The Best Theories of War Used to Describe World War 1 – Term Paper


Question; with evidence to substantiate your argument, which theorist best characterizes the nature of World War 1 between Jomini and Clausewitz?

Working title: The best theories of war used to describe World War 1.

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Research question: Is Jominis theory of war the best theory of war that best characterizes World War I.

THESIS: Jominis theory of war is the best theory of war that describes the World War 1 as compared to Clausewitz theory of war.

His theory is the best since it uses a language that is easily understood by people in the military and those studying warfare.

Jomini approaches warfare as an art and science with experiments and empirical means.

Jominis theory of war best characterizes World War 1. This is because it approaches warfare as an art and science with experiments and empirical means. Jomini also used a simple language which is not complex to bring out his concepts on the nature of war. His theory has been applied in several warfare and education tactical operation centers and has been found to be effective.


Many military organizations have their own guiding principles or ideas that guide the conduct or study of war, since there has never been a common agreement on one common list of principles of war. These guiding principles are referred to as the principles of war. The nations principles of war are different from others based on their military culture, heritage and experience. It is these war principles that guides the actions involving the application of combat power .Several theorists have written about principles of war, among them was Niccolo Machiavelli whose rules are; the importance of morale, surprise, discipline, knowing oneself and the enemy, use of terrain, logistics and intelligence during war. Napoleon war also a theorist who illustrated the important points for victory in war. The points he discussed were touching on intelligence, logistics, firepower, morale, security, objective and unity. There are two major modern warfare theorists who are considered to be prominent in the western way of warfare. These theorists are Antoine-Henri Jomini and Carl Von Clausewitz. The research question of interest framed by our instructor is among the two who best informs or rather characterizes the World War I.

In this paper I will attempt to discuss and explain why the answer needs to be Jomini. Carl Von Clausewitz discussed the war consistent subject with the manner of 18th C romantism. His discussion was a reaction against legal norms and practices of the earlier age of warfare. Clausewitzs central theme was that, decision making defied solutions and categorization. Clausewitz tried to describe the nature of war between states through his revisions that were investigated into revolutionary and guerilla warfare. Clausewitz mainly categorized warfare as art but not science.

On the other hand Antoine Henri Jomini disagreed with Clausewitz and took an opposite thinking approach and was able to categorize warfare into both art and science with application of basic principles. Before he died at the age of 90, Jomini wrote several volumes on the subject of military and theory. He wrote a sum up of the art of war and defined principles in four maxims. In his principles he discussed how men are supposed to be directed at decisive points against their enemy lines of communication as they protect themselves. He also defined men should manoeuvre with strength against enemy weakness, throwing the mass of force onto the decisive points of their enemies and also emphasized that mass force against the decisive points should be done at the proper time and force.

Clausewitz could be considered as an outstanding theorist of war but his work is complex and difficult to read. On the other hand, Jominis work is comprehensive, understandable, coherent, articulate and prescriptive. For instance Jominis expositions about the fundamental principles of war which are very clear and easy to follow have brought understanding to military planning and operations. This has also led to a valuable and well used framework for the teaching and study of warfare. Clausewitzs work may be only more significant to scholars, but Jominis work is proved to be of more use to practical military professionals in the warfare ground. Jominis work was popular and served as the foundation of American Officer strategic and tactical education for half a century. This qualifies Jomini as the best theorist to characterize the nature of world war I. another point is on they explain war. Clausewitz explains war in terms of a debate, while Jomini explained warfare in terms of experiments with clear results derived from practical means. His principles never left the doctrine of the army, and was applied in the post-Vietnam US Army in Airland Battle and Network centric Warfare which were modern distillations of Jomin principles along evolutionary lines.

 In addition, the Army doctrine before the Operation Iraqi Freedom that was used as the professional foundation for Officer Education was a tested battle doctrine that was coherent, well organized and extremely Jominian principles in practice including the terms that were used. Up to date, Jominian concepts and words are heard in professional discussion concerning strategy and tactics in every Tactical Operations Center and Army Headquarters. This shows how Jominis work is well framed to follow and apply since it focuses on warfare as an art and science explaining ideas using experiments. The principles by Jomini were very useful during OIF-1 as a result of convectional characteristics of the conflict and its emphasis concerning maneuver combined with application of firepower. When OIF-1 operation was over the war stopped to be a war of maneuver and became a war of strategic positions along the logical and physical lines of operation.

Clausewitzs theory is descriptive and dialectic based and therefore I feel it doesnt lend itself well to clear and concise military orders that units and sub-units need to execute commanders intention and to synchronize their operations in time. Prescriptive nature of Jomin compared to Clausewitz descriptive nature is useful as it offers methodology tested and suited to organizing the battlefield in a way that effective role and purpose can be written and distributed. I mean Jominian principles and his precise terms lend it to direct functions used as mission command.

Before Jomini died, he left a great mark on the strategy details, campaign planning, line of operation, theater of operation and decisive points by making the popular. Another Jominis contribution was his focus on logistics gave it widespread use and a new meaning. His logistics was the practical art of moving armies, an art that embraced moving armies, their sustenance with establishment of communication lines. As opposed to Clausewitzs theory that does not recognize the importance of logistics, Jomini focuses on logistics and insisted that one of the basic principles of war was the importance of throwing the mass of ones army to the enemys communication line without compromising their own. Clausewitz ignored logistics by developing several key operational concepts where he believed that the first task in planning was identifying the enemys center of gravity which he defined as the hub of all power and movement on which everything depends[16]. He argues that destroying the center of gravity makes the enemy powerless. I feel this is not a secure strategy since its difficult to identify the centers without proper army movement, being vigilant and taking physical and logical line as discussed by Jomini.

Therefore I recommend Jomini as the best theorist compared to Clausewitz in characterizing  World War 1, since his principles are accompanied with a practical based experiment and empirical means. In addition his concepts are precise legible and easily understood by readers studying warfare and commanders. His theory is a modernized western way of characterizing the nature of warfare and it is superior to Clausewitzs descriptive art theories. The significant of this study in the future is to help our military departments to choose the best principles to apply during warfare that will lead to victory.


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Herberg-Rothe, H.S. Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century. Oxford: Oxford University, 2007.

Jomini, A.H. Art of War: Restored Edition. Kingston: Legacy Books Press, 2008.

Jomini, Baron de. The art of war. RUSI: Craighill, 1987.

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Otero, Christopher. ‚ÄúSmall wars journal.‚Ä̬†Reflections on Clausewitz and Jomini: A discussion on Theory MDMP, and Design in the post OIF Army, 2011: 1-11.

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