[Previous Section] [Table of Contents] [Next Section]
Clausewitz Condensed

Numerical Superiority

"The best strategy," writes Clausewitz, "is always to be very strong; first in general, and then at the decisive point." (204) Like other succinct principles, however, Clausewitz carefully qualifies this one, for "to reduce the whole secret of the art of war to the formula of numerical superiority at a certain time in a certain place [is] an oversimplification that [will not stand up] for a moment against the realities of life." (135) Indeed:

...superiority of numbers in a given engagement is only one of the factors that determines victory. Superior numbers, far from contributing everything, or even a substantial part, to victory, may actually be contributing very little, depending on the circumstances. (194) "But superiority varies in degrees." (194) Thus, "a significant superiority in numbers...will suffice to assure victory, however adverse the other circumstances." (195) In sum, quantitative superiority "must be regarded as fundamental--to be achieved in every case and to the fullest possible extent... But it would be seriously misunderstanding our argument, to consider numerical superiority as indispensable to victory..." (197)