The centre of gravity and its application in limited warfare : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Defence and Strategic Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North
The concept of centre of gravity was first introduced by Clausewitz to military area in his masterpiece: On War. It has been widely used in recent years. However, the interpretations of the concept are seriously confused. Different people and different organisations define the term according to their own understanding. The problems caused by the confusion of the concept in wars and conflicts demonstrate the imperative to refine the concept. In order to explore the possibility of providing a way out, the thesis follows the theme: theory - practice - theory. It tries to achieve four objectives: concluding the natural meaning of the concept of centre of gravity, finding out the current confusion of the concept, refining concept of centre of gravity, creating a strategy and operational centre of gravity analytical model with the Chaos and Complex Theory, and putting forward some suggestions about future application of the concept. In Chapter One and Two, the thesis analysed Sun Zi, Clausewtiz, Liddell Hart, Jomini, Mao Zedong, John Warden, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Joint Chiefs of Staff's related ideas about the concept. It seems that all of them believe that centre of gravity is where one has to focus his effort, and attacking centre of gravity is the most effective and practical way to realise the objectives. Based on the common understanding, the thesis used Chaos and Complex theory to refine the concept to adapt it to non-linear war, to make it as an objective and effectiveness-oriented concept. A strategic and operational model were built in Chapter Two. From Chapters Three to Six, the thesis applied the refined concept and new models to four wars under the circumstances of limited conventional warfare. Given the fact that the centre of gravity has different characters in different kinds of wars, this thesis selected two short wars (the Falklands War and 2003 Gulf War) and two stalemated conflicts (the Vietnam war, and Palestine and Israel conflict) to conduct case studies. The four case of studies showed that the refined concept and new models were able to principally explain the successes or failures in the wars. The studies also provided some revelations for the thesis to discuss the application of the concept in future warfare. However, the application of the concept is a kind of art, not science. Using it to analyse a historical war or operation is one thing, applying it to direct a war or operation is fundamentally different.