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In Conversation with The Great Jomini: The Old Lessons and Libya!


The month of July is, at the Intelligentsia and Revolutionaries Society (I.R.S. Think-Tank, Leicester), a ‘Military Science Month’. Where we discuss the old and the new development in military affairs, and, as the senior member of the military study group, I am tasked with this. My first lecture is on the ‘Study of Jominian Science & Contemporary Wars‘. However, what I am going to discuss at the present, in a sense, is a conversation with the dead military sage, on the contemporary conflict in Libya, and what he has for us, in terms, of advise and/or warning.

First, lets introduce to those who have no idea who our honourable guest speaker really is.

Antoine de Henry Jomini, is a Swiss-born military practitioner and student. He was, in short, by practise, a trained banker, and during the period leading to the French Revolutionary Wars, he wrote his first great work, entitled, ‘‘Treaties of Grand Military Operations’‘, which brought him to the notice of General Nye, a close leading ally of Napoleon, and in time, Jomini served both, during the early phases of the Napoleonic Wars. However, he also served, as Clausewitz, with the Russians and others, during same wars. After the war he wrote his most famous, and widely read within the military academies and professions, work, the Art of War.

Jomini was a military scientist, who searched for the principles of warfare, unlike Clausewitz who was more of Military Artists and doctrinaire, who attempted to discussed the metaphysical and the humanistic nature of warfare; unlike the former, who through practise and observation wrote what he believed to be indisputable laws of combat. Clausewitz covered issues such as morale, psychologies of generals and armies, political nature of wars, and others, what might be referred to as, the strategic aspects of warfare, while Jomini, concentrated on the operational nature of wars, the Grand Tactics; i.e., the lines of communications, logistics, engineering, offense and defense etc.

In short, Jomini was a product of his age, when natural science and intellectualism of the age was demanding a ”scientific” understanding and approach towards the objects and subjects of studies, the positivism age of the enlightenment.

In this article, we will concentrate our focus on a very short but highly informative article on his great work on the Art of War, ”Article VII: Wars of Opinion”, what today, we refer to as, the ‘War of Choices’ (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya etc).

The ‘Conversation’ will focus on the present Libyan conflict. Lets open this with perhaps the greatest single statement of relevance and warning;

”It may be said that, the violence of one party (Gadaffi) will necessary create support for the invaders (NATO) by the formation of another & opposite one (the so-called ”rebels”); BUT (my emphasis), if exasperated party (Gadaffi) possesses all the public resources, the armies, the forts, the arsenals, and if it is supported by a large majority of the people (of Libya),” and puts a question, ”of what avail will be the support of the faction (so-called ”rebels”) which possesses no such means?”

Just beautiful. Have the military commanders of the west heeded to this advise, mmm? I do not think so. Lets move on, as Jomini goes on to enquire (in reference to his time);

”What service did one thousands Vendeans (France) and one thousands federalists (UK) do for the coalition (the so-called ”rebels”) in 1793 (at the present)?”

He adds upon this enquiry by stating the historical lessons, that seems forever unlearned by the western militaries, as he notes;

”History contains but a single example of a struggle like that of the Revolution (not any more, there has been many since his time), and it appears to clearly demonstrate the dangers of attacking an intensely-excited nation (I love this, ”an intensely-excited nation”, could not said much better in reference to Libya, Gaddaffi, the Ruling Class, and the People, and of course the Africans in moral support against the western aggressions).

And goes on to warn;

”Down the line (in wars of choices) it is less importance to subjugate the country (not what the Anglo-French Aggression believe, in contrary, they seek a full subjugation of the country); here great efforts should be made to gain the end speedily (listen carefully, the speed ending of aggression, not happening at the present), without delaying for details, care being constantly taken to avoid any acts which might alarm the nation for its independence or integrity of its territory (the ”collateral damages”, that the killing of civilians, the mission creep that has arouse suspicious not only inside Libya but from outside, the continent, as a new form of neo-colonialism through force not ”aids”, and from the western states themselves as a neo-imperialism of commercial interests, the oil thing again).”

