Jomini on Certain Types of War

[Excerpted from Antoine-Henri Jomini, The Art of War. G. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill, trs. (Philadelphia: Lippicott, 1892), pp. 25-38]

Wars of Opinion.

Although wars of opinion, national wars, and civil wars are sometimes confounded, they differ enough to require separate notice.

Wars of opinion may be intestine, both intestine and foreign, and, lastly, (which, however, is rare,) they may be foreign or exterior without being intestine or civil.

Wars of opinion between two states belong also to the class of' wars of intervention; for they result either from doctrines which one party desires to propagate among its neighbors, or from dogmas which it desires to crush,-in both cases leading to intervention. Although originating in religious or political dogmas, these wars are most deplorable; for, like national wars, they enlist the worst passions, and become vindictive, cruel, and terrible.

The wars of Islamism, the Crusades, the Thirty Years' War, the wars of the League, present nearly the same characteristics. Often religion is the pretext to obtain political power, and the war is not really one of' dogmas. The successors of Mohammed eared more to extend their empire than to preach the Koran, and Philip II, bigot as he was, did not sustain the League in France for the purpose of advancing the Roman Church. We agree with M. Ancelot that Louis IX, when he went on a crusade in Egypt, thought more of the commerce of the Indies than of gaining possession of the Holy Sepulcher.

The dogma sometimes is not only a pretext, but is a powerful ally; for it excites the ardor of the people, and also creates a party For instance, the Swedes in the Thirty Years' War, and Philip II in France, hail allies in the country more powerful than their armies It may, however, happen, as in the Crusades and the wars of Islamism, that the dogma for which the war is waged, instead of friends, finds only bitter enemies in the country invaded; and then the contest becomes fearful.

The chances of support and resistance in wars of political opinions are about equal. It may be recollected how in 1792 associations of fanatics thought it possible to propagate throughout Europe the famous declaration of the rights of man, and how governments became justly alarmed, and rushed to arms probably with the intention of only forcing the lava of this volcano back into its crater and there extinguishing it. The means were not fortunate; for war and aggression are inappropriate measures for arresting an evil which lies wholly in the human passions, excited in a temporary paroxysm, of less duration as it is the more violent. Time is the true remedy for all bad passions and for all anarchical doctrines. A civilized nation may bear the yoke of a factious and unrestrained multitude for a short interval; but these storms soon pass away, and reason resumes her sway. To attempt to restrain such a mob by a foreign force is to attempt to restrain the explosion of a mine when the powder has already been ignited: it is far better to await the explosion and afterward fill up the crater than to try to prevent it and to perish in the attempt

After a profound study of the Revolution, I am convinced that, if the Girondists and National Assembly had not been threatened by foreign armaments, they would never have dared to lay their sacrilegious hands upon the feeble but venerable head of Louis XVI. The Girondists would never have been crushed by the Mountain but for the reverses of Dumouriez and the threats of invasion. And if they had been permitted to clash and quarrel with each other to their hearts' content, it is probable that, instead of giving place to the terrible Convention, the Assembly would slowly have returned to the restoration of good, temperate, monarchical doctrines, in accordance with the necessities and the immemorial traditions of the French.

In a military view these wars are fearful, since the invading force not only is met by the armies of the enemy, but is exposed to the attacks of an exasperated people. It may be said that the violence of one party will necessarily create support for the invaders by the formation of another and opposite one; but, if the exasperated party possesses all the public resources, the armies, the forts, the arsenals, and if it is supported by a large majority of the people, of what avail will be the support of the faction which possesses no such means ? What service did one hundred thousand Vendeans and one hundred thousand Federalists do for the coalition in 1793?

History contains but a single example of a struggle like that of the Revolution; and it appears to clearly demonstrate the danger of attacking an intensely-excited nation. However the bad management of the military operations was one cause of the unexpected result, and before deducing any certain maxims from this war, we should ascertain what would have been the result if after the flight of Dumouriez, instead of destroying and capturing fortresses, the allies had informed the commanders of those fortresses that they contemplated no wrong to France, to her forts or her brave armies, and had marched on Paris with two hundred thousand men. They might have restored the monarchy; and, again, they might never have returned, at least without the protection of an equal force on their retreat to the Rhine. It is difficult to decide this, since the experiment was never made, and as all would have depended upon the course of the French nation and the army. The problem thus presents two equally grave solutions. The campaign of 1793 gave one; whether the other might have been obtained, it is difficult to say. Experiment alone could have determined it.

