Of the military and political theorists who emerged from the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the Enlightenment, Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Henri Jomini both produced writings which captured enduring lessons and insights into the nature and conduct of war. The works of Clausewitz (On War) and Jomini (The Art of War) can both rightly claim a lasting legacy, but can it be said that one of these men was more responsible for guiding modern strategy? While not disputing that Jomini left a significant mark on modern thinking on warfare, I tend to side with the Clausewitz camp. If there was such a title as “Father of Modern Strategy,” I think it belongs with Carl (although the title of this blog may also have been a spoiler).
Jomini’s purpose, as he sought to explain Napoleon’s breathtaking military successes across the continent in the early 19th century, was to boil warfare down to a scientific basis for strategy. His primary interest was in how to conduct war. Early in Jomini’s most famous work, he identifies six distinct parts to “the art of war” (although he primarily concerns himself with the first four of these parts): statesmanship (diplomacy), strategy, grand tactics logistics, engineering (the attack and defense of fortifications), and minor tactics. It is this focus on the conduct of strategy that helps to separate The Art of War from Clausewitz’s work, and ultimately makes Jomini’s ideas less relevant in the long run (as we shall see). To Jomini, victory could be achieved by adhering to a fundamental principle of war: the application of mass against an enemy at a decisive point at the proper time. It was the intention of Jomini to demonstrate that the chaos and complexity of war could be reduced to such a simple principle that it, when mastered by an exceptional military commander, would lead to victory.
There is much of Jomini’s theory that resonated with soldiers since the Swiss-born military man first found an audience in the early 19th century. His ambition lay in simplifying the complexities of war, and after doing so prescribing methods to achieve victory on the battlefield. This may have helped shape, and in turn was itself shaped by, the establshed military thinking over the many years Jomini developed his theories. There was a certain simplicity to be found in his works, something that may have appealed to soldiers in general over subsequent decades.
Clausewitz, on the other hand, purposefully set out first to define not necessarily how to fight a war, but to identify the essential nature of it. In On War, he endeavored to explain what was possible and what was impossible to achieve in regards to understanding war with theory. Very much at odds with Jomini, Clausewitz warns against the notion of reducing military action to simple formulae. “In short, absolute, so-called mathematical, factors never find a firm basis in military calculations.” War is complex, and any theory which sought to exclude variables introduced by such “friction” as human genius, courage, incompetence, and other unpredictable events is useless. Like Jomini, Clausewitz pulls from his experience during the Napoleonic Wars. But rather than seeking to demonstrate war as being obedient to certain simple fundamental principles, Clausewitz sought to understand the phenomenon of war, suspended as it was between the “remarkable trinity” of violence, chance, and politics. Paret states it well when he said that in On War, Clausewitz was primarily concerned with “political and strategic planning, and the conduct of hostilities.”
The enduring relevancy, then, is that when Clausewitz does venture into the battle (as he does in his discussions on the virtues of defensive war, offensive war, and limited war) it is that the discussions can almost always be traced back to his original thesis, that war is an extension of politics that employs the use of violence. Book Eight, Chapter Six of On War, for example, continues to remind the reader that the political aim affects military objectives. In speaking of the motivations of allied states (in the midst of his chapters on limited war), Clausewitz states that “even when both [allies] share a major interest, action is clogged with diplomatic reservations, and as a rule the negotiators only pledge a small and limited contingent, so that the rest can be kept in hand for any special ends the shifts in policy require.” This reoccurring point about the centrality of policy and politics to war is not to be interpreted as something that should impede the commanding general. Rather, for Clausewitz, war and politics – and therefore strategy – were that inseparable. “It follows that the transformation of the art of war resulted from the transformation of politics [here meaning changes wrought by the French Revolution]. So far from suggesting that the two could be disassociated from each other, these changes are a strong proof of their indispensable connection.”
