There is still controversy over whether war is a science or an art. Efforts to define war as entirely a science have failed. Scientific methods are essential in explaining what occurs in war, and business models aid in managing military organization, planning forces, and designing weapons. Quantifying has its place, but these methods are less suitable as one approaches the operational and strategic levels. A knowledge and understanding of war must be based on science, but its actual conduct is largely an art. Scientific and technological advances will not change that reality. The character of war may alter substantially, yet its nature in the Clausewitzian sense will remain. Seeking to make war simple, predictable, and thus controllable will collapse under the larger weight of such intangibles as the human factor and the psychological elements, which will always ensure there is a fog of war. […]
Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) warned that so-called mathematical factors can never find a firm basis in military calculations. In his view, war most closely resembles a game of cards. […]
The most dramatic changes in military theory that led to a more refined view of warfare occurred in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The major cultural trends in Germany were romanticism, nationalism, and idealism. German romanticism challenged the fundamentals of the French-dominated Enlightenment’s worldview. It was opposed to the French cultural and political imperialism. It led to the awakening of German national sentiment. German thinkers of the “counter-Enlightenment” believed that concepts of knowledge and reality are fundamentally false, or at least exaggerated. For them, the world was not simple but highly complex, composed of innumerable and unique elements and events, and always in a state of flux. […]
Clausewitz believed only in broad generalities, none of which consistently held true in the fog and friction of actual combat. […]
The principal psychological features of any war are hatred, hostility, violence, uncertainty (or fog of war), friction, fear, danger, irrationality, chance, and luck. For Clausewitz, a war was a trinity composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity—a blind natural force. […] He pointed out that the only situation a commander can know fully is his own. […]
Clausewitzian views on the true nature of war remain valid today. The human element is the single most critical aspect of warfare. Human nature has changed little despite vast changes in military technologies. Warfare is too complex and unpredictable an activity to be taken over by machines or explained and managed by pseudoscientific theories. Only the human brain is fully capable of reacting in a timely and proper fashion to the sudden and unanticipated changes in the situation and countering the enemy’s actions and reactions. The enemy has his own will. He can react unpredictably or irrationally.