Principles of War

Introduction to Military History
What is War?
• How do we define war?
• What distinguishes it from other forms
of armed conflict?
Definition of War
1. Substantial degree of organization on
both sides
2. Significant degree of fighting
3. Engagement must be sustained over an
extended period
The Nature of War
• Application of political, psychological, economic
and physical pressure by a state or a group of
states against another state or by a segment of the
population of a state against the established
government of a state.
Objectives of War
• Impose your will upon the enemy.
– Aggressive states enter war by a means and
at a time of their own choosing
– Peaceful states are forced into war to
protect their legitimate interests.
How do you achieve this objective???
What are the Principles of War?
• Fundamental ideas underlying the conduct of
– Weapons, organization, transportation and
tactics change
– Fundamental principles never change.
Principles of War
• United States military generally recognizes
nine key principles of war
– Essential for effective command
– Successful conduct of military operations
– Apply to decisions on all levels of command
from squad leader to Commander in Chief
Principles of War
– Don’t all apply with equal force
– Factors will shape significance
• Nature of terrain
• Strength of opposing forces
• Weather
• Mission of the Command
Key Terms
• Strategy-- Application of Principles of War to a
lengthy campaign
• Tactics—Application of Principles of War to a
single battle.
The 9 Principles of War
Unity of Command
Mass (Concentration)
Economy of Force
National Military Policy
Every nation adopts a system it believes will most
effectively support its particular national policy.
Remember—Military operations on a national
level are an extension of its foreign policy!
Role of War in American History
• Historically, U.S. took advantage of several
factors in constructing a military policy
– Favorable geographic position behind ocean
– Militarily weak neighbors
– Balance of power in Europe.
• After World War II, this situation changes.
Historical Status of the Military
• Small standing army with citizen soldiers
• Small navy emphasizing protection of commerce
• Willing to consider temporary alliances in times of
extreme emergency.
• Military should place a minimum burden on the
people providing defense without sacrificing values.
This is the situation at the start of this class
We will examine why it changes over the 20th
Traditional American Attitude toward
• War is an unusual situation
• Goal of the military is to deal with the “bully”
who has disturbed the peace quickly and
• Once completed, society can rapidly return to
• War tends to take on the characteristics of a
moral crusade.