How relevant were the writings of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu to WW2




 
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May 5th, 2007  
perseus
 
 

Topic: How relevant were the writings of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu to WW2


I have compiled some of the quotes from Clausewitz and Sun Tzu perhaps the two greatest military philosophers. How relevant do you think these are to the events of WW2? Can you provide an example where their philosophy was obeyed and resulted in great success, or ignored resulting in failure. Which is the most relevant?

I have filled in some of these but perhaps you can think of better examples

Sun Tzu
There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey …being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army…..By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, (That is, he is not careful to use the right man in the right place) Stalin in the early phase and Hitler in the later phase of WW2

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive;

When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. Japanese attack on Peal Harbour?

When far away, we must make him believe we are near. Perhaps allied commando attacks in Norway feeding on Hitler’s ‘Norwegian complex’

Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Attack on Belgium & Holland 1940 to draw allies from prepared positions along the French border to be surrounded

If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. ......If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing and if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him, Guerrilla Warfare in Burma and Russia

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"


If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Seize of Leningrad 1941-44

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. The entire Russian campaign from the German point of view

Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. Allied occupation of Norway 1940, hesitation of Paulus not moving towards Stalingrad at the first opportunity

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.


In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it. Obviously not the philosophy of Bomber Harris!


To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. German acquisition of the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia 1938/30

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans (a translation here really means an active policy of counter-attack) Operation Uranus (surrounding Germans around Stalingrad) 1942

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. Luftwaffe situation in 1940

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. Early Russian tactics 1941

In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. German attack on the low countries 1940 & Ardenne Offensive 1944

We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours. Allied situation between Britain, France and Poland 1939

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. Obviously Montgomery and Patton didn’t agree!

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.

Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots. Attack through the Ardennes 1940 & 1944

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Hitler’s Strategy in the Demyansk Pocket?

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.

The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become double agents and available for our service. It is through the information brought by the double agent that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy. British turned many German spies into double agents in WW2

Karl von Clausewitz

"Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity"

"If you entrench yourself behind strong fortifications, you compel the enemy seek a solution elsewhere." Maginot Line 1940

"The first and most important rule to observe...is to use our entire forces with the utmost energy. The second rule is to concentrate our power as much as possible against that section where the chief blows are to be delivered and to incur disadvantages elsewhere, so that our chances of success may increase at the decisive point. The third rule is never to waste time…Finally, the fourth rule is to follow up our successes with the utmost energy. Only pursuit of the beaten enemy gives the fruits of victory." German Army Blitzkrieg strategy during WW2, but failing in the fourth rule allowing British to escape

"War is the province of chance. In no other sphere of human activity must such a margin be left for this intruder. It increases the uncertainty of every circumstance and deranges the course of events."

"There is only one decisive victory: the last."

"a certain grasp of military affairs is vital for those in charge of general policy." ( I would disagree with this since a certain grasp seemed to be worse than non at all judging by Hiltler and Churchill, it allows non professionals to intervene)

"The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking." A winter war needs winter equipment. Norway, Finland and the Russian front

"no one starts a war-or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it." lack of a clear strategy in British and French policy after their declaration of war on Germany. Lack of German strategy against Britain

If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.

"Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination."

"If the enemy is to be coerced, you must put him in a situation that is even more unpleasant than the sacrifice you call on him to make. The hardships of the situation must not be merely transient - at least not in appearance. Otherwise, the enemy would not give in, but would wait for things to improve."
May 5th, 2007  
Doppleganger
 
 
Interesting. It just goes to show that both these guys are as relevant now as they ever were and there are no really new ideas, only recycled ones.

Filling in some blanks..

Sun Tzu

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; Although the rise of aerial reconnassiance in WW2 made deception more difficult, there were still occasions, one in particular, where this rule was ignored by one side to its almost fatal cost. I refer to Stalin completely ignoring all attempts to tell him that Hitler was about to attack in June 1941. Because of this, Germany's attack satisfied this rule of Sun Tzu's in its practical impact.

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!" While I'm sure there are many other examples, the one I know about the most is the way that German formations stuck by each other and continued to show espirit de corps and elan under the most direst of circumstances. Such as the retreat from Moscow in the winter of 1941 or in Stalingrad. This was because of the spirit of the NCO and Officers in the Wehrmacht, partly due in some cases to Nazism it has to be said but also because the German Army in WW2 was for the first 3 years very well trained. In 1943 onwards when things went against the Germans, there remained a veteran core of NCOs/Officers who basically looked after the ever green replacements coming into their units as children.

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. In 1943 Guderian said to Hitler, "Why do we need to attack Kursk? Why do we even need to attack in the East this year?" Guderian understood this rule, but Hitler did not. The Germans attacked at Kursk and sqaundered their last chance to be operationally successful on the Eastern Front. More than that, it cost Hitler his 3rd Reich.


Karl von Clausewitz

"There is only one decisive victory: the last." One great example, the Battle of Berlin. When that happened the great victories the Germans enjoyed in the first 3 years of war were at a stroke marked irrelevant.

If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles. Guderian achieved much of his success down to his sheer force of will and he had many obstacles in the way in his quest to create the Panzerwaffe. The other service arms and 95% of the General Staff for example.

"Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination." This is what the Germans should have done in Operation Barbarossa, i.e. Moscow. Instead, they pursued 3 (Leningrad, Moscow, Stalingrad) and paid the price.

"If the enemy is to be coerced, you must put him in a situation that is even more unpleasant than the sacrifice you call on him to make. The hardships of the situation must not be merely transient - at least not in appearance. Otherwise, the enemy would not give in, but would wait for things to improve." The Siege of Leningrad could be an example of this. A bad example as the Germans could not break the will of the Russian people.
May 25th, 2007  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger
Interesting. It just goes to show that both these guys are as relevant now as they ever were and there are no really new ideas, only recycled ones.
I think you have hit the nail on the head with the "there are no really new ideas, only recycled ones." comment however I have a tendency to believe these guys are perhaps taking more credit than they deserve because I am not sure it takes great insight or intelligence to state the obvious especially when you state it in such broad terms.

A lot of what they say is simple common sense that has been in use by military commanders through out history.
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May 25th, 2007  
perseus
 
 
Quote:
A lot of what they say is simple common sense that has been in use by military commanders through out history.
Perhaps Monty

Probably true, but I don't think the French were reading Clausewitz in the 1930s

"If you entrench yourself behind strong fortifications, you compel the enemy seek a solution elsewhere." Maginot Line 1940
May 25th, 2007  
MontyB
 
 
Perhaps I should have said "good" military commanders.