The military precepts for such wars are nearly the same as for national wars, differing, however, in a vital point. In national wars the country should be occupied and subjugated, the fortified places besieged and reduced, and the armies destroyed; whereas in wars of opinion it is of less importance to subjugate the country; here great efforts should be made to gain the end speedily, without delaying for details, care being constantly taken to avoid any acts which might alarm the nation for its independence or the integrity of its territory.

The war in Spain in 1823 is an example which may be cited in favor of this Course in opposition to that of the Revolution. It is true that the conditions were slightly different for the French army of 1792 was made up of more solid elements than that of the Radicals of the Isla de Leon. The war of the Revolution was at once a war of opinion, a national war, and a civil war,-while, if the first war in Spain in 1808 was thoroughly a national war, that of 1823 was a partial struggle of opinions without the element of nationality; and hence the enormous difference in the results.

Moreover, the expedition of the Duke of Angoulême was well carried out. Instead of attacking fortresses, he acted in conformity to the above-mentioned precepts. Pushing on rapidly to the Ebro, he there divided his forces, to seize, at their sources, all the elements of strength of their enemies,- which they could safely do, since they were sustained by a majority of the inhabitants. If he had followed the instructions of the Ministry, to proceed methodically to the conquest of the country and the reduction of the fortresses between the Pyrenees and the Ebro, in order to provide a base of operations, he would perhaps have failed in his mission, or at least made the war a long and bloody one, by exciting the national spirit by an occupation of the country similar to that of 1807.

Emboldened by the hearty welcome of the people, he comprehended that it was a political operation rather than a military one, and that it behooved him to consummate it rapidly. His conduct, so different from that of the allies in 1793, deserves careful attention from all charged with similar missions. In three months the army was under the walls of Cadiz.

If the events now transpiring in the Peninsula prove that statesmanship was not able to profit by success in order to found a suitable and solid order of things, the fault was neither in the army nor in its commanders, but in the Spanish government, which, yielding to the counsel of violent reactionaries, was unable to rise to the height of its mission. The arbiter between two great hostile interests, Ferdinand blindly threw himself into the arms of the party which professed a deep veneration for the throne, but which intended to use the royal authority for the furtherance of its own ends, regardless of consequences. The nation remained divided in two hostile camps, which it would not have been impossible to calm and reconcile in time. These camps came anew into collision, as I predicted in Verona in 1823,-a striking lesson, by which no one is disposed to profit in that beautiful and unhappy land, although history is not wanting in examples to prove that violent reactions, any more than revolutions, are not elements with which to construct and consolidate. May God grant that from this frightful conflict may emerge a strong and respected monarchy, equally separated from all factions, and based upon a disciplined army as well as upon the general interests of the country,-a monarchy capable of rallying to its support this incomprehensible Spanish nation, which, with merits not less extraordinary than its faults, was always a problem for those who were in the best position to know it.

National Wars.

National wars, to which we have referred in speaking of those of invasion, are the most formidable of all. This name can only be applied to such as are waged against a united people, or a great majority of them, filled with a noble ardor and determined to sustain their independence: then every step is disputed, the army holds only its camp-ground, its supplies can only be obtained at the point of the sword, and its convoys are everywhere threatened or captured.

The spectacle of a spontaneous uprising of a nation is rarely seen; and, though there be in it something grand and noble which commands our admiration, the consequences are so terrible that, for the sake of humanity, we ought to hope never to see it. This uprising must not be confounded with a national defense in accordance with the institutions of the state and directed by the government.

This uprising may be produced by the most opposite causes. The serfs may rise in a body at the call of the government, and their masters, fleeted by a noble love of their sovereign and country, may set them the example and take the command of them; and, similarly, a fanatical people may arm under the appeal of its priests; or a people enthusiastic in its political opinions, or animated by a sacred love of its institutions, may rush to meet the enemy in defense of all it holds most dear.

The control of the sea is of much importance in the results of a national invasion. If the people possess a long stretch of coast, and are masters of the sea or in alliance with a power which controls it, their power of resistance is quintupled, not only on account of the facility of feeding the insurrection and of alarming the enemy on all the points he may occupy, but still more by the difficulties which will be thrown in the way of his procuring supplies by the sea.

