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Carl Philipp Gottfried (or Gottlieb) von Clausewitz (; – ) was a Prussian general and
military theorist Military theory is the analysis of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ...
who stressed the "moral" (meaning, in modern terms,
psychological Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is ...
) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, , was unfinished at his death. Clausewitz was a realist in many different senses and, while in some respects a romantic, also drew heavily on the rationalist ideas of the European
Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * Age of Enlightenment, period in Western intellectual history from the late 17th to late 18th century, centered in France but also encompassing: ** Midlands Enlightenment ...
. Clausewitz's thinking is often described as
Hegelian Hegelianism is the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel in which reality has a conceptual structure. Pure Concepts are not subjectively applied to sense-impressions but rather things exist for actualizing their ''a priori'' pure concept. The concept o ...
because of his
dialectic Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
al method; but, although he was probably personally acquainted with Hegel, there remains debate as to whether or not Clausewitz was in fact influenced by him.Cormier, Youri. War As Paradox: Clausewitz & Hegel on Fighting Doctrines and Ethics, (Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen's University Press, 2016) http://www.mqup.ca/war-as-paradox-products-9780773547698.php He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the "
fog of war The fog of war (german: links=no, Nebel des Krieges) is the uncertainty Uncertainty refers to epistemic Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, s ...
" (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of
fear Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion Emotions are psychological state A mental state is a state of mind that an agent is in. Most simplistically, a mental state is a mental condition. It is a relation that connects the agent with a pr ...

fear
, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders. He saw history as a vital check on
erudite {{wiktionary, erudition, erudite The word erudition came into Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. ...

erudite
abstractions that did not accord with experience. In contrast to the early work of
Antoine-Henri Jomini Antoine-Henri, Baron Jomini (; 6 March 177924 March 1869) was a French-Swiss officer who served as a General officer, general in the France, French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of ...

Antoine-Henri Jomini
, he argued that war could not be quantified or reduced to mapwork, geometry, and graphs. Clausewitz had many
aphorisms An aphorism (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...
, of which the most famous is "War is the continuation of politics by other means."


Name

Clausewitz's Christian names are sometimes given in non-German sources as "Karl," "Carl Philipp Gottlieb," or "Carl Maria." He spelled his own given name with a "C" in order to identify with the classical Western tradition; writers who use "Karl" are often seeking to emphasize his German (rather than European) identity. "Carl Philipp Gottfried" appears on Clausewitz's tombstone. Nonetheless, sources such as military historian
Peter Paret Peter Paret (April 13, 1924 – September 11, 2020) was a German-born American cultural and intellectual historian, whose two principal areas of research were war and the interaction of art and politics from 18th to 20th century Europe.
and ''
Encyclopædia Britannica The (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia") is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia which is now published exclusively as an online encyclopedia, online encyclopaedia. It was formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., ...
'' continue to use Gottlieb instead of Gottfried.


Life and military career

Clausewitz was born on 1 June 1780 in
Burg bei Magdeburg Burg (also known as Burg bei Magdeburg to distinguish from other places with the same name) is a town of about 22,400 inhabitants on the Elbe–Havel Canal in northeastern Germany, northeast of Magdeburg. It is the capital of the Jerichower Land ...
in the Prussian
Duchy of Magdeburg The Duchy of Magdeburg (german: Herzogtum Magdeburg) was a province of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from 1680 to 1701 and a province of the German Kingdom of Prussia from 1701 to 1807. It replaced the Archbishopric of Magdeburg after its secular ...
as the fourth and youngest son of a family that made claims to a noble status which Carl accepted. Clausewitz's family claimed descent from the Barons of Clausewitz in Upper Silesia, though scholars question the connection. His grandfather, the son of a
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Jesus Christ and was founded by Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology ...
pastor, had been a professor of theology. Clausewitz's father, once a lieutenant in the
army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch Military branch ...
of
Frederick the Great Frederick II (german: Friedrich II.; 24 January 171217 August 1786) was King in Prussia King ''in'' Prussia ( German: ''König in Preußen'') was a title used by the Prussian kings (also in personal union Electors of Brandenburg) from 1701 ...

Frederick the Great
,
King of Prussia The monarchs of Prussia were members of the House of Hohenzollern The House of Hohenzollern (, also , , german: Haus Hohenzollern, ro, Casa de Hohenzollern) is a German royal whose members were variously s, , s and of , , , the , and . Th ...

