Welcome back to EDGE Challenges Military History for Leaders video blog! This series is dedicated to Karl von Clausewitz, the West’s most famous (and least read) philosopher of war.
In this video, you’ll hear:
Clausewitz asked: Why was Napoleon so successful? To answer this, he began with fundamentals. What is the nature of war? Specifically, what makes it distinct from similar activities?
Prior to Napoleon, wars were called Wars of Maneuver. Armies moved around the battlefield like large chess pieces. The goal was to compel your enemy to surrender by outmaneuvering and trapping them.
Napoleon introduced Wars of Annihilation (actually, he re-introduced it: the Romans mastered it a millennia before). And he was extremely successful. Not only did he defeat armies but he destroyed them, even toppling governments in the process. Why was he so successful?
Napoleon realized the nature of war was fighting, not maneuvering fighting forces. Conventional generals were focused on out-maneuvering their enemy with the goals of forcing a surrender. Napoleon was focused on killing his enemy in order to destroy them. This slight adjustment of means and ends gave Napoleon a competitive advantage over all his enemies.
Next: How did Napoleon ensure success? Broadly speaking, was he following scientific formulas for success, as was the intellectual trend during the Enlightenment? Or was Napoleon making it up as he went along? The next video we will answer visit these questions in the War is an Art, not a Science .
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