Small Wars Journal

By Their Own Hand: The Seven Steps to the Destruction of the Islamic State Caliphate

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 6:09am

By Their Own Hand: The Seven Steps to the Destruction of the Islamic State Caliphate

Michael J. Mooney

“Fools pretend that you can only gain experience at your own expense, but I have always managed to learn at the expense of others.”[1] Attributed to the master Prussian politician and architect of German unification Otto von Bismarck, this sentiment was likewise embraced by George C. Marshall, arguably the preeminent American soldier-statesman of the 20th century.  After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, Marshall was specifically interested in discovering the actions the enemy themselves put into motion which prevented the achievement of their political objectives. Beyond the military superiority and industrial might brought to bear by the Allies, “of almost equal importance,” he stated, “was the failure of the enemy to make the most of the situation.”[2] At critical moments, he opined, the enemy made strategic mistakes in their long-range planning that greatly contributed to their own defeat.[3] Some 70 years later, the same can be said about the Islamic State. Borrowing Marshall’s premise, this essay explores the strategic and operational missteps of the Islamic State which resulted in the collapse of their caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Marshall’s Report

At the end of World War II, Marshall submitted his report, bearing the unwieldy title of “General Marshall’s Report – The Winning of the War in Europe and the Pacific: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army 1943-1945, to the Secretary of War.” Rich in detail, it outlined the Allied strategic and operational considerations, assumptions, and decisions which eventually brought about the defeat of the Axis powers. Looking deeper at the subject, Marshall was also intrigued by the enemy’s viewpoint; why did they believe they lost the war? Regarding the failure of Nazi Germany, Marshall reported that:

…I asked General Eisenhower to have his intelligence officers promptly interrogate the ranking members of the German High Command who are now our prisoners of war. The results of these interviews are of remarkable interest. [They illustrate a] lack of long-range planning that may well have been decisive factors of this world struggle at its most critical moments.[4]

With that charter, the resulting study presented seven distinct “steps in the German defeat, as described by captured members of the High Command.”[5] They were:

  1. The German failure to invade England (1940)
  2. Operation Barbarossa (1941)
  3. The German decision to cut the Volga at Stalingrad and seize the Caucasian oil fields (1942)
  4. The Allied invasion of North Africa (1942)
  5. The Allied invasion of France (1944)
  6. The German counterattack in the Ardennes (1944)
  7. The Allied crossing of the Rhine at Remagen (1945)

What is remarkable about this self-described list of reasons of why the German High Command believed they lost the war is that (at least) four of the seven were self-inflicted; not actions the Allies initiated against Germany, but their own strategic choices. (annotated in bold text above).

Looking critically at the other events, it has been put forth[6] that the Allied second front in Normandy (#5) would not have been able to be opened had the Germans been successful in invading England (#1). Additionally, the Allied crossing of the Rhine at Remagen (#7) could have been prevented had the Germans properly prepared and moved to destroy the Ludendorff bridge before it was under attack. Finally, the German commitment to North Africa was a calculated strategic decision which proved to be an over extension of their forces; a decision which ultimately drained resources and manpower from both Eastern and Western fronts. In the final analysis, all seven steps were, in varying degrees, put into motion by the Nazi leadership. In 2017, the Islamic State has fallen victim to the same fate of impetuous strategic decisions and operational missteps of their own making. And like the Third Reich, the caliphate, with its visions of global rule, has been destroyed.

Application to the Islamic State

If the Islamic State leadership were in fact queried about the reasons for the destruction of their caliphate, what would they say? With the probability of this occurring virtually nil, certain points can be brought to the surface by examining the trajectory of the operational and strategic decisions of the Islamic State from June 2014 to October 2017.  In light of such analysis, it is posited that the following steps resulted in the destruction of the Islamic State caliphate:

  1. Failure of the Islamic State to achieve a policy-strategy match
  2. The Islamic State’s premature transition to the “strategic offensive”
  3. Al-Baghdadi’s unilateral declaration of the caliphate
  4. The Islamic State’s attempt to control territory
  5. The Islamic State’s use of ultra-violence
  6. Incorrect strategic assumptions by the Islamic State leadership
  7. The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh

Failure of the Islamic State to achieve a policy-strategy match: The Islamic State made a fundamental error in its quest for an enduring political victory in that its policy goals were never aligned with its strategy. This policy-strategy mismatch, in which the Islamic State’s policy goals outran its capabilities, contributed significantly to the destruction of the caliphate.

