On Theory of War and Warfare

  • Lieutenant Colonel Mark E. Blomme

Theory examining the purpose and motivations of war weds itself to human nature and obtains a degree of immutability. However, theory regarding the conduct of war, namely warfare, can more easily conflict with the changes brought by science and technology. Clausewitz provides a prophetic and lasting theory describing the tendencies and motivations that lead to war and limit its political aims, but his theory for the conduct of war has proven less enduring. His Napoleonic-era prescriptions maintained a powerful hold on the theory of warfare for nearly a century, but disruptive technologies, such as the gift of flight, eventually forced a reevaluation of theory and led to a rediscovery of sixth-century B.C theory attributed to Sun Tzu. Modern theorists like Julian Corbett, John Boyd, John Warden, and Shimon Naveh extended Sun Tzu’s concepts, perhaps unwittingly, and his theory continues to resonate within the twenty-first-century American theory of warfare. These theorists proved Sun Tzu remains relevant to the perpetually changing realm of warfare, while Clausewitz’s theory on war remains quintessential to the analysis and understanding of the purpose and motivations of war.