I did it again! I started the issue, scheduled it, and then forgot all about it. Apologies for the incoherent spill of my thoughts in your inbox yesterday. (Scroll down to see a Suez Canal joke on this). In the meanwhile here is the complete issue. ⬇️
One of my favorite units this semester is strategic and military studies. It’s fascinating to learn about how countries prepare and go to war and the strategies they are keen on using. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed two continental theorists and their ideas towards war and while the scope of this newsletter cannot allow me to discuss them fully, I will try and draw a lesson on making life decisions from them.
The first theorist is Jomini and the second Clausewitz; while both were born around the same period they all had distinctly different ideas on war. Jomini saw the way to win a war as simple and scientific. He set out to write a couple of principles and strongly believed that if one used those specific principles they would win a war. Of course, the principles and specific strategies are complex and thorough, with a clear need to understand decisive points, strategic points, and the art of maneuver …But quite straightforward- Use these principles and you will win the war.
Clausewitz on the other hand was quite different. He believed that Jomini left out other critical elements of war such as fog and friction that would impede war. He also strongly believed that there was no such thing as a specific set of principles that would determine who would win the war. Rather he thought, that the center of gravity (whatever really controlled and shaped the war) kept shifting.
While one may be tempted to think that one theorist’s work is more superior to the other and their ideas more resonant, I tend to disagree (or rather, I have learned to disagree). Both theorists provide an equal measure of knowledge to how best they believe we should go to war. I quite think that the same theory applies to life.
We grow up with certain principles and values that we are urged to stick by- sometimes to the extent of being made to believe that we will be failures if we do not live by them. Then we read, experience life and come across its fog and friction which leaves us at crossroads on what is right and what we should follow. Do we become Jomini or do we become Clausewitz? While we often think we should be either-or, I think we should be both. We should live our lives based on principles but remain aware of the fog and friction that so often appears and choose to adjust.
I have had a fair share of experience on this. I went through primary and secondary school thinking that I would end up as a lawyer. I did everything by the book, followed the principles, took the right subjects, and talked to the right mentors. Years later, life happened and I found myself studying Political Science. None of that fog was mentioned to me through the 17 years that I dreamt of being a lawyer yet when it happened I had to learn how to color outside the lines. Needless to say, both experiences of following the right and ‘clear’ path and the seemingly ‘foggy’ one have been worth it! Each provided worthwhile lessons along the way.
Have a great week ahead!