A “policy-strategy match” is when one’s “strategy”, defined here as the correlation between means and ways to achieve a policy goal, is synchronized and capable of achieving the policy goal as set forth by policy makers. Just as much an art as a science, a proper policy-strategy match seeks, “…equilibrium between means and ends: combining the former to achieve the latter, but as adjusting the latter so as to not to overtax the former.”[7]

The criticality of achieving a proper policy-strategy match is illustrated by the many historical examples of strategic actors who have failed to attain their policy goal; either the goal was simply beyond the design, capability, or capacity of their strategy to achieve, or their means and ways were not focused and synchronized properly on achieving the desired political aims. A policy-strategy mismatch inevitably causes misallocation of scarce resources, squandered opportunities, and a lack coordination and prioritization as disparate elements within the political system struggle to achieve the stated policy goal. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II are examples of failed policy-strategy matches, as was the U.S. effort in South Vietnam.

The political objective of the Islamic State was to establish an Islamic State caliphate within territory taken in Iraq and Syria in accordance with the prophetic method[8], expanding over time to encompass all corners of the globe.[9] Although the instability in these countries made them fertile grounds for the caliphate to initially take root, the overall policy goal - both in the Middle East and beyond - was simply beyond the means and ways of the Islamic State to achieve past their initial successes of 2014.

The Islamic State compounded this mismatch by flawed reassessments, and neither modifying its policy goals nor adjusting its strategy. Few leaders, once they have adopted a specific policy aim, are willing to make a drastic change of course due to either political considerations or cognitive pitfalls such as wishful thinking, sunk costs, and unvalidated assumptions.  Mao Tse-Tung was quick to point out that, “a careless military man bases his military plans on his own wishful thinking and hence his plans are fanciful and do not correspond with reality...the plan is partially changed in almost every operation, and sometimes it is even changed completely. A rash man who does not understand the need for such alterations or is unwilling to make them, but who acts blindly, will inevitably run his head into a brick wall.”[10]

In the long-term the group lacked both the strategic acumen and agility, or the physical means, to take operational outcomes on the battlefield and translate them regionally or globally into enduring political results. This reality was cemented into place by the creation of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh (hereafter the “Global Coalition”).[11] The policy-strategy mismatch was a foundational error which plagued all subsequent operational and strategic decisions made by the Islamic State leadership.

The Islamic State’s premature transition to the “strategic offensive”: In their zeal to bring the caliphate into reality, the Islamic State repeated a mistake made by revolutionary actors seeking to overthrow an established order: transitioning too early to “the strategic offensive.”

Maoist revolutionary war theory espouses the concept that the struggle for victory can be divided into three periods, generally characterized by the actions, methods, and goals of the revolutionary forces against the government. For Mao, the ultimate objective of the revolutionary guerrilla/insurgent forces formed, equipped, and trained during phases one (the “strategic defensive”) and two (the “strategic stalemate”) is a transition to phase three – mobile warfare, or the “strategic offensive”.[12]

This final phase, whose objective is the decisive defeat of government forces, is characterized by the temporary abandonment of the asymmetric campaign of violence and intimidation as the primary modus operandi. In its place is full-scale, offensive action executed by revolutionary forces utilizing conventional tactics, formations, and equipment. In simpler terms, the revolutionary forces emerge from the shadows, seize the initiative, and move to decisively defeat the government forces in open warfare. This is what the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did in June 2014 with its headline grabbing seizure of Mosul, Iraq.

Although initially successful, the short-term gain of capturing Mosul would bring long-term damage and harm upon the Islamic State. For while ISIS moved and acted within Mao’s stages one and two, the Iraqi government could viably claim they were providing security and containing the threat the group posed to the Iraqi people – despite losing major cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah to ISIS. However, the manner in which Mosul fell proved to be the difference.

