  social  order.   In
fact,  the chivalric code held as a central tenet the belief
that  war was  a  positive,  ennobling  experience.[17]  The
catch was that it applied only  to those worthy of  the law.
War  and its glories were  an  affair  only  for  the elite.
Peasants and serfs fell outside the realm  of its protection
and  were  subject to the brutal  exigencies  of pillage and
     As  for armies,  according to Michael Howard,  the only
fighting man of any consequence, the only miles who counted,
was the knight.[18]   Yet the knight was  a special soldier.
He required a  variety of mounts,  attendants, grooms, weap-
ons, and of course, armor.  The only way to provide for this
extremely expensive weapon system was to grant  the knight a
fief and require in return a certain number of  days service
in return.  By granting a fief, the lord obtained an obliga-
tion of military service from the knight.  At the same time,
this arrangement also conferred a  particular social status.
The knight,  who was also the army,  also got to be the gov-
ernment within his fiefdom.   As such,  he could wage war if
he  deemed  it  necessary.   The arrangement illustrates the
murky distinction between armies  and governments,  since in
this case, army and government were the same.
     The last element of the Clausewitzian trinity, the peo-
ple,  is very difficult to  define in feudal  terms.  In one
sense, the people seem not to exist.  If one considers serfs
or peasants,  then indeed they did not enter into  the equa-
tion  at all,  since they were  technically possessions, not
people.   In later Medieval periods,  there  is  evidence in
England of using the commoners as a tax base  with  which to
finance wars.   One scholar surmises that by 1337  there may
have  been some popular knowledge  of the  on-going war with
France,  but beyond that few details were  probably known to
the average English commoner.[l9]   The people were required
to contribute little or nothing of note to war and certainly
not to politics,  since it was the ruling class  who did the
fighting, not the serfs.
     All this serves to illustrate two points.  First, it is
likely Clausewitz purposefully dismissed the Middle  Ages as
irrelevant  since they  were  so different  from the current
political state of affairs.  Secon, if Clausewitz dismissed
this period from his consideration,  how are we  to evaluate
his theory of war if it is not broad enough to  properly de-
scribe the  relationships found within it?  This is the crux
of the argument  that  van  Creveld  advances.   Namely, the
trinitarian form  of warfare which has been ascendant since
at least the  Treaty of Westphalia  is by no  means the only
form which warfare can assume.   Any theory which either in-
adequately describes or dismisses altogether  different sys-
tems such  as  feudalism  ignores  a  major  portion  of the
history of warfare.
The Golden Age of Clausewitz
     There can be little doubt  that for at least  a century
and a half after his death, the trinitarian model upon which
Clausewitz based his theory of war was truly the most preva-
lent  form of warfare.   Since before the  French revolution
to  World  War  II    the  dominant  form  of  international
institution was the state.   Aided by advancements in indus-
try and technology,  the  state came  of  age.   When deemed
necessary by the government,  it sent its armies to  war, in
order to  fight other  armies  sent  by  other  states.  The
armies were  comprised of  huge  segments  of the population
mobilized  according to  plans drawn  up  and  supervised by
ever increasingly sophisticated professional staffs.
     The brief treatment here is by no means  meant to imply
that little of interest went  on in the development  of war-
fare until 1945.  This was hardly the case, as the period in
question witnessed some of the most sweeping changes  in the
manner and scale with which  war was waged.   Still, despite
all the changes in technology and tactics,  war remained es-
sentially the same as  it was since  Clausewitz's time.  The
nature of the relationships among the people, army, and gov-
ernment were  refined and clarified,  but  remained,  in es-
sence, unchanged.  Had Clausewitz lived to witness the great
wars fought during the  one hundred and twenty  years after
his death,  he would have easily been able  to recognize the
general form and manner  of their conduct  since things were
so similar to the strategy of his own day.   In  effect, the
entire period was an affirmation of the  basic notions which
the Prussian  scholar-warrior originally  set  down.  States
pursued  their  interests   in  relation  to  other  states;
armies fought  against other  armies;  and  the people were
mobilized with increasing  efficiency to fill  out the ranks
and provide material and moral support on the home front.
Effects of Technology Since 1945
     The  Clausewitzian trinity had  things  pretty  well in
hand for more than a century.  But the end of  World  War II
brought with it changes that call into question the adequacy
of a model for warfare and strategy so firmly rooted  in the
seventeenth  and eighteenth centuries.   The  first of these
changes is a rapid and  nearly incomprehensible acceleration
in the rate of technological change.   This change  was cou-
pled  with  a somewhat  more subtle  yet equally significant
drop in the  effectiveness of conventional forces  against a
growing non-conventional threat.
     A characteristic of Clausewitz's approach was his deci-
sion to ignore the impact of technology on his basic theory.