King of Prussia
, held a minor post in the Prussian internal-revenue service. Clausewitz entered the Prussian military service at the age of twelve as a
lance-corporal #REDIRECT Lance corporal Lance corporal is a military rank, used by many armed forces worldwide, and also by some police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State ( ...
, eventually attaining the rank of major general. Clausewitz served in the Rhine Campaigns (1793–1794) including the Siege of Mainz, when the
Prussian army The Royal Prussian Army (1701–1919, german: Königlich Preußische Armee) served as the army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that figh ...
invaded France during the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a spanning and in the and the , and s. Its ...

French Revolution
, and fought in the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
from 1806 to 1815. He entered the '' Kriegsakademie'' (also cited as "The German War School", the "Military Academy in Berlin", and the "Prussian Military Academy," later the "War College") in Berlin in 1801 (aged 21), probably studied the writings of the philosophers
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
and/or
Fichte Johann Gottlieb Fichte (; ; 19 May 1762 – 29 January 1814) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Meta ...

Fichte
and
Schleiermacher Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (; November 21, 1768 – February 12, 1834) was a German Reformed Church, Reformed theology, theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Age o ...
and won the regard of General
Gerhard von Scharnhorst Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst (12 November 1755 – 28 June 1813) was a Hanoverian-born general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or n ...

Gerhard von Scharnhorst
, the future first chief-of-staff of the newly reformed Prussian Army (appointed 1809). Clausewitz,
Hermann von Boyen Leopold Hermann Ludwig von Boyen (20 June 1771 – 15 February 1848) was a Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 with Duchy of Prussia, a duchy c ...
(1771–1848) and Karl von Grolman (1777–1843) were among Scharnhorst's primary allies in his efforts to reform the Prussian army between 1807 and 1814. Clausewitz served during the Jena Campaign as
aide-de-camp An ''aide-de-camp'' (, ; French expression meaning literally ''helper in the ilitarycamp'') is a personal assistant A personal assistant, also referred to as personal aide (PA) or personal secretary (PS), is a job title describing a per ...

aide-de-camp
to Prince August. At the
Battle of Jena-Auerstedt A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and force c ...
on 14 October 1806—when Napoleon invaded Prussia and defeated the massed Prussian-Saxon army commanded by Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand,
Duke of Brunswick A duke (male) can either be a monarch ranked below the emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the f ...
—he was captured, one of the 25,000 prisoners taken that day as the Prussian army disintegrated. He was 26. Clausewitz was held prisoner with his prince in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
from 1807 to 1808. Returning to Prussia, he assisted in the reform of the Prussian army and state. On 10 December 1810 he married the socially prominent
Countess Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility ...

Countess
Marie von Brühl, whom he had first met in 1803. She was a member of the noble German von Brühl family originating in
Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuringia ( ), is a states of Germany, state of Germany. Located in central Germany, it covers , being the sixth smallest of the sixteen German States (including City States). It ...
. The couple moved in the highest circles, socialising with Berlin's political, literary, and intellectual élite. Marie was well-educated and politically well-connected—she played an important role in her husband's career progress and intellectual evolution. She also edited, published, and introduced his collected works. Opposed to Prussia's enforced alliance with
Napoleon I Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led Napoleon Bonaparte's battle record, several successful campaigns during the French Rev ...

Napoleon I
, Clausewitz left the Prussian army and served in the
Imperial Russian Army The Imperial Russian Army (russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, tr. ) was the land armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily in ...

Imperial Russian Army
from 1812 to 1813 during the
Russian Campaign The French invasion of Russia, also known as the Russian Campaign, the Second Polish War, the Second Polish Campaign, the Patriotic War of 1812 , and the War of 1812, was begun by Napoleon to force Russian Empire, Russia back into the Co ...
, taking part in the
Battle of Borodino The Battle of Borodino. was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 during Napoleon's French invasion of Russia The French invasion of Russia, also known as the Russian Campaign, the Second Polish War, the Second Polish Campaign, the Pat ...

