Preferential axioms and war principles

N. Lygeros

Translation: Paola Vagioni

In the framework of strategic thought, from the strategist's point of view, we often have an intrinsic problem, namely the axioms and their choice. Admittedly we can qualify them as preferential axioms, but it is difficult to transform them into war principles. The difficulty comes from the free will of the strategist on the one hand and the reality of war on the other. Should we be based on thought, on action or on the thought of the act, for revealing transversal principles? Should we focus the research on the politics-strategy interface or on the tactical-technical? What is the value of the theoretical discourse to the practical one? It is clear that these questions do not have immediate responses, whether negative or affirmative. What is certain is that strategic thought is more complex than the answers. Because even if the armed forces of land, sea and air are clearly defined from the ontological point of view, they are not on the functional level. Indeed what would be the meaning of an armored division attack without aerial cover? The parachutists battalion which operates by definition in the interface is it not unclassifiable in this category? In a more general way, how can we analyse a methodology that goes from minor tactic to great war, to re-descend again to minor tactic? By exploiting these cut-off logic principles, strategy allows the paradox of constructed deconstruction. We can incorporate in war principles the factors of paralysis, maneuver and exploitation. However simple chess games already demonstrate that paralysis is not necessarily condemned to undergo maneuver and the latter is not necessarily exploitable. Game theory demonstrates in an explicit manner the limitation of zero sum games. So how can we accept notions that do not have a meaning except in this framework? The global architecture of strategy is not accessible via uniquely local knowledge. It is therefore necessary to re-compose and re-construct mental schemata for linking them to a conceptual network. Even without taking into account Gödel's incompleteness theorem, it is primarily difficult to establish a linear and cumulative thought but also a strictly axiomatic conceptualization. Strategy, via its realization, demonstrates that the principles appear more as robust structures rather than rigid. Indeed, the flexibility of war principles cannot be an axiomatic structure transport. Even in the apparently clearer case of total war imagined by Clausewitz, via its hyperbolic character in Ferrero's sense, we have a structural collapse from the opposition between war and peace. However, the polemologic evolution does not occur solely on refusal and reaction. It is necessary to analyse the entirety because it is possible finding dynamic mental schemata in a static framework that is not efficient and it is the same for the opposite to happen. So war principles are more like meta-strategic objectives rather than preferential axioms.

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