In summing up to this point:

We have seen, the great few points of privy advice from the great practitioner of warfare, on;

(a) how these sought of wars of choices, should be reduced to a ”hit-n-run” sort of wars, not camping-down.

(b) how, great care should be taken in understanding the political complexity of the conflict before and during the involvement, which we will see later on raised again by the speaker, Monsieur Jomini, emphasising its significance.

(c) how the lessons of the past should be learned with the handling and involvement on these very precarious wars (costly, some time turning into morality questioning against the invaders, and not really advisable).

(d) how the issues of the will and character of the opposition, as Clausewitz and others might warn, some are not as inanimate as others, and their wills tend to be fearless and unbreakable in seeing through the aggression.

Let’s get back to our conversation with the great Jomini.

He restart the conversation, introducing us to a little case study of relevance and significance with the present Libyan conflict; showing us, what to learn and what to avoid. The case study centres around the first Spanish invasion by the French, which was successful, on contrary, to the second one, that saw the French, repelled and losing to the Guerrillas supported by the British Forces of Wellington and others.

He notes, how, rather than seeking a conquest of the country (the Duke, commander of the expedition), and reduction of the fortress to provide a base of operations for his forces, which would have failed his task, and going against, as such, his high commands advise, he sought out a different approach that fit with the operation in hand. Thus, since he appreciated the advised approach would have ‘‘failed in his mission, or at least made the war longer and bloody one (as today), by exciting the national spirit by an occupation of the country”, what I warned with my post on the ”the Intelligence estimate on Libya” (see, The Somali-fication of Libya). Jomini praise his handling of the mission, through the appreciation of the locality and what the operation called for;

”It was a political operation (remember my argument, during the earlier approach in search of political solution, there was a chance of ousting Gadaffi), rather than a military one, and that it behhoved him to consummate it rapidly (i.e. to deal with it efficiently and effectively, through the appreciation on the character of the conflict). His conduct….deserves a careful attention from all charged with similar missions (in future)”.

Mmm, do we appreciate this lesson? I don’t think we do!

To finish off our conversation with the great mind, we can point-out few other similarities, such as his warning, as that of Clausewitz, in the appreciation of the character of the people and the country, such as the mountainous and sea people, and the difficulties they add upon on an invading armies, and a positive factor for the incumbent regime, who are in control of lines of communications, entry-points and so forth.

And he goes on to warn-off conducting two-wars by either through an alliance or independently, saying;


”The celebrated maxim of the Romans, not to undertake two great wars at the same time is so well known and so well-appreciated (not with our contemporary western buffoons) as to spare the necessity of demonstrating its wisdom.”

And to close-off, what does the great Jomini has for us, as the final piece of advise. He says to us, especially to our leaders;

”Politicians and Statesmen can’t simply hand over the conduct of wars to generals without appraising them of the general diplomatic and political situation and cautioning them as to any restraints on military operations that the situation demands”.

The final quotation, is from the translators of the text, US military officers from the West Point, on the Commentary Notes Section.

In Summary:

Libya, is a failure of strategic direction and appreciation of the character of the situation in hand. The failure to create a political operations, to use Jomini term, rather than a military operations, is the single gravest error of the conflict, and as I have argued on one of my popular articles ”The Leaderless West: The New Nightmare for the Western States’‘, how the young western leaders of the contemporary age, are not suited to the great offices they sit on, and thus, the lack of strategic mind within has seen and created a number of strategic failures, that are going to cost, and some are already in play, the west dearly for generations to come (hence my post, ”The Single Greatest Strategic Failure in the History: How The West, Lost the Rest”, another of the popular posts).

Jomini, and many others military commentators, have something for us to relearn, and not to ignore, and I hope, during this conversation here, with the great master, himself, beyond the grave, I have shown exactly why and how.

Thank You, All.

SS.

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About s.s.salim: Geopolitical Analyst

Political & Strategy Defence & Security Intelligence & Communications

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