Most likely,  he did this not out of ignorance or dislike of
technology.   He cites gunpowder as a factor worthy  of his-
torical  analysis and recognized the impact of technology on
tactics[20].    He  probably  chose to  leave technology out
since it would not be  one of  the unchanging  factors which
would govern the  conduct of war  and so would not fit well
into a long enduring theory on its nature.
     Yet at the end of  World War II,  the singular applica-
tion of nuclear technology which precipitated  the capitula-
tion of the country of  Japan,  wrought a change to strategy
and the nature of military power which defies neat inclusion
in the long established trinitarian model.
     All at once,  states had the ability to  wage  war on a
sudden and massive scale that in effect eliminated  the need
for two legs of the trinitarian  model.   In a war of atomic
weapons,  sure to be swift and devastating  (for both sides,
if one is  to believe most nuclear strategists), there is no
real need for armies at all.  In addition, the object of the
war, rather than being as Clausewitz would have seen it, the
destruction of the enemy's armed forces, became the destruc-
tion of  the enemy's ability to  retaliate  in  kind and the
destruction of his major population  centers, government in-
stitutions, and industrial complexes.  If war were to become
so swift and devastating1  the third leg of the trinity, the
will of the people,  becomes irrelevant,  since the conflict
requires  no  long-term popular commitment  to wage success-
fully.  And so for the first time in centuries a  change oc-
curred  in  the basic  framework  identified  by Clausewitz.
Armies and the people began to lose significance,  albeit in
the context of a unique  type of warfare,  the strategic nu-
clear war.(21]
     Less devastating examples of technology can be found in
the  advances  in  the  electronics  and  computing  fields.
Breakthroughs  here  allow  the  miniaturization  of weapons
technology to the point where  hand-held  anti-aircraft mis-
siles  pose a  significant threat to  jet aircraft streaking
over a battlefield at speeds in excess of four hundred miles
per hour.   Sophistication of explosives and detonator tech-
nology  allow   the  construction  of   small  yet  powerful
remotely-controlled bombs.   These examples are illustrative
of the  means available to  nearly anyone with  the money or
connections to obtain them.   In fact they have been used by
organizations as unsophisticated as the mujahidin in Afghan-
istan and the various militia groups in Lebanon.
     Advances  in  technology  have impaired the  ability of
conventional armies to locate and destroy the enemy they are
to fight.   Technology  has  enabled  sophisticated weapons,
which till now were too complex,  expensive, and unwieldy to
be used by any but highly trained armies,  to be employed by
militias and rebels.   This has served to put military power
in the hands of  entities other than  the  armies controlled
exclusively  by  states.  In  many,  if not most, conflicts
since 1945,  the enemy has looked  very much like  the local
civilians.   For  example,  the British experience in Cyprus
in 1951  found the garrison  there  involved  in  a conflict
with a local resistance  well  armed with  large  amounts of
explosives  who were  from  the  religious  and professional
ranks.[22]   The experience was much the same in other post-
colonial struggles, to include Vietnam.  Armies increasingly
had to deal with opponents which were hard to track down and
     Van Creveld argues that  a related problem  is becoming
visible.  That is, that technologically sophisticated armies
are  not effective  against  primitive,  unsophisticated, or
irregular forces.   Sarkesian stated as much in 1985, noting
that the Clausewitzian emphasis  on  enemy  armed  forces is
likely to  be   ineffective in low-intensity-operations.[23]
Citing the record  of  failure of  the modern  armies of the
world  in  places  such  as  Kenya (1952),  Vietnam (1954 to
1973),  and Afghanistan (1979-1989), van Creveld argues that
technological sophistication  is  actually  an impediment to
fighting a non-conventional  force.(24]   While  this may be
so,  certain  types of  technology  are extremely  useful to
non-conventional forces  fighting  a  dispersed, hit-and-run
type   of war  against a massed  conventional force.  Ironi-
cally,  technology  seems to  hinder  the conventional force
while it also  aids the nontrinitarian  force.  The implica-
tion is that conventional forces are at a distinct disadvan-
tage when facing nontrinitarian foes.
Current Wars
     Michael Carver's survey of wars since 1945 seem to bear
out  the  premise  of  the  ineffectiveness  of conventional
against non-conventional forces.  It also confirms the prev-
alence of nontrinitarian war.   He analyzed some sixteen ma-
for conflicts which had  a major impact  on  great Britain.
