You are on page 1of 2

Friction in War by Clausewitz 1

Definition of Friction.

Clausewitz defines friction of war as the random and unpredictable events within a given conflict
that cannot be foreseen. The basic definition of friction does not apply to Clausewitz; it is rather a
series of events that inherently complicate even the simplest of tasks. Furthermore Clausewitz
describes friction in war as the only concept that distinguishes war in theoretical terms from the
experience of real war. Thus in theory the friction cannot be simulated as individuals within the war
contribute their own unique friction, each making constant contact with the element of chance.
Friction can be best described as an unseen “force” that turns what seems ordinary and simple into a
series of complicated events.

How friction affects war.

The effects of friction in war are the center of Clausewitz friction theory. The military structure,
although rigid and complex, can be easily understood and adopted. However friction brings into this
structure the elements of chance (Weather, mistakes, miscalculations etc.) that cannot be foreseen,
therefore the commander must correct these errors as they arise, thus affecting war at the tactical
and strategic levels.

Other effects are seen on the individuals and how they form a part of the friction. Personnel are the
primary element in the military complex therefore making them an important part of friction. The
actions they execute, or failure to do so, play an important role when considering friction. Military
hardware causes friction as it relates to technology, equipment can, and will break down…

Friction also creates particular problems in strategic planning, making commanders aware of
possible problems in seamlessly simple tasks that may involve supply, command and control among
many. Although friction cannot be placed into the planning formula it must certainly be discussed in
the form of alternate instructions and other contingency plans…

Friction as it relates to the three elements of war.

The three elements of war are, according to Clausewitz, violence, chance and politics.

In violence friction becomes apparent as it relates directly to people and the friction that the
individual exerts on the particular action. It is because of the element of chance, and how it relates
to friction, that cannot be easily measured in relation to planning because it involves abstract things
such as morale, will and other factors that cannot be neatly categorized. In friction, as it relates to
politics, Clausewitz disassociates the military from the government making it an integral part of

How may friction be overcome?

The commanding general must posses a complete understanding of friction. Clausewitz compares it
to a “sense of warfare” that must be obtained from actual war. Clausewitz provides a single element
for the reduction of friction in his book “On War”, and is simply stated as, combat experience.


2 . Friction exercises the mind of the commander into thinking the "Unthinkable". and who can instruct the ones that have not have being involved in real combat. and adapting to new developments that may arise in the ever changing battlefield in order to achieve the objectives of combat. in the intricacies and factors of combat that are particular to a conflict… Conclusion …although friction may be perceived as an abstraction (as it probably is) it is nonetheless an important part of strategic and military thought.However Clausewitz offers an alternative to real combat experience in the form of (Good) officers that have served in war(s).