Widely broadcast via social media and news organizations around the world, videos of large convoys of heavily armed men, openly, brazenly travelling in daylight to attack the city projected an image of ISIS strength and Iraqi (and by extension, Western) weakness.[13] It did not matter that ISIS forces had carefully prepared the battlefield in Mosul and had infiltrated forces into the city well in advance of its fall. All that mattered were the videos of ISIS columns in the attack, refugees feeling the advance, images of captured armored vehicles and artillery pieces being paraded down wide city boulevards, and the repeated use in the media of the word blitzkrieg.[14] That word, loaded with images of Hitler’s conquest of Europe, forced the world to take notice.

The most consequential fact regarding the transition to the “strategic offensive” is that the Islamic State made themselves openly vulnerable to the conventional firepower and resources of the newly formed Global Coalition. Previously, the group had moved and operated amongst the civilian populations as an underground insurgent force. In June 2014 they became a “state” with a capital, army, and resources – all of which could be physically attacked. The Islamic State simply could not defend against the high-tech, conventional Global Coalition military campaign; a campaign which they themselves had initiated by transitioning to the “strategic offensive”. Carlos Marighella, the 1960’s Brazilian guerrilla leader and theoretician, outlined in his widely read Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla what he termed the seven sins of the urban guerrilla. The fifth sin was spelled out as that of “precipitous action…[where one] loses patience…and impetuously throws himself into action, suffering untold reverses.”[15] The Islamic State was guilty of this sin, and would go on to commit others in the pursuit of their political objective.

Al-Baghdadi’s unilateral declaration of the caliphate: The fact that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate unilaterally, without the support of the worldwide Muslim community (or even fellow salafi-jihadist groups) had several negative outcomes.

This go-it-alone approach alienated virtually the entire global community of Muslims[16], and ensured that there was not a united, global effort spearheaded by the Islamic State to produce an enduring caliphate. Even Islamic groups that sought the same basic political end of a global caliphate did not support them – most notably al-Qaeda.[17] In the eyes of many, al-Baghdadi and the caliphate were illegitimate.[18] Beyond negative moral support for the caliphate, this meant that tangible support (money, weapons, manpower, equipment) for the Islamic State was severely limited as well.

Economically, the caliphate was forced to live off the fruits of its 2014 victory: the looted banks, captured oil wells, sale of antiquities and the tolls, taxation, and extortion of their newly subjugated population for as long as they could control them. The Islamic State did in fact reap an enormous amount of money from these funding streams, seize a significant number of weapons and ammunition from the Iraqi military, and see an estimated 40,000 foreigners travel to Iraq and Syria to be a part of the caliphate to fight, work, and raise families. But these well springs of money, weapons, and manpower were certain to run dry over time as they became targets for the Global Coalition.  Another of Marighella’s sins was “to undertake projects for which he lacks forces and, as yet, does not have the required infrastructure.”[19] Like a traveler with a single canteen of water to trek across the Sahara, the Islamic State had to quickly reach its destination of securing a global caliphate before the water ran out. It did not.

The Islamic State’s attempt to control territory: The sine qua non of a state is the ability to control territory. The declaration of the caliphate rendered a requirement by the Islamic State to physically govern territory, which, like their transition to the “strategic offensive” exposed the group to the full fury of the high-tech, conventional warfighting power of the Global Coalition.

The claim of effective governance was a key theme put forth in Islamic State propaganda and messaging. While the promise of the utopia of the caliphate attracted thousands of foreign fighters, supporters, and families, it placed a tremendous burden on the Islamic State’s limited resources and again, made it highly vulnerable to attack.

As the offensive against the Islamic State grew in intensity, the toll the Global Coalition’s ground and air campaign had on the resources of the Islamic State exponentially sapped its strength. One by one villages and cities were liberated from their grasp. Fighters whom the Islamic State could not afford to lose were killed in great numbers, as was seen in their attempt to hold the city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border.[20] Losing cities meant a loss of resources, something the Islamic State needed to govern and deliver services to the people residing within the caliphate. Morally, the loss of territory dissuaded people to make hijra to the caliphate[21], turning off the spigot of external manpower they once enjoyed. With the inability to control territory, the myth of the invincibility of the Islamic State began to fade.

