The Fog of Peace: The Military Dimensions of the Concert of Europe

  • June 01, 1995
  • Dr Daniel Moran

Last April the Army War College held its Sixth Annual Strategy Conference. The theme of this year's Conference, "Strategy During the Lean Years: Learning From the Past and the Present," brought together scholars, serving and retired officers, and civilian defense officials from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to discuss strategy formulation in times of penury from Tacitus to Force XXI. Professor Daniel Moran of the Naval Postgraduate School is well known for his scholarship on Carl von Clausewitz. In his discussion of the 19th century, Professor Moran made the point that while it was a time of small wars and big riots, Europeans enjoyed the benefits of economic growth, increasingly integrated markets, and cultural interaction due to higher literacy rates and more convenient and affordable means of travel. Additionally, a large and healthy bourgeoisie and working class gradually assumed power from aristocratic elites. The Concert of Europe, established in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, was the entity which fostered this century of relative peace and progress. Its goals were twofold: to suppress violent political revolution and to avoid general war. To a great extent, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 notwithstanding, it succeeded until 1914 when war burst forth to engulf Europe and bring down the very order the Concert was established to preserve. Professor Moran asserts that, in the final analysis, the dominant strategic challenge is not simply how much military strength a nation can muster from available resources, rather the more pressing challenge is to maintain military and political control over existing strength. Prior to 1914, conventional wisdom among military strategists was that the integration of technologically advanced weaponry into their armies and navies would make the next war bloody but short. They were tragically wrong.