The nature of the country may be such as to contribute to the facility of a national defense. In mountainous counties the people are always most formidable; next to these are countries covered with extensive forests.

The resistance of the Swiss to Austria and to the Duke of Burgundy, that of the Catalans in 1712 and in 1809, the difficulties encountered by the Russians in the subjugation of the tribes of the Caucasus, and, finally, the reiterated efforts of the Tyrolese, clearly demonstrate that the inhabitants of mountainous regions have always resisted for a longer time than those of the plains,-which is due as much to the difference in character and customs as to the difference in the natural features of the countries.

Defiles and large forests, as well as rocky regions, favor this kind of defense; and the Bocage of La Vendée, so justly celebrated, proves that any country, even if it be only traversed by large hedges and ditches or canals, admits of a formidable defense.

The difficulties in the path of an army in wars of opinions, as well as in national wars, are very great, and render the mission of the general conducting them very difficult. The events just mentioned, the contest of the Netherlands with Philip II. and that of the Americans with the English, furnish evident proofs of this; but the much more extraordinary struggle of La Vendée with the victorious Republic, those of Spain, Portugal, and the Tyrol against Napoleon, and, finally, those of the Morea against the Turks, and of Navarre against the armies of Queen Christina, are still more striking illustrations.

The difficulties are particularly great when the people are supported by a considerable nucleus of disciplined troops. The invader has only an army: his adversaries have an army, and a people wholly or almost wholly in arms, and making means of resistance out of every thing, each individual of whom conspires against the common enemy; even the noncombatants have an interest in his ruin and accelerate it by every means in their power. He holds scarcely any ground but that upon which he encamps; outside the limits of his camp every thing is hostile and multiplies a thousandfold the difficulties he meets at every step.

These obstacles become almost insurmountable when the country is difficult. Each armed inhabitant knows the smallest paths and their connections; he finds everywhere a relative or friend who aids him; the commanders also know the country, and, learning immediately the slightest movement on the part of the invader, can adopt the best measures to defeat his projects; while the latter, without information of their movements, and not in a condition to send out detachments to gain it, having no resource but in his bayonets, and certain safety only in the concentration of his columns, is like a blind man: his combinations are failures; and when, after the most carefully-concerted movements and the most rapid and fatiguing marches, he thinks he is about to accomplish his aim and deal a terrible blow, he finds no signs of the enemy but his campfires: so that while, like Don Quixote, he is attacking windmills, his adversary is on his line of communications, destroys the detachments left to guard it, surprises his convoys, his depots, and carries on a war so disastrous for the invader that he must inevitably yield after a time.

In Spain I was a witness of two terrible examples of this kind. When Ney's corps replaced Soult's at Corunna, I had camped the companies of the artillery-train between Betanzos and Corunna, in the midst of four brigades distant from the camp from two to three leagues, and no Spanish forces had been seen within fifty miles; Soult still occupied Santiago de Compostela, the division Maurice-Mathieu was at Ferrol and Lugo, March and's at Corunna and Betanzos: nevertheless one fine night the companies of the train-men and horses- disappeared, and we were never able to discover what became of them: a solitary wounded corporal escaped to report that the peasants, led by their monks and priests, had thus made away with them. Four months afterward, Ney with a single division marched to conquer the Asturias, descending the valley of the Navia, while Kellermann debouched from Leon by the Oviedo road. A part of the corps of La Romana which was guarding the Asturias marched behind the very heights which inclose the valley of the Navia, at most but a league from our columns, without the marshal knowing a word of it: when he was entering Gijon, the army of La Romana attacked the center of the regiments of the division Marchand, which, being scattered to guard Galicia, barely escaped, and that only by the prompt return of the marshal to Lugo. This war presented a thousand incidents as striking as this. All the gold of Mexico could not have procured reliable information for the French; what was given was but a lure to make them fall more readily into snares.

No army, however disciplined, can contend successfully against such a system applied to a great nation, unless it be strong enough to hold all the essential points of the country, cover its communications, and at the same time furnish an active force sufficient to beat the enemy wherever he may present himself. If this enemy has a regular army of respectable size to be a nucleus around which to rally the people, what force will be sufficient to be superior everywhere, and to assure the safety of the long lines of communication against numerous bodies ?

