Quotes by Famous Strategic Thinkers

Moral Forces

It is even more ridiculous when we consider that these very critics usually exclude all moral qualities from strategic theory, and only examine material factors. They reduce everything to a few mathematical formulas of equilibrium and superiority, of time and space limited by a few angles and lines. If that were really all, it would hardly provide a scientific problem for a schoolboy.

Clausewitz, On War

... Moral elements are among the most important in war... Unfortunately they will not yield to academic wisdom. They cannot be classified or counted. They have to be seen or felt.

Clausewitz, On War

They aim at fixed values [i.e., they do not understand the reciprocal and dynamic nature of war]; but in war everything is uncertain, and calculations have to be made with variable quantities. They direct the enquiry exclusively toward physical quantities [i.e., tanks, bridges, refineries, communications centers] whereas all military action is intertwined with psychological forces and effects [i.e., 'moral factors']. They consider unilateral action, whereas war consists of continuous interaction of opposites.

Clausewitz, On War

They [the theorists] soon found out how difficult the subject was, and felt justified in evading the problem by again directing their principles and systems only to physical matters and unilateral activity [i,e., the emphasis on technology in many of today's theories of war]. As in the science concerning the preparations for war, they wanted to reach a set of sure and positive conclusions and for that reason considered only factors that could be mathematically calculated.

Clausewitz, On War

The effects of physical and psychological factors form an organic whole which, unlike a metal alloy, is inseparable ... In formulating any rule concerning physical factors, the theorist must bear in mind the part that moral factors may play in it... Most matters in this book are composed of equal parts of physical and of moral causes and effects... One might say... that the physical factors seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely honed blade [or , more accurately, the 'sharpened blade'].

Clausewitz, On War

Loss of moral equilibrium must not be underestimated merely because it has no absolute value and does not always show up in the final balance. It can attain such massive proportions that it overpowers everything by its irresistible force. For this reason, it may in itself become a main objective of the action...

Clausewitz, On War

The psychological effect of victory [or achieving surprise or the enemy's loss of a key military leader] does not merely grow in proportion to the amount of military forces involved, but does so at an accelerating rate.

Clausewitz, On War

He must guess, so to speak; guess whether the first shock of battle will steel the enemy's resolve and stiffen his resistance, or whether, like a Bologna flask, it will shatter as soon as its surface is scratched; guess the extent of debilitation and paralysis that the drying up of particular sources of supply and the severing of certain lines of communication will cause the enemy; guess whether the burning pain of the injury he has been dealt will make the enemy collapse or, like a wounded bull, arouse his rage; guess whether the other powers will be frightened or indignant, and whether and which political alliances will be dissolved or formed. When we realize that he must hit upon all this and much more by means of his discreet judgement, as a marksman hits a target, we must admit that such an accomplishment of the human mind is no small achievement. Thousands of wrong turns running in all directions tempt his perceptions; and if the range, confusion and complexity of the issues are not enough to overwhelm him the dangers and responsibilities may.

Clausewitz, On War

This type of knowledge cannot be forcibly produced by an apparatus of scientific formulas and mechanics; it can only be gained through a talent for judgment, and by the application of accurate judgement [i.e., experience] to the observation of man and matter.

Clausewitz, On War

The appreciation and understanding of moral factors can only be perceived by the inner eye, which differs in each person, and is often different in the same person at different times.

Clausewitz, On War