Battle of Borodino
(1812). Like many Prussian officers serving in Russia, he joined the
Russian-German LegionGerman-Russian or Russian-German (with or without hyphen) may refer to: *Germany–Russia relations (c.f. a "German–Russian treaty") *Germans in the old Russian Empire or present-day Russia **History of Germans in Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Uni ...
in 1813. In the service of the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
, Clausewitz helped negotiate the
Convention of Tauroggen The Convention of Tauroggen was an armistice An armistice is a formal agreement Agreement or concord (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates. It is an ins ...
(1812), which prepared the way for the coalition of Prussia, Russia, and the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
that ultimately defeated Napoleon and his allies. In 1815 the Russian-German Legion became integrated into the Prussian Army and Clausewitz re-entered Prussian service as a colonel. He was soon appointed chief-of-staff of
Johann von Thielmann Johann Adolf, Freiherr von Thielmann (27 April 176510 October 1824) was a Electorate of Saxony, Saxon soldier who served with Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia and France during the Napoleonic Wars. Biography Thielmann was born at Dresden. Ent ...
's III Corps. In that capacity he served at the
Battle of Ligny The Battle of Ligny was fought on 16 June 1815, in which French troops of the L'Armée du Nord, Armée du Nord under the command of Napoleon I of France, Napoleon I defeated part of a Prussian army under Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blüch ...
and the
Battle of Wavre The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days The Hundred Days (french: les Cent-Jours ), also known as the War of the Seventh Coalition, marked the period between Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (1 ...

Battle of Wavre
during the Waterloo Campaign in 1815. An army led personally by Napoleon defeated the Prussians at
Ligny Ligny ( wa, Lignè) is a village of Wallonia Wallonia (; french: link=no, Wallonie ; wa, link=no, Waloneye; german: link=no, Wallonien or ; nl, link=no, Wallonië ) is one of the three communities, regions and language areas of Belgium, regi ...
(south of Mont-Saint-Jean and the village of
Waterloo Waterloo most commonly refers to: * Battle of Waterloo, a battle on 18 June 1815 in which Napoleon met his final defeat :* Waterloo, Belgium, a municipality in Belgium from which the battle took its name *London Waterloo station, the UK's largest an ...
) on 16 June 1815, but they withdrew in good order. Napoleon's failure to destroy the Prussian forces led to his defeat a few days later at the
Battle of Waterloo The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo Waterloo most commonly refers to: * Battle of Waterloo, a battle on 18 June 1815 in which Napoleon met his final defeat :* Waterloo, Belgium, a municipality in Belgium fr ...

Battle of Waterloo
(18 June 1815), when the Prussian forces arrived on his right flank late in the afternoon to support the Anglo-Dutch-Belgian forces pressing his front. Napoleon had convinced his troops that the field grey uniforms were those of Marshal Grouchy's grenadiers. Clausewitz's unit fought heavily outnumbered at
Wavre Wavre (; nl, Waver, ; wa, Wåve) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd ed ...

Wavre
(18–19 June 1815), preventing large reinforcements from reaching Napoleon at Waterloo. After the war, Clausewitz served as the director of the '' Kriegsakademie'', where he served until 1830. In that year he returned to active duty with the army. Soon afterward, the outbreak of several revolutions around Europe and appeared to presage another major European war. Clausewitz was appointed chief of staff of the only army Prussia was able to mobilise in this emergency, which was sent to the Polish border. Its commander, , died of cholera (August 1831), and Clausewitz took command of the Prussian army's efforts to construct a to contain the great cholera outbreak (the first time cholera had appeared in modern heartland Europe, causing a continent-wide panic). Clausewitz himself died of the same disease shortly afterwards, on 17 November 1831. His widow edited, published, and wrote the introduction to his ''
magnum opus Masterpiece, ''magnum opus'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" ...

magnum opus
'' on the
philosophy of war The philosophy of war is the area of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, ...
in 1832. (He had started working on the text in 1816, but had not completed it.)Smith, Rupert, ''The Utility of Force'', Penguin Books, 2006, p. 57; Paul Donker,
The Evolution of Clausewitz's ''Vom Kriege'': a reconstruction on the basis of the earlier versions of his masterpiece
" trans. Paul Donker and Christopher Bassford, ClausewitzStudies.org, August 2019.
She wrote the preface for ''On War'' and by 1835 had published most of his collected works. She died in January 1836.


Theory of war

Clausewitz was a professional combat soldier who was involved in numerous military campaigns, but he is famous primarily as a military theorist interested in the examination of war, utilising the campaigns of
Frederick the Great Frederick II (german: Friedrich II.; 24 January 171217 August 1786) was King in Prussia King ''in'' Prussia ( German: ''König in Preußen'') was a title used by the Prussian kings (also in personal union Electors of Brandenburg) from 1701 ...

