The Army (and probably the civilian world as well) has the idea that we should look at our adversaries as systems with nodes and links, rather than as entities as a whole. We should attempt to see their capabilities, strengths, and vulnerabilities. An adversary’s Center of Gravity (COG) (a vulnerability) is the point at which we should apply the utmost pressure. This is because the COG is where many of the nodes in the system are linked together. If we disable/disrupt/destroy the adversary’s COG the other nodes within the system, in theory, won’t be able to function (as well).
So, the COG is an adversary’s chief vulnerability. It is the source through which he is able to generate strength (by building equipment/massing his force), maneuver freely (so he can seize the initiative – and thereby control the tempo/conditions of the engagement), or maintain the will to fight. For instance, when the US-led coalition sacked Iraq in 2003 they determined that the Center of Gravity was Saddam Hussein. He was a jealous and paranoid leader who feared that his generals may someday team up and overthrow him. So, he didn’t allow them to coordinate with one another. So, if we could silence Saddam we could make it so that the Iraqi Army both didn’t have orders coming down from the top and wouldn’t coordinate with one another out of fear from Saddam’s reprisal. We isolated smaller chunks of his army and destroyed them with our massed force. Saddam enabled their freedom of maneuver through his commands. We disrupted that. Then we took their will to fight by destroying units one-by-one. Much of the will probably wasn’t there in the first place since he was horrible to the Shia and the Kurds.
Of course, by destroying Saddam’s Iraq system we created another (tougher) system to fight. The new system had a less clear COG, too. But we did resolutely topple the Iraq system in 2003…and we did it by attacking the COG.
I think nowadays we’re in a constant state of semi-war with everybody, and every other nation is also in a pseudo-war with every other nation. It’s not happening with guns per say, but with economies, alliances and diplomacy, messaging, and offensive/defensive cyber-operations. We’re always setting the conditions for when war does breakout. We’re always searching for the adversary’s COG, trying to create one, and protecting our own. These pseudo-wars can even result in indirect operations to attack a COG without a shot being fired. In actual war we generally attack directly – it’s obvious. Not so in today’s world. -Carl Miller