Clausewitz's Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine--Again!

  • September 01, 2002
  • Dr Antulio J Echevarria II

The author cuts through the myriad interpretations surrounding the concept and gets back to the original idea as conceived by its author, the Prussian military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz. In going back to the original concept, Lieutenant Colonel Echevarria reveals that Clausewitz intended the center of gravity to function much as its counterpart in the mechanical sciences does, that is, as a focal point. He thus argues, quite persuasively, that the Clausewitzian center of gravity is not a strength, nor a weakness, nor even a source of strength. A center of gravity is the one element within a combatant's entire structure or system that has the necessary centripetal force to hold that structure together. This is why Clausewitz wrote that a blow directed against a center of gravity will have the greatest effect. The author concludes with recommendations for revising Joint and Service doctrine so that they will reflect a more accurate and coherent definition of a center of gravity. He also offers some considerations for the war planner when applying the concept.