By Mike Scruggs- Prussian General and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) insisted that any successful theory of warfare had to balance what he called “the trinity of war.” This concerned the motivation and morale affecting the people, the government, and the Army. The support and will of all three had to be mobilized to accomplish strategic objectives and victory.
Moreover, successful military strategies should undermine the morale of the enemy’s people, government, and Army.
The French did not withdraw from Indo-China solely because of their defeat at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. They withdrew because the French people were war weary from World War II and Algeria, and the Communists had been relentless in exploiting this war weariness by undermining the morale of the French people and Parliament. It is a significant footnote in history that Marx, Engels, and Lenin had studied Clausewitz’s 1831 unfinished work: On War, and incorporated many of his principles, including “the trinity of war” in Communist political and military doctrine. Mao also studied Clausewitz.
New academic theories of “limited war” and “gradualism,” however, had begun to undermine the appreciation of Clausewitz, military experience, and common sense during Robert McNamara’s 1961-1968 tenure as U.S. Secretary of Defense. Military force was not primarily for fighting and victory but “signaling” possible threats of military escalation to the enemy.
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