Frederick the Great
and
Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...

Napoleon
as frames of reference for his work. He wrote a careful, systematic, philosophical examination of war in all its aspects. The result was his principal book, ''
On War ''Vom Kriege'' () is a book on war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * T ...
,'' a major work on the philosophy of war. It was unfinished when Clausewitz died and contains material written at different stages in his intellectual evolution, producing some significant contradictions between different sections. The sequence and precise character of that evolution is a source of much debate as to the exact meaning behind some seemingly contradictory observations in discussions pertinent to the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, for example (though many of these apparent contradictions are simply the result of his dialectical method). Clausewitz constantly sought to revise the text, particularly between 1827 and his departure on his last field assignments, to include more material on "people's war" and forms of war other than high-intensity warfare between states, but relatively little of this material was included in the book. Soldiers before this time had written treatises on various military subjects, but none had undertaken a great philosophical examination of war on the scale of those written by Clausewitz and
Leo Tolstoy Count Lev Nikolayevich TolstoyTolstoy pronounced his first name as , which corresponds to the romanization ''Lyov''. () (; russian: link=no, Лев Николаевич Толстой,In Tolstoy's day, his name was written as in pre-reform ...

Leo Tolstoy
, both of whom were inspired by the events of the
Napoleonic Era The Napoleonic era is a period in the history of France The first written records for the history of France appeared in the Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age division of the prehistor ...
. Clausewitz's work is still studied today, demonstrating its continued relevance. More than sixteen major English-language books that focused specifically on his work were published between 2005 and 2014, whereas his 19th-century rival has faded from influence. The historian Lynn Montross said that this outcome "may be explained by the fact that Jomini produced a system of war, Clausewitz a philosophy. The one has been outdated by new weapons, the other still influences the strategy behind those weapons." Jomini did not attempt to define war but Clausewitz did, providing (and dialectically comparing) a number of definitions. The first is his dialectical thesis: "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." The second, often treated as Clausewitz's 'bottom line,' is in fact merely his dialectical antithesis: "War is merely the continuation of politics with other means." The synthesis of his dialectical examination of the nature of war is his famous "trinity," saying that war is "a fascinating trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; the play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason." Christopher Bassford says the best shorthand for Clausewitz's trinity should be something like "violent emotion/chance/rational calculation." However, it is frequently presented as "people/army/government," a misunderstanding based on a later paragraph in the same section. This misrepresentation was popularised by U.S. Army Colonel Harry Summers' Vietnam-era interpretation, facilitated by weaknesses in the 1976 Howard/Paret translation. The degree to which Clausewitz managed to revise his manuscript to reflect that synthesis is the subject of much debate. His final reference to war and ''Politik,'' however, goes beyond his widely quoted antithesis: "War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means. We deliberately use the phrase 'with the addition of other means' because we also want to make it clear that war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the means it employs. The main lines along which military events progress, and to which they are restricted, are political lines that continue throughout the war into the subsequent peace." Clausewitz introduced systematic philosophical contemplation into Western military thinking, with powerful implications not only for historical and analytical writing but also for practical policy, military instruction, and operational planning. He relied on his own experiences, contemporary writings about Napoleon, and on deep historical research. His historiographical approach is evident in his first extended study, written when he was 25, of the
Thirty Years War The Thirty Years' War was a conflict fought largely within the Holy Roman Empire from 1618 to 1648. Considered one of the most destructive wars in European history, estimates of total deaths caused by the conflict range from 4.5 to 8 million ...

Thirty Years War
. He rejects the
Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * Age of Enlightenment, period in Western intellectual history from the late 17th to late 18th century, centered in France but also encompassing: ** Midlands Enlightenment ...
's view of the war as a chaotic muddle and instead explains its drawn-out operations by the
economy An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ...

economy
and
technology Technology ("science of craft", from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...

technology
of the age, the social characteristics of the troops, and the commanders' politics and psychology. In ''On War'', Clausewitz sees all wars as the sum of decisions, actions, and reactions in an uncertain and dangerous context, and also as a socio-political phenomenon. He also stressed the complex nature of war, which encompasses both the socio-political and the operational and stresses the primacy of state policy. (One should be careful not to limit his observations on war to war between states, however, as he certainly discusses other kinds of protagonists).Paret, ''Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times'' The word "
strategy Strategy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...