Of these,  twelve involved opponents  who did not  wear uni-
forms,  attend staff colleges,  or  fight in ways similar to
the West.  To put it another way, the wars were nontrinitar-
ian,   in  that  they  seldom   manifested   all   three  or
Clausewitz's elements  of people,  army, and government.  It
should be pointed out that of the twelve nontrinitarian con-
flicts,  eleven  ended in  victory for  the non-conventional
     If we  examine the most  current wars,  we will  find a
similar trend.   Of the major conflicts in 1991, twenty-five
out of  twenty-eight  involved at least one  belligerent who
could  not  be  typified  as  either  a  state  or  an  army
proper.[25]   The situation was similar in 1990 with twenty-
three conflicts of twenty-eight  being non-conventional.[26]
In each of these wars,  at least one of the belligerents did
not represent a state, have a trained regular army or neces-
sarily rely on the support or interest of the populace.
     Laffin's survey of conflicts is not restricted  to dis-
tant third-world rebellions and bush  wars.   He includes in
current  wars  the "troubles"  in Northern Ireland, Peruvian
coca wars,  and ethnic violence in Yugoslavia, to name a few
that are quite close to,  if not within,  the Western devel-
oped world.   These conflicts are prime examples  of the na-
ture of  nontrinitarian  war as  described  by  van Creveld.
They are violent, protracted, involve fighters not necessar-
ily related to  a state,  and  routinely  involve civilians.
Quite  simply,  they are all very  messy affairs,  difficult
to either mediate or understand in conventional terms.
What are the Implications for Strategy?
     I hope to have shown that far from being the  first and
last word on the nature of warfare, Clausewitz's trinitarian
model offers only a portion of what is required in order to
understand the range of conflicts now in existence.
     Van  Creveld is the  most recent and perhaps  most elo-
quent in a long line of those who doubt the applicability of
Clausewitz's  underlying  assumption  of the  primacy of the
state and the central role played by the army in modern war-
fare.   Others have held similar positions.  Writers such as
Michael Howard,  Bernard  Brodie,  and  Richard Simpkin have
voiced their concern over the inability  of organized forces
to overcome  nontrinitarian opponents.[27]   All the authors
point to the growing specter of  the lack  of  utility, even
helplessness,  of  conventional  armed  forces  against low-
intensity threats.  Van Creveld provides us with a more gen-
eral framework for understanding nontrinitarian types of war
which do not fit neatly into  Clausewitz's model.  Moreover,
this nontrinitarian type of warfare,  far from  being a his-
torical  curiosity from  the dusty medieval  past,  is alive
and well in the present.   It is  thriving in many  parts of
the  world today,  albeit with higher  concentrations in the
second and third worlds.
     Conventional warfare is certainly far from dead as  the
recent Gulf  War demonstrated.   Yet,  despite  the dramatic
U.S. led victory against Iraqi forces in a vintage World War
II mechanized battle,  there is scant evidence of future op-
portunities to employ heavy conventional  forces outside the
Korean peninsula.  In a recent Parameters article, Dan Bolg-
er expressed perhaps the proper perspective on the  U.S. led
victory in the desert.  He noted that while the Gulf War was
going on,  U.S.  Marines evacuated  civilians from civil-war
torn Liberia,  an American helicopter crew was shot from the
sky by Salvadoran guerillas,  and U.S.  installations in the
Phillipines remained  under  increased  security precautions
to counter threats of civil unrest and provocations  by com-
munist  guerillas.[28]   His  list  did not include  the on-
going   military   commitment   to   the   counter-narcotics
campaign,  three additional humanitarian operations,  and an
evacuation from Somalia.[29]   All this underscores the vast
range  of  threats facing  modern  forces.   Since 1945, our
forces have  only occasionally had to  fight a mid  to high-
intensity war while attempting to maintain the capability to
be effective  in the  far more prevalent  low intensity con-
     While Clausewitz must surely not be totally disregarded
in the last decade of  the twentieth century,  we must care-
fully examine  the  assumptions  which  underlie  his model.
These assumptions are the basis for the  organization of our
armed forces and the strategy  with  which  we  use military
force.  Quite simply, the record shows our forces fight best
when they fight other armies.  It should be clear that trin-
itarian  assumptions  are not universally valid,   as demon-
strated  by   our  forces  as   they  engage  nontrinitarian
opponents in  counter-drug,  counter-insurgency and counter-
terror operations.   We must accept the possibility that our
forces and strategy do  not adequately  protect our security
in  light of  the nature of warfare as  it  is now evolving.
Only by refusing to fight war as it once  was, can we defend
our country in  future  wars which are likely to  look quite
different from anything Clausewitz might have imagined.
1.      Among modern writers who took exception to Clausewitz's
theories were J.F.C. Fuller and Richard Simpkin.  See bibliography
for titles.
2.      Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War (New York: The
Free Press, 1991).
3.      Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. and ed. Michael Howard
and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton Univ. Press, 1976), p. 87.
4.      Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy, (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 213.
5.      Ibid, p. 192.
6.      Clausewitz, p. 87.
7.      John J. McIntyre, ed., The Future of Conflict, (Washington, D.C.:
National Defense University Press, 1979), p. 11.
