Theory is a Guide
In the theory of war, Clausewitz says, there can be no "prescriptive formulation universal enough to deserve the name of law." (152) He cites three reasons why a theory of war cannot be subjected to rigid scientific principles:
- (1) information is subjective and not fixed in war;
- (2) moral and psychological forces are intertwined with physical forces; and
- (3) war consists not of unilateral but reciprocal action, and thus one can never be sure of what the enemy will do.
Moreover, most theorists usually are guilty of at least one of the following three flaws, according to Clausewitz:
- (1) An "impermissible use of certain narrow systems as formal bodies of law." This pseudo-scientific approach often attempts to "use elaborate scientific guidelines as if they were a kind of truth machine," (168) despite the fact that chance cannot be quantified.
- (2) Overuse of jargon, technicalities, and metaphors, where at times the analyst "no longer knows just what he is thinking and soothes himself with obscure ideas which would not satisfy him if expressed in plain speech." (169)
- (3) Misuse and abuse of historical examples. Here the analyst drags in analogies from remote times and places just to show off his erudition, perhaps without recognizing the dissimilarities. The effect is to "distract and confuse one's judgement without proving anything." (169)
In sum, theory should confine itself to simple terms and straight- forward observations of the conduct of war; it must avoid spurious claims and pseudo-scientific forumulae and historical compendia; and it must above all never forget the human element, the moral forces, of war. "Pity the theory, writes Clausewitz, "that conflicts with reason!" (136)