The Principles of War Podcast
19 Hannibal and the definition of Center of Gravity
CoG AnalysisPodcast

19 – Hannibal and the definition of Center of Gravity

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Was the loss of the 2nd Punic War related to a faulty understanding of the Center of Gravity?  Hannibal was clearly one of the best Generals in history.  How could he win 3 major battles against Rome, but he wasn’t able to win the second Punic war.

We discuss the definition Center of Gravity, where it came from and why it is so confusing and why Hannibal and his staff may have struggled with the concept of Centre of Gravity.

Has the meaning of the Center of Gravity been lost in translation?  How has the usage of Schwerpunkt transformed over time?

The Bundeswehr now uses the term Centre of Gravity, rather than the term in it’s native German.

We look at the evolution of the definition for CoG from when it was first used in US Army doctrine.

LWD 1 gives us the following definition – The centre of gravity is that characteristic, capability or locality from which a force, nation or alliance derives its freedom of action, strength or will to fight. At the tactical level, the centre of gravity will often change as the mission progresses and will frequently be determined by the interaction of enemy and friendly intentions.  The approaches to defeating the enemy’s centre of gravity are described as dislocation, disruption and destruction.

How does this relate to what Clausewitz was originally talking about?  Is the characteristic in the definition part of the problem?

What about multiple Centers of Gravity?  How does that work?

How are Centres and Gravities nested?  Have a look at the example given in Levels of War and Iraqi CoGs from the 1991 Gulf War.


Centre of Gravity

The relationship between Genters of Gravity at different levels of war by Strange and Iron.

What about the Center of Gravity in a Coalition?  We look at the Scud Hunt was a major part of shielding the CoG of the Coalition.

Flexibility for commanders increases with the level of their command because  there are more resources and greater scope to shape your enemy.

We look at the surfaces and gaps that need to be thought about and how you can shield your CoG and critical capabilities.

Would Hannibal had been better off using Joint Doctrine rather than the Army Doctrine for a definition of Centre of Gravity that he and his staff could use?  We look at the Carthaginian navy, the development of the corvus and how the Romans took a land strength onto the open seas.

Finally – why did Hannibal cross the Alps?

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