strategy
" had only recently come into usage in modern Europe, and Clausewitz's definition is quite narrow: "the use of engagements for the object of war" (which many today would call "the operational level" of war). Clausewitz conceived of war as a political, social, and military phenomenon which might——depending on circumstances——involve the entire population of a political entity at war. In any case, Clausewitz saw military force as an instrument that states and other political actors use to pursue the ends of their policy, in a dialectic between opposing wills, each with the aim of imposing his policies and will upon his enemy. Clausewitz's emphasis on the inherent superiority of the defense suggests that habitual aggressors are likely to end up as failures. The inherent superiority of the defense obviously does not mean that the defender will always win, however: there are other asymmetries to be considered. He was interested in co-operation between the regular army and militia or partisan forces, or citizen soldiers, as one possible——sometimes the only——method of defense. In the circumstances of the Wars of the French Revolution and those with Napoleon, which were energised by a rising spirit of nationalism, he emphasised the need for states to involve their entire populations in the conduct of war. This point is especially important, as these wars demonstrated that such energies could be of decisive importance and for a time led to a democratisation of the armed forces much as
universal suffrage Universal suffrage (also called universal franchise, general suffrage, and common suffrage of the common man) gives the right to vote Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (a ...
democratised politics. While Clausewitz was intensely aware of the value of intelligence at all levels, he was also very skeptical of the accuracy of much military intelligence: "Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain.... In short, most intelligence is false." This circumstance is generally described as part of the
fog of war The fog of war (german: links=no, Nebel des Krieges) is the uncertainty Uncertainty refers to epistemic Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, s ...
. Such skeptical comments apply only to intelligence at the tactical and operational levels; at the strategic and political levels he constantly stressed the requirement for the best possible understanding of what today would be called strategic and political intelligence. His conclusions were influenced by his experiences in the Prussian Army, which was often in an intelligence fog due partly to the superior abilities of Napoleon's system but even more simply to the nature of war. Clausewitz acknowledges that friction creates enormous difficulties for the realization of any plan, and the ''fog of war'' hinders commanders from knowing what is happening. It is precisely in the context of this challenge that he develops the concept of military genius, whose capabilities are seen above all in the execution of operations. 'Military genius' is not simply a matter of intellect, but a combination of qualities of intellect, experience, personality, and temperament (and there are many possible such combinations) that create a very highly developed mental aptitude for the waging of war.


Principal ideas

Key ideas discussed in ''On War'' include: * the
dialectical Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
approach to military analysis * the methods of "critical analysis" * the economic profit-seeking logic of commercial enterprise is equally applicable to the waging of war and negotiating for peace * the nature of the balance-of-power mechanism * the relationship between political objectives and military objectives in war * the asymmetrical relationship between attack and defense * the nature of "military genius" (involving matters of personality and character, beyond intellect) * the "fascinating trinity" (''wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit'') of warTip-Toe Through the Trinity: The Strange Persistence of Trinitarian Warfare
by Christopher Bassford
* philosophical distinctions between "absolute war," "ideal war," and "real war" * in "real war," the distinctive poles of a) limited objectives (political and/or military) and b) war to "render the enemy helpless" * the idea that war and its conduct belong fundamentally to the social realm rather than to the realms of art or science * "strategy" belongs primarily to the realm of art, but is constrained by quantitative analyses of political benefits versus military costs & losses * "tactics" belongs primarily to the realm of science (most obvious in the development of siege warfare) * the importance of "moral forces" (more than simply "morale") as opposed to quantifiable physical elements * the "military virtues" of professional armies (which do not necessarily trump the rather different virtues of other kinds of fighting forces) * conversely, the very real effects of a superiority in numbers and "mass" * the essential unpredictability of war * the "fog" of war * "friction" —– the disparity between the ideal performance of units, organisations or systems and their actual performance in real-world scenarios (Book I, Chapter VII) * strategic and operational " centers of gravity" * the "culminating point of the offensive" * the "culminating point of victory"


