"The Strategy of a warrior state: Rome and the wars against Carthage, 264-201 B.C."

Essay by Ania_Polka_chickieUniversity, Master'sA+, October 2006

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This critical paper will review Bernstein's case study as it relates to the theoretical frameworks set out in Clausewitz, Corbett, Mahan and Sun Tsu. Certain critical elements of strategy as identified by the classical strategists noted-above will be selected and analyzed within the context of the Punic War. The selected elements of strategy are as follow: (1) strategic assumption, (2) strategic center of gravity and policy match, (3) coalitions, (4) strategic endurance, (5) civil-military relations (6) reassessment, and (7) naval strategy. The assessment will then focus as to how these elements of strategy were applied resulting in either success or failure. Although the elements of strategy are discussed separately they are interrelated and should be considered in a holistic sense. Our critical review will be initiated with an examination of "strategic assumptions."


Strategic assumptions are planned at the outset of all military campaigns and must be valid or a plan is likely to fail.

Both Sun Tsu and Clausewitz underline the importance of considering various options and the intellectual considerations of war. Sun Tsu is explicit in his advice " Weight the situation, then more." Clausewitz also emphasizes the importance of decision-making, the identification of objectives and overall evaluation. Clausewitz writes as follows:

"No one starts a war- or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so-without being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."

The strategic assumption underlying the Carthaginian goal was to conduct a successful land military operation in Italy would disrupt and ultimately destroy the Roman alliance structure. Defections by allies would follow and this would deprive Rome of its significant manpower advantage. Hannibal would then be able to dictate Carthaginian terms to a defeated Rome. In spite of major...