Monday, January 26, 2009

Clausewitz on Captain Moroni's Genius

The influential military theoretician Karl Von Clausewitz outlined several criteria for what makes a military leader a genius.

-Courage is the first requirement. Moroni had physical courage. In the Battle of Mulek (Alma 52) Moroni was wounded in battle, presumably fighting the enemy commander, Jacob, in one on one combat. (Alma 52:35, compare with Alma 2:29-33) Unlike Napoleon but more like Alexander the Great, Moroni fought at the head of his troops. Clausewitz also referred to the courage to face civilian audit. Moroni powerfully displayed his courage in the face of civilian audit by heavily criticizing the government. It is doubtful the government could have removed Moroni from his command: He had the loyal veterans, and like Caesar was not afraid to cross the Rubicon. Although when Moroni complained to the government he did cite their power to muster, equip, and feed men; and he cited that many men were dying from the lack of government care, so the government had significant power as well.

-Strength is next. Physical strength is important, but Clausewitz refers more to the mental stamina and physical power to perceive what is right and then follow it. The army is described as a "machine". And the machine is only as responsive and efficient as the general in charge of it. Thus the will of the general pushes the machine to greatness. I can think of Stonewall Jackson and his ability to move his army with such speed that he mentally disabled the enemy. Moroni was able to achieve decisive results by rapidly moving and motivating his "machine". Inherent in any military operation is the concept of "friction". A talented general can overcome friction and achieve his goals. He did this with able lieutenants like Lehi and Teancum; he also did this with ideological motivation like the Title of Liberty, and presumably the example of his physical courage.

-Coup De Oeil This is a french term that refers to the leaders ability to "see the light" and follow the light. Again, this is a mental continuation of physical strength, where a leader must have the strength to weigh the massive amounts of information and quickly discern what is right. It also has a religious overtone. Moroni had both the mental ability and the spiritual ability to see what was right (the light) and he had the physical and character strength to follow it in the face of opposition. He could animate the machine to follow and obtain the light of victory. (See my paper published by BCC Papers for Moroni's skill at seeing and following his strategic vision)

-determination vs. obstinacy. Clausewitz describes a fine line between a general courageously overcoming odds (in following the light) and a general that is obstinately refusing to accept reality. The line is a refusal to change based on a clear conviction. There are a couple instances of Moroni changing course based on clear conviction. The first is his execution of the king men. In being invaded Moroni saw the enemy within and without his realm. He sought and obtained power from the people to end the internal threat to better meet the external threat. After the important city of Nephihah fell, Moroni quickly ascertained the cause of the government neglect and "marched speedily" to restore the government. (Alma 61:15,17)

-imagination/terrain. This quality refers to the mental ability to envision (imagine) and use both micro and macro terrain. His use of tactical ruses in Alma 43 and 52 show his ability at mastering micro terrain. His desire to hold certain cities, and to build military garrisons represents his ability to master strategic terrain. His rallying the people in Alma 46 against Amalickiah represents his ability to judge human terrain as well.

-changing the rules. A commander must be revolutionary in his application of military principle. Moroni armed his soldiers to such a degree that the Zoramites retreated into the wilderness. He also fortified "after the manner of Moroni" (Alma 51) so that he "astonished" his opponents. (Alma 49) This also brings up an item: If the Book of Mormon prominently displays a story, is that because it is a text book example of the normal, or because it is incredibly unique. If its the latter, than Moroni's use of the Title of Liberty changed the rules of the game. But there is significant evidence (In a paper currently submitted to the Journal of BoM studies) that it is textbook.

In short, Moroni meets the criteria established by Clausewitz in determining a military genius. Studying the leadership of Moroni from a theoretical standpoint allows us to better understand the interaction betweenthe demands of military leadership and the demands of discipleship.


Christopher said...

Great post. Have you read Nibley's "War and the Book of Mormon"? You can find it here:

Morgan Deane said...

I have read that, its a great article. Its also published in Warfare in the Book of Mormon. Thanks for commenting, and I am glad you enjoyed it.

BRoz said...

Great article, thank you. Let us know when your paper is published.