Interpretation and misinterpretation

Clausewitz used a
dialectical Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
method to construct his argument, leading to frequent misinterpretation of his ideas. British military theorist B. H. Liddell Hart contends that the enthusiastic acceptance by the
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
n military establishment—–especially
Moltke the Elder Graf Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke (; 26 October 180024 April 1891) was a Kingdom of Prussia, Prussian Generalfeldmarschall, field marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as the creator of a new, more ...
, a former student of his —–of what they believed to be Clausewitz's ideas, and the subsequent widespread adoption of the Prussian military system worldwide, had a deleterious effect on
military theory Military theory is the analysis of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ...
and , due to their egregious misinterpretation of his ideas:
As so often happens, Clausewitz's disciples carried his teaching to an extreme which their master had not intended.... lausewitz'stheory of war was expounded in a way too abstract and involved for ordinary soldier-minds, essentially concrete, to follow the course of his argument—–which often turned back from the direction in which it was apparently leading. Impressed yet befogged, they grasped at his vivid leading phrases, seeing only their surface meaning, and missing the deeper current of his thought.
As described by
Christopher Bassford Christopher Bassford (born 1953) is an United States, American military history, military historian, best known for hiworkson the Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz. Bassford graduated from the College of William and Mary with a de ...
, then-professor of strategy at the
National War College The National War College (NWC) of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It ...
of the United States:
One of the main sources of confusion about Clausewitz's approach lies in his dialectical method of presentation. For example, Clausewitz's famous line that "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means," ("") while accurate as far as it goes, was not intended as a statement of fact. It is the antithesis in a dialectical argument whose thesis is the point—–made earlier in the analysis—–that "war is nothing but a duel r wrestling match, the extended metaphor in which that discussion was embeddedon a larger scale." His synthesis, which resolves the deficiencies of these two bold statements, says that war is neither "nothing but" an act of brute force nor "merely" a rational act of politics or policy. This synthesis lies in his "fascinating trinity" []: a dynamic, inherently unstable interaction of the forces of violent emotion, chance, and rational calculation.
Another example of this confusion is the idea that Clausewitz was a proponent of
total war Total war is war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspape ...
as used in the Third Reich's propaganda in the 1940s. In fact, Clausewitz never used the term "total war": rather, he discussed "absolute war," a concept which evolved into the much more abstract notion of "ideal war" discussed at the very beginning of —–the purely ''logical'' result of the forces underlying a "pure," Platonic "ideal" of war. In what he called a "logical fantasy," war cannot be waged in a limited way: the rules of competition will force participants to use all means at their disposal to achieve victory. But in the ''real world,'' he said, such rigid logic is unrealistic and dangerous. As a practical matter, the military objectives in ''real'' war that support political objectives generally fall into two broad types: limited aims or the effective "disarming" of the enemy "to render politically helpless or militarily impotent. Thus the complete defeat of the enemy may not be necessary, desirable, or even possible. In modern times the reconstruction of Clausewitzian theory has been a matter of much dispute. One analysis was that of Panagiotis Kondylis, a Greek writer and philosopher, who opposed the interpretations of
Raymond Aron Raymond Claude Ferdinand Aron (; 14 March 1905 – 17 October 1983) was a French philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about ...
in ''Penser la Guerre, Clausewitz,'' and other liberal writers. According to Aron, Clausewitz was one of the first writers to condemn the militarism of the Prussian general staff and its war-proneness, based on Clausewitz's argument that "war is a continuation of politics by other means." In ''Theory of War,'' Kondylis claims that this is inconsistent with Clausewitzian thought. He claims that Clausewitz was morally indifferent to war (though this probably reflects a lack of familiarity with personal letters from Clausewitz, which demonstrate an acute awareness of war's tragic aspects) and that his advice regarding politics' dominance over the conduct of war has nothing to do with pacifist ideas. For Clausewitz, war is simply one unique means that is sometimes applied to the eternal quest for power, of in an anarchic and unsafe world. Other notable writers who have studied Clausewitz's texts and translated them into English are historians
Peter Paret Peter Paret (April 13, 1924 – September 11, 2020) was a German-born American cultural and intellectual historian, whose two principal areas of research were war and the interaction of art and politics from 18th to 20th century Europe.
of the
Institute for Advanced Study The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), located in Princeton, New Jersey Princeton is a municipality with a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ...

