Clausewitz Paradoxical Trinity

Carl Philipp Gottlieb von Clausewitz was a German military theorist and a Prussian soldier who emphasized and held on the doctrines of political and moral aspects of war. He was born in 1780 July 1st. Till his death, Clausewitz brought to light the Hegelian perspective of warfare concentrating with dialectic of two distinct forces and their interplay in the unexpected and new developments with emergence in ‘fog of war’ when war commanders conflicts when they engage in rapid decisions during war time. Clausewitz did not believe in many scholars’ school of thoughts concerning war and conflicts. He regarded war as not only a mere political proceed but also a very strong political apparatus aimed a continuation of political associations and dealings which is carried out by others at the expense of some parties.

Clausewitz defined the concept of trinity in his book, ‘On War’ as consisting first of hatred, primordial violence and enmity.  Second was the composition of elements of subordination to cogent policy and thirdly as the play of probability and chance. However, over the recent years, the Clausewitz trinity has received a broad explanation and re-phrased by Harry and Summers (1982) in their writing, On Strategy: A critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (1982) representing the Clausewitz trinity as the military, the people and the government. This deduced from Clausewitz initial definition of trinity of violent emotion, rationale policy and the probability and chance. This is combined with his definition of the social trinity of the army, the people and the government. These three concepts have been highlighted in recent literatures by many scholars as the major fundamental basis of military operations (Harry & Summers 1982).  

In his paradox, Clausewitz stated that states should consider several factors before engaging in wars with others. There should be a balanced and symmetrical state when a nation decides to engage into war. The US engagement in Vietnam War was accompanied by asymmetrical state which contributed to US poor performance in this war. The US relied heavily on the capabilities they possessed with their weapons of mass destruction which they highly esteemed to deter their opponents who also possessed such kind of highly sophisticated and nuclear weapons. These weapons according to US were only supposed to be used when their survival was threatened and as a last resort, therefore US fighting in specific the Vietnam War, with limited resources. This was unlike their opponents who had limited resources therefore dedicating all they had in terms of resources, time and money to engage in war hence producing symmetrical balance in all the fields as demonstrated in Clausewitz paradoxical trinity of the people, government and the military which should equally inter-play for nations to achieve their objectives in warfronts optimally (Matthews 1987).

The withholding of US mass destruction and nuclear weapons witnessed US engaging in Vietnam War with limited resources contributing to their poor performance. This in definition of Clausewitz concept of asymmetrical wars is derived from the concept of limited resources on one side and being unlimited in another side. This was the case with the US in Vietnam War when they were limited on one side and unlimited on the other unlike their adversaries who did not posses weapons of mass destruction but utilized all their resources (time, money and manpower) in the war outwitting their opponents; the US. Therefore, according to Clausewitz paradox trinity concepts, the asymmetrical approach of US in Vietnam War, greatly contributed to their poor and dubious performance. Therefore, the US according to Clausewitz paradoxical trinity should be considered importantly with consideration of the nature, the purpose and the conduct of war should be given utmost priorities. Therefore, he concludes by retaliating his echoes that for every state to engage in war, the military personnel should not only be conversant with details of war, but also be in a position to pass information and communicate effectively to those responsible in national policy implementation process in order to optimally utilize military as a vital instrument (Matthews 1987).

Order now

Related essays