Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!

Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!

Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!

Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!

Excerpt

Over the last 25 years, the center of gravity concept has grown increasingly central to the U.S. military’s warfighting doctrine. It has been hailed by each of the Services and the Joint community as the cornerstone of the operational art; and it has come to occupy a common place in the vocabulary of professional soldiers. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that, over the last quarter-century especially, the term has come to have so many different meanings.

In this monograph, the author, Lieutenant Colonel Antulio Echevarria II, cuts through the myriad interpretations surrounding the concept and gets back to the original idea as conceived by its author, the Prussian military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz. In going back to the original concept, Lieutenant Colonel Echevarria reveals that Clausewitz intended the center of gravity to function much as its counterpart in the mechanical sciences does, that is, as a focal point. Lieutenant Colonel Echevarria thus argues, quite persuasively, that the Clausewitzian center of gravity is not a strength, nor a weakness, nor even a source of strength. A center of gravity is the one element within a combatant’s entire structure or system that has the necessary centripetal force to hold that structure together. This is why Clausewitz wrote that a blow directed against a center of gravity will have the greatest effect. The monograph concludes with recommendations for revising Joint and Service doctrine so that they will reflect a more accurate and coherent definition of a center of gravity. It also offers some considerations for the war planner when applying the concept.

DOUGLAS C. LOVELACE, JR. Director Strategic Studies Institute . . .

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