Institute for Advanced Study
and
Sir Michael Howard Sir Michael Eliot Howard (29 November 1922 – 30 November 2019) was an English military history, military historian, formerly Chichele Professor of the History of War, Honorary Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, All Souls College, Regius Prof ...
. Howard and Paret edited the most widely used edition of ''On War'' (Princeton University Press, 1976/1984) and have produced comparative studies of Clausewitz and other theorists, such as Tolstoy. Bernard Brodie's ''A Guide to the Reading of "On War,"'' in the 1976 Princeton translation, expressed his interpretations of the Prussian's theories and provided students with an influential synopsis of this vital work. The 1873 translation by Colonel James John Graham was heavily——and controversially——edited by the philosopher, musician, and
game theorist Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among Rational agent, rational decision-makers.Roger B. Myerson, Myerson, Roger B. (1991). ''Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict,'' Harvard University Press, p.&nbs1 Chapter ...
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an United States, American mathematical psychology, mathematical ...
. The British military historian
John Keegan Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan (15 May 1934 – 2 August 2012) was an English military historian Military history is a humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society ...
attacked Clausewitz's theory in his book '' A History of Warfare''. Keegan argued that Clausewitz assumed the existence of states, yet 'war antedates the state, diplomacy and strategy by many millennia.'


Influence

Clausewitz died without completing ''Vom Kriege,'' but despite this his ideas have been widely influential in
military theory Military theory is the analysis of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ...
and have had a strong influence on German military thought specifically. Later Prussian and German generals, such as
Helmuth Graf von Moltke Graf Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke (; 26 October 180024 April 1891) was a Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 with Duchy of Prussia, a duc ...
, were clearly influenced by Clausewitz: Moltke's widely quoted statement that "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy" is a classic reflection of Clausewitz's insistence on the roles of chance, friction, "fog," uncertainty, and interactivity in war. Clausewitz's influence spread to British thinking as well, though at first more as a historian and analyst than as a theorist. See for exampl
Wellington's extended essay
discussing Clausewitz's study of th

—Wellington's only serious written discussion of the battle, which was widely discussed in 19th-century Britain. Clausewitz's broader thinking came to the fore following Britain's military embarrassments in the Boer War (1899–1902). One example of a heavy Clausewitzian influence in that era is
Spenser Wilkinson Henry Spenser Wilkinson (1 May 1853 in Hulme, Manchester – 31 January 1937 in Oxford) was the first Chichele Professor of Military History at Oxford University. While he was an English writer known primarily for his work on military subjects, he ...
, journalist, the first
Chichele Professor of Military HistoryThe Chichele Professorships are statutory professorships at the University of Oxford named in honour of Henry Chichele (also spelt Chicheley or Checheley, although the spelling of the academic position is consistently "Chichele"), an Archbishop of Ca ...
at Oxford University, and perhaps the most prominent military analyst in Britain from c. 1885 until well into the interwar period. Another is naval historian
Julian Corbett Sir Julian Stafford Corbett (12 November 1854 at Walcot House, Kennington Road Kennington Road is a long straight road, approximately a mile in length, in the London Borough of Lambeth Lambeth () is a London borough in South London, Engla ...
(1854–1922), whose work reflected a deep if idiosyncratic adherence to Clausewitz's concepts and frequently an emphasis on Clausewitz's ideas about 'limited objectives' and the inherent strengths of the defensive form of war. Corbett's practical strategic views were often in prominent public conflict with Wilkinson's—–see, for example, Wilkinson's article
Strategy at Sea
" ''The Morning Post'', 12 February 1912. Following the First World War, however, the influential British military commentator B. H. Liddell Hart in the 1920s erroneously attributed to him the doctrine of "total war" that during the First World War had been embraced by many European general staffs and emulated by the British. More recent scholars typically see that war as so confused in terms of political rationale that it in fact contradicts much of ''On War.'' That view assumes, however, a set of values as to what constitutes "rational" political objectives—–in this case, values not shaped by the fervid
Social Darwinism Social Darwinism refers to various societal practices around the world and defined by scholars in Western Europe and North America in the 1870s that applied biological concepts of natural selection Natural selection is the differential ...
that was rife in 1914 Europe. One of the most influential British Clausewitzians today is Colin S. Gray; historian
Hew Strachan Sir Hew Francis Anthony Strachan ( ), (born 1 September 1949) is a British military historian, well known for his leadership in scholarly studies of the British Army and the history of the World War I, First World War. He is currently Professor ...

