Thursday, June 08, 2017

Principles of war

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Principles of war

The earliest known principles of war were documented by Sun Tzu, circa 500 BCE. Machiavelli published his "General Rules" in 1521. Henri, Duke of Rohan established his "Guides" for war in 1644. Marquis de Silva presented his "Principles" for war in 1778. Henry Lloyd proffered his version of "Rules" for war in 1781 as well as his "Axioms" for war in 1781.Then in 1805, Antoine-Henri Jomini published his "Maxims" for War version 1, "Didactic Resume" and "Maxims" for War version 2. Carl von Clausewitz wrote his version in 1812 building on the work of earlier writers.
There are no agreed Principles of War, not even in the NATO alliance although many of its members have their own. The principles of war identified by Carl von Clausewitz in his essay Principles of War,[1] and later enlarged in his book, On War have been influential on military thinking in the North Atlantic region.


  • 1Napoléon Bonaparte
  • 2Clausewitz
  • 320th century theory
  • 4National principles of war
  • 5Other uses
  • 6See also
  • 7Citations and notes
  • 8References

    Napoléon Bonaparte[edit]

    Additionally, since their first appearance in English of the military maxims of Napoleon in 1831, all English translations have relied upon the extremely incomplete French edition of General Burnod published in 1827.[citation needed] This has contributed to the erroneous belief that Napoléon Bonaparte had pioneered the "Principles of War". Napoléon was a keen follower of famous military generals of the past, who influenced his thoughts greatly. Albeit, "The armies of today are based on the organization created by Napoleon [sic] for his Grand Army and it has been used ever since." (Weider, par. 12).[2] Since the mid-19th century, due to the influence of the Prussian Army, they have become a guide for many military organizations to focus the thinking of military commanders and political leaders toward concepts and methods of successful prosecution of wars and smaller military operations. Although originally concerned with strategygrand tactics and tactics, due to the changing nature of warfare and military technology, since the interwar period, the principles are largely applied to the strategic decision-making, and in some cases, to operational mobility of forces.


    The initial essay dealt with the tactics of combat, and suggested the following general principles:
    • discover how we may gain a preponderance of physical forces and material advantages at the decisive point
    • to calculate moral factors
    • make the best use of the few means at our disposal
    • never lack calmness and firmness...without this firm resolution, no great results can be achieved in the most successful war
    • always have the choice between the most audacious and the most careful military leader has ever become great without audacity
    Based on the above, Clausewitz went on to suggest principles for tactics, the scale of combat that dominated European warfare at the time:
    • The Defence
    • The Offense
    • The Use of Troops
    • The Use Of Terrain
    • forces are more effective in a concentric rather than in a parallel attack; attack concentrically without having decisive superiority in an engagement
    • always seek to envelop that part of the enemy against which we direct our main attack
    • cut off the enemy from his line of retreat
    Clausewitz also included in the essay general principles of strategy by saying that Warfare has three main objects:
    • (a) To conquer and destroy the armed power of the enemy; always direct our principal operation against the main body of the enemy army or at least against an important portion of his forces
    • (b) To take possession of his material and other sources of strength, and to direct our operations against the places where most of these resources are concentrated
    • (c) To gain public opinion, won through great victories and the occupation of the enemy's capital
    • use our entire force with the utmost energy
    • the decisive point of attack
    • never to waste time
    • surprise plays a much greater role in tactics than in strategy
    • pursuit
    • forces concentrated at the main point
    • an attack on the lines of communication takes effect only very slowly, while victory on the field of battle bears fruit immediately
    • In strategy, therefore, the side that is surrounded by the enemy is better off than the side which surrounds its opponent, especially with equal or even weaker forces
    • To cut the enemy's line of retreat, however, strategic envelopment or a turning movement is very effective
    • be physically and morally superior
    • stores of supplies, on whose preservation operations absolutely depend
    • The provisioning of troops is a necessary condition of warfare and thus has great influence on the operations
    • independent action
    • Politically speaking defensive war is a war which we wage for our independence
    • The strategic offensive pursues the aim of the war directly, aiming straight at the destruction of the enemy's forces

    20th century theory[edit]

    Applied to specific forms of warfare, such as naval warfareCorbett argued that
    By maritime strategy we mean the principles which govern a war in which the sea is a substantial factor.[3]

    National principles of war[edit]

    Variations exist and differences are minor and semantic or reflect a cultural persuasion for a particular approach. A closer examination of the values and culture of origin reveals its war priorities.

    British principles of war[edit]

    The UK uses 10 principles of war, as taught to all officers of the Royal NavyBritish Army, and Royal Air Force:
    The British Army’s principles of war were first published after the First World War and based on the work of the British general and military theorist, J. F. C. Fuller. The definition of each principle has been refined over the following decades and adopted throughout the British armed forces. The tenth principle, added later, was originally called Administration. The first principle has always been stated as pre-eminent and the second is usually considered more important than the remainder, which are not listed in any order of importance.
    The 2011 edition of British Defence Doctrine (BDD)[4] states and explains the principles with the following preface: “Principles of War guide commanders and their staffs in the planning and conduct of warfare. They are enduring, but not immutable, absolute or prescriptive, and provide an appropriate foundation for all military activity. The relative importance of each may vary according to context; their application requires judgement, common sense and intelligent interpretation. Commanders also need to take into account the legitimacy of their actions, based on the legal, moral, political, diplomatic and ethical propriety of the conduct of military forces, once committed.”
    The ten principles as listed and defined in the 2011 edition, unchanged from the 2008 edition, of BDD (which also provides explanation) are:
    Selection and Maintenance of the Aim
    A single, unambiguous aim is the keystone of successful military operations. Selection and maintenance of the aim is regarded as the master principle of war.
    Maintenance of Morale
    Morale is a positive state of mind derived from inspired political and military leadership, a shared sense of purpose and values, well-being, perceptions of worth and group cohesion.
    Offensive Action
    Offensive action is the practical way in which a commander seeks to gain advantage, sustain momentum and seize the initiative.
    Security is the provision and maintenance of an operating environment that affords the necessary freedom of action, when and where required, to achieve objectives.
    Surprise is the consequence of shock and confusion induced by the deliberate or incidental introduction of the unexpected.
    Concentration of Force
    Concentration of force involves the decisive, synchronized application of superior fighting power (conceptual, physical, and moral) to realize intended effects, when and where required.
    Economy of Effort
    Economy of effort is the judicious exploitation of manpower, materiel and time in relation to the achievement of objectives.
    Flexibility – the ability to change readily to meet new circumstances – comprises agility, responsiveness, resilience, acuity and adaptability.
    Cooperation entails the incorporation of teamwork and a sharing of dangers, burdens, risks and opportunities in every aspect of warfare.
    To sustain a force is to generate the means by which its fighting power and freedom of action are maintained.
    These principles of war are commonly used by the armed forces of Commonwealth countries such as Australia.