8.      Clausewitz, p. 89.
9.      Michael Howard, The Causes of Wars, (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard
University Press, 1984), p. 4.
10.     Dennis M. Drew and Donald M. Snow, Making Strategy, (Maxwell
Air Force Base, AL:  Air University Press, 1988), p. 81.
11.     Clausewitz, p. 87.
12.     Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War, p. 49.  Van Creveld
has been known to coin new phrases which eventually enter common use.
The most notable example is the term directed telescope, introduced to
explain a command and control technique used by Napoleon to directly
get information from the field.
13.     Clausewitz, p. 173.
14.     Clausewitz, p. 179.
15.     Martin van Creveld, "Late Medieval Warfare:  Politics, Society,
Economics, and Organization", USMC Command and Staff College, Oppenheimer Chair of Warfighting Strategy Lecture, 17 Sept. 1991.
16.     Michael Howard, War in European History (Oxford:  Oxford
University Press, 1976), p. 6.
17.     John Barnie, War in Medieval English Society (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1974), p. 70.
18.     Howard, p. 2.
19.     Barnie, p. 32.
20.     Clausewitz, p. 170.
21.     Many U.S. policy concerns since 1945 have revolved around
the issue of escalation of conventional war into tactical nuclear war
and then to strategic nuclear war.  The most notable example of
this is the Cuban Missile crisis, where a limited threat quickly
escalated into a strategic threat.
22.     Michael Carver, War Since 1945 (New York, NY:  G.P.
Putnam's Sons, 1981), pp. 45-47.
23.     David J. Dean, ed., Low Intensity Conflict and Modern
Technology (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL:  Air University Press,
1986), p. 19.
24.     van Creveld, p. 22.
25.     John Laffin, The World in Conflict 1991 (Oxford:  Brassey's,
26.     John Laffin, The World in Conflict 1990 (Oxford:  Brassey's,
27.     Richard Simpkin, Race to the Swift (London:  Brassey's
Defence Publishers, 1985), p. 284.
28.     Daniel Bolger, "The Ghosts of Omdurman," parameters,
XXI, No. 3 (Autumn 1991), 28-39.
29.     For the record, Operation Eastern Exit evacuated over 300
U.S. diplomats, including Soviet diplomats, from Somalia. Operation
Fiery Vigil evacuated over 17,000 U.S. and Philippine nationals from
the area devastated by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.  Operation
Provide Comfort aided thousands of beleaguered Kurdish refugees
in both Turkey and Iraq, under conditions just below the threshold of
combat.  Operation Sea Angel aided in excess of 140,000 Bangladeshis
in the wake of the devastating flood which struck that country.  All these
operations took place within six months of Operations Desert Shield
and Storm.
Barnie, John.  War in Medieval Society.  Ithaca:  Cornell
	University Press, l974.
Bolger, Daniel. "The Ghosts of Omdurman."  Parameters, XXI
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Carver, Michael.  War Since 1945.  New York:  G.P. Putnam's
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Clausewitz, Carl von.  On War.  Ed. M. Howard and P. Paret.
	Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1976.
Creveld, Martin van.  The Transformation of War.  New York:
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Dean, David.  Low Intensity Conflict and Modern Technology.
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Drew, Dennis, and Donald M. Snow.  Making Strategy:  An
	Introduction to National Security Processes and Problems.
	Maxwell Air Force Base:  Air University Press, 1988.
Fuller, J.F.C.  The Conduct of War.  Westport, CN:  Greenwood
	Publishers, 1961.
Garden, Timothy.  The Technology Trap:  Science and the
	Military.  London:  Brassey's Defence Publishers, 1989.
Howard, Michael.  The Causes of Wars.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard
	University Press, 1984.
---., War in European History.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press,
Laffin, John.  The World in Conflict 1991:  Contemporary Warfare
	Described and Analysed.  London:  Brassey's, 1991.
---. The World in Conflict 1990:  Contemporary Warfare Described
and Analysed.  London:  Brassey's, 1990.
---. The World in Conflict 1989: Contemporary Warfare Described
and Analysed.  London:  Brassey's, 1989.
Levy, Jack.  War in the Modern Great Power System, 1495-1975.
	Lexington, KY:  The University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
McElwee, William.  The Art of War:  Waterloo to Mons.
	Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 1974.
Midliarsky, Manus.  On War.  New York:  The Free Press, 1975.
Paret, Peter, ed.  Makers of Modern Strategy:  From Machiavelli to
the Nuclear Age.  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1986.
Parker, Geoffrey.  The Military Revolution:  Military Innovation
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	University Press, 1988.
Shephard, John.  "On War:  Is Clausewitz Still Relevant?".
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Simpkin, Richard.  Race to the Swift:  Thoughts on Twenty-First
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