The Peninsular War should be carefully studied, to learn all the obstacles which a general and his brave troops may encounter in the occupation or conquest of a country whose people are all in arms. What efforts of patience, courage, and resignation did it not cost the troops of Napoleon, Massena, Soult, Ney, and Suchet to sustain themselves for six years against three or four hundred thousand armed Spaniards and Portuguese supported by the regular armies of Wellington, Beresford, Blake, La Romana, Cuesta, Castaños, Ceding, and Ballasteros!

If success be possible in such a war, the following general course will be most likely to insure it,-viz.: make a display of a mass of troops proportioned to the obstacles and resist ante likely to be encountered, calm the popular passions in every possible way, exhaust them by time and patience, display courtesy, gentleness, and severity united, and, particularly, deal justly. The examples of Henry IV. in the wars of the League, of Marshal Berwick in Catalonia, of Suchet, in Aragon and Valencia, of Hoche in La Vendée, are models of their kind, which may be employed according to circumstances with equal success. The admirable order and discipline of the armies of Diebitsch and Paskevitch in the late war were also models, and were not a little conducive to the success of their enterprises.

The immense obstacles encountered by an invading force in these wars have led some speculative persons to hope that there should never be any other kind, since then wars would become more rare, and, conquest being also more difficult, would be less a temptation to ambitious leaders. This reasoning is rather plausible than solid; for, to admit all its consequences, it would be necessary always to be able to induce the people to take up arms, and it would also be necessary for us to be convinced that there would be in the future no wars but those of conquest, and that all legitimate though secondary wars, which are only to maintain the political equilibrium or defend the public interests, should never occur again: otherwise, how could it be known when and how to excite the people to a national war? For example, if one hundred thousand Germans crossed the Rhine and entered France, originally with the intention of preventing the conquest of Belgium by France, and without any other ambitious project, would it be a case where the whole population-men, women, and children-of Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne, and Burgundy, should rush to arms? to make a Saragossa of every walled town, to string about, by way of reprisals, murder pillage, and incendiarism throughout the country ? If all this be not done, and the Germans, in consequence of some success, should occupy these provinces, who can say that they might not afterward seek to appropriate a part of them, even though at first they had never contemplated it ? The difficulty of answering these two questions would seem to argue in favor of national wars. But is there no means of repelling such an invasion without bringing about an uprising of the whole population and a war of extermination ? Is there no mean between these contests between the people and the old regular method of war between permanent armies ? Will it not be sufficient, for the efficient defense of the country, to organize a militia, or landwehr, which, uniformed and called by their governments into service, would regulate the part the people should take in the war, and place just limits to its barbarities ?

I answer in the affirmative; and, applying this mixed system to the cases stated above, I will guarantee that fifty thousand regular French troops, supported by the National Guards of the East, would get the better of this German army which had crossed the Vosges; for, reduced to fifty thousand men by many detachments, upon nearing the Meuse or arriving in Argonne it would have one hundred thousand men on its hands. To attain this mean, we have laid it down as a necessity that good national reserves be prepared for the army; which will be less expensive in peace and will insure the defense of the country in war. This system was used by France in 1792, imitated by Austria in 1809, and by the whole of Germany in 1813.

I sum up this discussion by asserting that, without being a utopian philanthropist, or a condottieri, a person may desire that wars of extermination may be banished from the code of nations, and that the defenses of nations by disciplined militia, with the aid of good political alliances, may be sufficient to insure their independence.

As a soldier, preferring loyal and chivalrous warfare to organized assassination, if it be necessary to make a choice, I acknowledge that ma prejudices are in favor of the good old times when the French and English Guards courteously invited each other to fire first,-as at Fontenoy,-preferring -them to the frightful epoch when priests, women, and children throughout Spain plotted the murder of isolated soldiers.

Civil Wars, and Wars of Religion.

Intestine wars, when not connected with a foreign quarrel. are generally the result of a conflict of opinions, of political or religious sectarianism. In the Middle Ages they were more frequently the collisions of feudal parties. Religious wars are above all the most deplorable.