There are areas of apparent overlap between Clausewitz and Jomini, although this overlap frays somewhat if it is examined closely. For example, both acknowledge the fundamental relationship between the execution of war and politics. Jomini states that the first order of business for a commanding general is “to agree with the head of state upon the character of the war…” However, the treatment that The Art of War gives to political leadership is not developed much beyond this. Additional attention is given in regards to the government’s obligation to maintain a credible military in times of peace (which does, in fact, often sound familiar to debates waged today over military spending). There is also a discussion on the proper manner in which a prince should take direct command of fielded forces. However, little attention is given over how the government provides definition of the objectives the prince has determined. This is more than quibbling over whether Jomini (or Clausewitz for that matter) had the foresight to look beyond the efficiency of monarchical government. Jomini’s stated purpose was to separate war from the specific events of his era, and to present scientific truths about strategy. But by tying his theories to the notion that politics and war were separate and distinct, he essentially limited the applicability of his lessons to future conflict. For Jomini, the central player and most often target audience is the commanding general. For Clausewitz, the central player may also be said to be the commanding general, but the target audience is arguably the political leadership as well. This distinction alone makes Clausewitz’s work more enduring, and therefore more relevant, than Jomini’s.
To be sure, Clausewitz’s work is not without its own imperfections and criticisms. For example, On War almost completely ignores naval operations, likely the result of Clausewitz’s own lack of experience in that area. More significantly, considering the fundamental relationship between politics and war, he never addresses the relevance of national economics.  However, Clausewitz’s theory of the nature of war, both theoretical and real, is arguably more resilient that Jomini’s fundamental principle of the art of war. The weaknesses in Jominian theory when applied to unsymmetrical warfare has already been referenced. But Clausewitz’s theory, with allows for (and even assumes) the unexpected, retains a flexibility that has proven it to be a far more valuable theoretical construction.
The author of On War’s impact on modern strategy is arguably greater in that his writing has retained more overall relevancy throughout its existence. This is in part because it remains valuable to more than military commanders. While again acknowledging that Jomini does address the role of the head of state in war, this is mostly in the narrow context of leading the actual campaign. But by framing war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will,” Clausewitz’s writings beckon the attention of political as well as military leaders. His discussions on mobilizing resources for war and the identification of centers of gravity – which do not necessarily have to be an army – are just as insightful as the defining of objectives outside of the narrow paradigm of occupation of territory. Peter Paret insightfully notes that the amount of influence that Clausewitz’s ideas have wielded over time is hard to gauge. In fact, he finds that since the late 19th century, there is little evidence that governments or military leaders have actually put into practice much of Clausewitz’s theories. While I disagree with this somewhat (we have seen keen interest since World War II on centers of gravity, an idea that has been nurtured and evolved to this day), Paret’s larger point serves to prove Clausewitz’s truth about the complexity of war. Regardless of the acceptance of any theory, the frictions brought to bear on the execution of war in the real world will almost certainly result in something that looks very different from that theory. Yet the framework proposed by Clausewitz of the fundamental nature of war and the friction that inevitably makes conflict so difficult to predict and control continues to offer insight to students of strategy even today. This is the reason why more non-military historians recognize Clausewitz, and why he should be considered the Father of Modern Strategy.
 John Shy, “Jomini,” in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 144.
 Antulio J. Echevarria II., “Jomini and The Art of War.,” Seminar III. Lecture 1.2, 2.
 Baron de Jomini, The Art of War, trans. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott: 1879), 15.
 Ibid, 48-49.
  John Shy, ibid, 179.
 Antulio J. Echevarria II., ibid.
 Carl von Clausewitz, On War, edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 86.
 Ibid, 89.
 Peter Paret, in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 208.
 Carl von Clausewitz, ibid, 603.
 Ibid, 610.
 Ibid, 45.
 Baron de Jomini, ibid, 29-31, 35-37.
 Peter Paret, ibid, 208.
 Ibid, 213.