The Center Of Gravity During The Falkland Conflict

1760 words - 7 pages

Much confusion has arisen from misinterpretation of Clausewitz’s discussions on Schwerpunkt or “center of gravity”. Many students of military theory interpret Clausewitz’s ideas through their own historical perspectives. For example, military officers tend to confuse military objectives for centers of gravity, assuming physical objects such as ships or cities are the source of a countries power. While these objects may provide tactical advantages, true power arises from the critical strengths possessed by a country, be they political, diplomatic, military, or informational. The Argentinean military junta made similar mistakes during their invasion of the Falklands. Without fully understanding the source of British power in the region, the Argentineans attacked military objectives, while missing British centers of gravity. Because they failed to analyze the critical factors and capabilities of both the enemy and themselves, they were doomed to failure from the outset of the mission.
Vego defines the center of gravity as the “source of massed strength—physical or moral—or a source of leverage whose serious degradation, dislocation, neutralization, or destruction would have the most decisive impact on the enemy’s or one’s own ability to accomplish a given military objective.” (Vego, 2007). On the strategic level, a nation’s strength arises from its political, military, economic, and informational power. Nations use these powers against opponents to achieve political goals. Successful campaigns leverage a nation’s strengths against enemy’s weaknesses.
By the fall of 1981, the Argentinean government under the leadership of General Galtieri and the military junta was experiencing a significant decrease of power. Economically, in the previous year inflation had risen 600% and GDP had fallen 11% (Rock, 1987). Politically, sovereignty claims against Chile in the Beagle Conflict had been decided in Chile’s favor by the Pope (Laudy, 2000). To distract the population, Galtieri sought to turn military and informational (psychological) strength into political capital. By capturing the Falkland Islands, Galtieri hoped spark a nationalistic fervor, thereby avoiding general strikes and a possible governmental overthrow. He had good reason to think that he would succeed.
Critical strengths are capabilities considered essential for accomplishing an objective. Argentina had several critical strengths that would serve her advantage (Vego, 2007). First off, Argentina had a moral and legal claim to the Falkland Islands (Laver, 2001, pp. 66-71). Three hundred miles off the coast of Argentina and 8000 miles from England, the Islands had been successively occupied by various colonial powers since they were first settled in 1764. The island had been under British sovereignty since the Argentinean governor was evicted in 1833. In 1960 the UN passed a declaration stating all former colonies should be allowed independence and self-determination. ...

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