The Islamic State’s use of ultra-violence: What truly forced the international community to band together was the Islamic State’s use of ultra-violence as a tool to intimidate and convince local, regional, and global audiences to the strength of the organization’s will, conviction, and determination to achieve their political objective. As presented in Graeme Wood’s 2015 seminal article about ISIS, the group aspired “to scare the shit out of them [the opponents of the Islamic State] with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.”[22] It was a fatal mistake by al-Baghdadi.

While the fall of Mosul did indeed propel the Islamic State to the global stage, this action by itself did not move the world to unite against the group. Beyond rhetorical condemnation of the Islamic State and support for the Iraqi government, the problem was deemed to be an Iraqi one[23]; one that would hopefully be solved by Iraq with minimal material support from a war weary community of nations. Even the declaration of the caliphate did not create a tidal wave of resistance against the proto-state.

That changed beginning in August 2014. The broadcast beheadings of western citizens[24] and the attack on the Yazidi population in Northern Iraq[25] had significant impacts within the political systems of not only those countries directly affected, but by those who feared they too were potential targets for the Islamic State.[26] The continued news barrage of horrific events such as public crucifixions[27], women being forced into sexual slavery[28], throwing homosexuals from buildings[29], or of Islamic State child “soldiers” executing prisoners[30] all served to mobilize countries to act to defeat the Islamic State.

Doubling down, the group attacked targets abroad, seeking to add to the fear, dread, and infamy of the group.  Assaults against citizens in Western Europe - carried out by members of their international cloud of aspirants -  were aimed to convince these governments to abandon the Global Coalition or provoke an overreaction, following what J.M. Berger has termed a strategy of “escalating provocations.”[31] The former aim was a dismal failure; the latter is open for debate.

It was a sin, stated Marighella, for the guerrilla “to boast about the actions he has completed and broadcast them to the four winds.”[32] The result of these highly publicized repulsive and atavistic atrocities was the awakening of the passions of the international community; what Carl von Clausewitz called the “blind natural force” of hatred and enmity.[33] The use of ultra-violence, calculated to shatter their opposition like a “Bologna flask”[34] instead steeled their resolve to defeat the group. It was only after these events did the United States begin its targeted air campaign in earnest against Islamic State forces and assets; previous statements by U.S. President Barack Obama describing “limited” and “targeted” strikes were suddenly replaced by pledges “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.[35] Here yet again the Islamic State committed one of Marighella’s seven sins: “to attack the enemy when he is most angry.”[36] As a result of this renewed American resolve, the Global Coalition began to build the necessary network and cohesion to pool together what would be the combined resources of over 70 nations in the fight against Daesh.[37]

Overall, the use of ultra-violence proved to be the most powerful catalyst for nations to join the newly formed Global Coalition. It is fair to state that the barbarity of the Islamic State super-glued the Global Coalition together. Clausewitz would perhaps declare that in carrying out their strategy of ultra-violence the Islamic State had unknowingly passed their culminating point of victory[38], overplayed their hand, squandered the victory of capturing Mosul, and unleashed the wrath of the Global Coalition.

Incorrect strategic assumptions by the Islamic State leadership: Assumptions are a necessary part of one’s strategic calculus. However, the Islamic State, not unlike other actors throughout history, made poor assumptions regarding the reaction of their opponent to their actions, demonstrating a marginal understanding (or arrogant disregard) of the interactive nature of conflict.

Interaction takes into account that in attempting to achieve one’s political objective, the stakeholders who hold opposite views (i.e., the enemy) are not “potted plants”; they do not sit still and simply take up space. Every action one takes (or not takes) will trigger some sort of response (or non-response) from both friend and foe. As Clausewitz states, what makes interaction especially tricky is that by its very nature it is unpredictable.[39] Therefore, it must involve making assumptions about how one’s enemy will react both politically and militarily. The assumptions made by the Islamic State involved both these elements; they both proved to be incorrect.

