23 Jan 2009

Clausewitz, On War, Book 1, Chapter 1, §5 Utmost Exertion of Powers

Clausewitz, On War

Book I "On the Nature of War"

Chapter I "What is War?"

§5 Utmost Exertion of Powers

If the enemy's resistance is greater than our powers, then he will defeat us. Thus

If we desire to defeat the enemy, we must proportion our efforts to his powers of resistance.
To calculate one's powers, one multiplies
1) the sum of one's available means, by
2) the strength of one's Will

We can total our troops and resources, so we can numerically calculate our available means. Will power is not something so objectively manifest, so it is harder to quantify determinately. Our best means is to estimate the strength of one's motives.

We can thereby calculate the proportional difference between our power and our enemy's. Also, after determining our available means for warfare, we can then try to increase them as much as possible.

Yet we should expect that the enemy likewise is increasing his power as much as possible too. Since both sides continue calculating their proportional differences of power while trying to increase them, we see a "new mutual enhancement" which escalates the power of both sides. This is the THIRD RECIPROCAL ACTION.

Original text from the translation:


If we desire to defeat the enemy, we must proportion our efforts to his powers of resistance. This is expressed by the product of two factors which cannot be separated, namely, the sum of available means and the strength of the Will. The sum of the available means may be estimated in a measure, as it depends (although not entirely) upon numbers; but the strength of volition is more difficult to determine, and can only be estimated to a certain extent by the strength of the motives. Granted we have obtained in this way an approximation to the strength of the power to be contended with, we can then take of our own means, and either increase them so as to obtain a preponderance, or, in case we have not the resources to effect this, then do our best by increasing our means as far as possible. But the adversary does the same; therefore, there is a new mutual enhancement, which, in pure conception, must create a fresh effort towards an extreme. This is the third case of reciprocal action, and a third extreme with which we meet (THIRD RECIPROCAL ACTION).

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War, Vol.1. Transl. J.J. Graham.
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