We can understand how a government may find it necessary to use force against its own subjects in order to crush out factions which would weaken the authority of the throne and the national strength; but that it should murder its citizens to compel them to say their prayers in French or Latin, or to recognize the supremacy of a foreign pontiff, is difficult of conception. Never was a king more to be pitied than Louis XIV., who persecuted a million of industrious Protestants, who had put upon the throne his own Protestant ancestor. Wars of fanaticism are horrible when mingled with exterior wars, and they are also frightful when they are family quarrels. The history of France in the times of the League should be an eternal lesson for nations and kings. It is difficult to believe that a people so noble and chivalrous in the time of Francis I. should in twenty years have fallen into so deplorable a state of brutality.

To give maxims in such wars would be absurd. There is one rule upon which all thoughtful men will be agreed: that is, to unite the two parties or sects to drive the foreigners from the soil, and afterward to reconcile by treaty the conflicting claims or rights. Indeed, the intervention of a third power in a religious dispute can only be with ambitious views.

Governments may in good faith intervene to prevent the spreading of a political disease whose principles threaten social order; and, although these fears are generally exaggerated and are often mere pretexts, it is possible that a state may believe its own institutions menaced. But in religious disputes this is never the case; and Philip II. could have had no other object in interfering in the affairs of the League than to subject France to his influence, or to dismember it.

Double Wars, and the Danger of Undertaking Two Wars at Once.

The celebrated maxim of the Romans, not to undertake two great wars at the same time, is so well known and so well appreciated as to spare the necessity of demonstrating its wisdom.

A government may be compelled to maintain a war against two neighboring states; but it will be extremely unfortunate if it does not find an ally to come to its aid, with a view to its own safety and the maintenance of the political equilibrium. It will seldom be the case that the nations allied against it will have the same interest in the war and will enter into it with all their resources; and, if one is only an auxiliary, it will be an ordinary war.

Louis XIV, Frederick the Great, the Emperor Alexander, and Napoleon, sustained gigantic struggles against united Europe. When such contests arise from voluntary aggressions, they are proof of a capital error on the part of the state which invites them; but if they arise from imperious and inevitable circumstances, they must be met by seeking alliances, or by opposing such means of resistance as shall establish something like equality between the strength of the parties.

The great coalition against Louis XIV., nominal arising from his designs on Spain, had its real origin in previous aggressions which had alarmed his neighbors. To the combined forces of Europe he could only oppose the faithful alliance of the Elector of Bavaria, and the more equivocal one of the Duke of Savoy, who, indeed, was not slow in adding to the number of his enemies. Frederick, with only the aid of the subsidies of England, and fifty thousand auxiliaries from six different states, sustained a war against the three most powerful monarchies of Europe: the division and folly of his Opponents were his best friends.

Both these wars, as well as that sustained by Alexander in 1812, it was almost impossible to avoid.

France had the whole of Europe on its hands in 1793, in consequence of the extravagant provocations of the Jacobins, and the utopian ideas of the Girondists, who boasted that with the support of the English fleets they would defy all the kings in the world. The result of these absurd calculations was a frightful upheaval of Europe, from which France miraculously escaped. ^

Napoleon is, to a certain degree, the only modern sovereign who has voluntarily at the same time undertaken two, and even three, formidable wars,-with Spain, with England, and with Russia; but in the last case he expected the aid of Austria and Prussia, to say nothing of that of Turkey and Sweden, upon which he counted with too much certainty; so that the enterprise was not so adventurous on his part as has been generally supposed.

It will be observed that there is a great distinction between a war made against a single state which is aided by a third acting as an auxiliary, and two wars conducted at the same time against two powerful nations in opposite quarters, who employ all their forces and resources. For instance, the double contest of Napoleon in 1809 against Austria and Spain aided by England was a very different affair from a contest with Austria assisted by an auxiliary force of a given strength. These latter contests belong to ordinary wars.

It follows, then, in general, that double wars should be avoided if possible, and, if cause of war be given by two states, it is more prudent to dissimulate or neglect the wrongs suffered from one of them, until a proper opportunity for redressing them shall arrive. The rule, however, is not without exception: the respective forces, the localities, the possibility of finding allies to restore, in a measure, equality of strength between the parties, are circumstances which will influence a government so threatened. We now have fulfilled our task, in noting both the danger and the means of remedying it.