The first assumption involved ascertaining the will of those who would dare to stand against the Islamic State. Specifically, the will of the global political leadership, as well as the will of their civilian populations. Based on the course of the past decade of protracted involvement in Iraq and the growing morass in Syria, the Islamic State assumed that Western political leaders and their citizenry lacked the will to oppose them. The value of Iraq and Syria, they believed, was simply not worth the magnitude of resources and amount of time[40] required to wrestle them from the grasp of the now militarily powerful Islamic State.

The Islamic State then made a subsequent assumption that the global community would never unite diplomatically or militarily in response to their declaration of the caliphate, capture of Mosul, and use of ultra-violence. Falling victim to the pitfall of “script writing”, the Islamic State wrote out a strategic script regarding how the world would react to their actions. Based upon lessons learned from recent events in the region, they saw that the American-led invasion of Iraq threw the region into chaos, and Western involvement in Libya had proved to be a disaster.[41] Furthermore, trusted allies of the U.S. had failed to back the American threat of military action against Syria after the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in 2013.[42] Together, these painful lessons would dissuade any thoughts of intervention against the Islamic State; in the words of Obama, doing “stupid shit”.[43] It was also reckoned that Sunni Muslim countries would at best remain neutral in the fight.[44]

The first assumption proved to be catastrophically untrue, which rendered the second null and void. The value of the object of was not necessarily centered on Iraq and Syria per se, but the goal of defeating the Islamic State.  As it turned out, these assumptions led them down a strategic and operational path which ultimately produced the “efficient cause” of the caliphate’s destruction: the Global Coalition.

The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh: A common thread which runs through the previous six steps in this discussion is the Global Coalition. Considered against the other strategic actions put into motion by the Islamic State, the political and military might of the Global Coalition was absolutely consequential to the destruction of the caliphate. Ironically, the Global Coalition was a direct result of the strategic choices made by the Islamic State in pursuit of their political objective. Using Aristotelian distinctions concerning causation, the Global Coalition was the “efficient cause” of the destruction of the caliphate in that it was the primary source of this outcome.

Initially formed in September 2014 by the United States, as of this writing the Global Coalition lists 71 partners and four institutions as partners united in the campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh. The combined contributions of this coalition, across multiple lines of effort, eventually brought overwhelming economic, informational, diplomatic, and military power to bear against the Islamic State.

In their own right, the non-kinetic efforts of the Global Coalition, such as shutting down the flow of foreign fighters to the caliphate, starving it of funding, securing borders, sharing intelligence, providing humanitarian aid, and waging an aggressive informational campaign to counter the toxic and misleading narrative put forth by the Islamic State all gravely weakened the caliphate. However, as much as these efforts mattered, the physical reality of the caliphate demanded a robust military campaign to liberate 7.7 million people (as of January 2018)[45] in territory occupied by Islamic State fighters.

To that end an unrelenting air campaign against Daesh tactical forces, command and control nodes, lines of communications, and military equipment stockpiles was unleashed, complemented by hard won victories on the ground by conventional Iraqi and Syrian Democratic Forces units supported and advised by Global Coalition forces. With increasing frequency special forces raids killed and captured key Islamic State leaders with ruthless precision. In a sequential campaign, Iraqi cities once controlled by the Islamic State were liberated, with the crown jewel of Mosul, falling in July 2017. The situation was much the same in Syria, with the Islamic State’s self-declared capital city of Raqqa being retaken in October 2017. The loss of these cities was fatal to the existence of a physical caliphate.[46]

The cumulative efforts of the Global Coalition campaign – both kinetic and non-kinetic efforts - destroyed the physical caliphate. As history illustrates, the magnified strength of a unified coalition is incredibly consequential in achieving one’s objective. Even with only a portion of the Global Coalition countries contributing hard power (i.e., military might) the Islamic State was woefully outmatched because of its choice to transition to the strategic offensive and control territory. If, according to Clausewitz, one’s strength (or the power to resist) is in fact a product of one’s means available multiplied by one’s political will to use the means[47], the caliphate was mathematically doomed once the Global Coalition was formed.


At the outset of this discussion the question was asked, “What would the Islamic State leadership describe as the steps to the destruction of their physical caliphate?” Absent the current ability to interrogate the “high command” of the Islamic State such as the Allies did with the Nazi leadership captured in 1945, the following steps have been put forth as the self-inflicted causes of the destruction of the caliphate:

  1. Failure of the Islamic State to achieve a policy-strategy match
  2. The Islamic State’s premature transition to the “strategic offensive”
  3. Al-Baghdadi’s unilateral declaration of the caliphate
  4. The Islamic State’s attempt to control territory
  5. The Islamic State’s use of ultra-violence
  6. Incorrect strategic assumptions by the Islamic State leadership
  7. The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh

In each instance the poorly conceived strategic actions of the Islamic State accumulated to bring about the demise of their caliphate. As seen in the defeat of Nazi Germany, it certainly does not hurt to have “a cooperative enemy”; cooperative in that the enemy makes ill-advised operational and strategic decisions which bring about their own downfall. As Sun Tzu sagely advised, “There are some roads not to follow; some troops not to strike; some cities not to assault; and some ground which should not be contested.”[48] Discretion and timing are critical in war; the Islamic State failed in both.

The Islamic State caliphate has indeed been shattered; its existence a mere 1,206 days. Although hard to project at the time, thanks to the torrent of news stories extolling their continuous successes against their opposition, the initial victories of the Islamic State were in reality self-inflicted wounds that would result in their failure to achieve an enduring state. In this aspect their motto of baqiya wa-tatamaddad (remaining and expanding) has been proven to be an empty boast.

As perhaps the most complex endeavor known to man, war is merciless in punishing even the slightest misstep; in the end the side that makes the least mistakes (usually) wins. Although initially successful at the tactical and operational level, the Islamic State’s failure to appreciate interaction produced poor long-range planning decisions which proved to be catastrophic. Over 2,500 years ago, the Athenian general and statesman Pericles soberly warned his fellow citizens that more than the enemy’s strategy, he feared the Athenians’ own strategic blunders.[49] With the rubble of what once was Mosul and Raqqa standing as testaments to the Islamic State’s strategic missteps, Pericles’ warning thankfully speaks to the destruction of the Islamic State caliphate within Iraq and Syria.

However, the final chapter in this story has yet to be written. Clausewitz offers his readers a dire predication that is especially relevant to the continued fight against the Islamic State: “…even the ultimate outcome of a war is not always to be regarded as final. The defeated state often considers the outcome merely a transitory evil, for which a remedy may still be found in political conditions at some later date.”[50] One can only hope that in moving forward the key stakeholders in this struggle can avoid the strategic blunders which could enable the Islamic State to rise yet again.

End Notes

[1] Henry Hayward, Trans., Bismarck Intime (London: Dean and Son, 1890), 180.

[2] General Marshall’s Report – The Winning of the War in Europe and the Pacific: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army 1943-1945, to the Secretary of War, Simon and Schuster, 1, 1945.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 2.

[7] Hal Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy? (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 2.

[8] William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015), 122.

[9] Ibid, 139.

[10] Mao Tse-Tung, Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-Tung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967), 86-87.

[12] Mao, 210-214.

[15] Carlos Marighella, “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla,” in Terror and Urban Guerrillas: A Study of Tactics and Documents, ed., Jay Mallin, (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1982), 110.

[19] Marighella, 110.

[32] Marighella, 100. The same sin was committed with the widely broadcast capture of Mosul as described in the Islamic State’s premature transition to the strategic offensive.

[33] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 89.

[34] Ibid., 572.

[36] Marighella, 110.

[38] Clausewitz, 570.

[39] Bradford Lee, “Strategic Interaction,” in Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice, ed. Thomas G. Mahnken (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 28.

[40] Clausewitz, 92.

[47] Clausewitz, 77.

[48] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 111.

[49] Robert B. Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 83-84.

[50] Clausewitz, 80.

About the Author(s)

Michael J. Mooney is a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, having previously served as a Military Professor of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval College. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Program on Terrorism and Strategic Studies (PTSS) at the George C. Marshall Center, as well as a Senior Associate with the Naval College’s Center for Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG). The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.