Hew Strachan
(like Wilkinson also the
Chichele Professor of Military HistoryThe Chichele Professorships are statutory professorships at the University of Oxford named in honour of Henry Chichele (also spelt Chicheley or Checheley, although the spelling of the academic position is consistently "Chichele"), an Archbishop of Ca ...
at Oxford University, since 2001) has been an energetic proponent of the ''study'' of Clausewitz, but his own views on Clausewitz's ideas are somewhat ambivalent. With some interesting exceptions (e.g., John McAuley Palmer, Robert M. Johnston, Hoffman Nickerson), Clausewitz had little influence on American military thought before 1945 other than via British writers, though Generals
Eisenhower Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American military officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an Military, armed force or Uniformed services, uniformed se ...
and were avid readers of English translations. He did influence
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, M ...

Karl Marx
,
Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,"Engels"
''
,
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding head of government The head of government is e ...

Vladimir Lenin
,
Leon Trotsky Lev Davidovich Bronstein. ( – 21 August 1940), better known as Leon Trotsky; uk, link= no, Лев Давидович Троцький; also transliterated ''Lyev'', ''Trotski'', ''Trotskij'', ''Trockij'' and ''Trotzky''. (), was a Ukrainian ...

Leon Trotsky
and
Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the Proclamation of the ...

Mao Zedong
, and thus the Communist Soviet and Chinese traditions, as Lenin emphasized the inevitability of wars among capitalist states in the age of imperialism and presented the armed struggle of the working class as the only path toward the eventual elimination of war. Because
Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of th ...

Lenin
was an admirer of Clausewitz and called him "one of the great military writers," his influence on the Red Army was immense.Mertsalov, A.N. "Jomini versus Clausewitz" pp. 11–19 from ''Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy'' edited by Mark and Ljubica Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 p. 16. The Russian historian A.N. Mertsalov commented that "It was an irony of fate that the view in the USSR was that it was Lenin who shaped the attitude towards Clausewitz, and that Lenin's dictum that war is a continuation of politics is taken from the work of this llegedlyanti-humanist anti-revolutionary." The American mathematician
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an United States, American mathematical psychology, mathematical ...
wrote in 1968 that Clausewitz as interpreted by Lenin formed the basis of all Soviet military thinking since 1917, and quoted the remarks by
Marshal Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. T ...

Marshal
:
In describing the essence of war, Marxism-Leninism takes as its point of departure the premise that war is not an aim in itself, but rather a tool of politics. In his remarks on Clausewitz's ''On War,'' Lenin stressed that "Politics is the reason, and war is only the tool, not the other way around. Consequently, it remains only to subordinate the military point of view to the political."Rapoport, Anatol "Introduction" pp. 11–82 from ''On War,'' London: Penguin, 1968.
Henry A. Kissinger, however, described Lenin's approach as being that politics is a continuation of war by other means, thus turning Clausewitz's argument "on its head." Rapoport argued that:
As for Lenin's approval of Clausewitz, it probably stems from his obsession with the struggle for power. The whole Marxist conception of history is that of successive struggles for power, primarily between social classes. This was constantly applied by Lenin in a variety of contexts. Thus the entire history of philosophy appears in Lenin's writings as a vast struggle between "idealism" and "materialism." The fate of the socialist movement was to be decided by a struggle between the revolutionists and the reformers. Clausewitz's acceptance of the struggle for power as the essence of international politics must have impressed Lenin as starkly realistic.
Clausewitz directly influenced Mao Zedong, who read ''On War'' in 1938 and organised a seminar on Clausewitz for the Party leadership in
Yan'an Yan'an (; ), alternatively spelled as Yenan is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), of ...
. Thus the "Clausewitzian" content in many of Mao's writings is not merely a regurgitation of Lenin but reflects Mao's own study. The idea that war involves inherent "friction" that distorts, to a greater or lesser degree, all prior arrangements, has become common currency in fields such as business strategy and sport. The phrase ''
fog of war The fog of war (german: links=no, Nebel des Krieges) is the uncertainty Uncertainty refers to epistemic Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, s ...
'' derives from Clausewitz's stress on how confused warfare can seem while one is immersed within it. The term
center of gravity In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass Mass is the physical quantity, quantity of ''matter'' in a physical body. It is also a measure (mathematics), measure of the body's ''inertia'', the resistance to acceleration (change ...
, used in a military context derives from Clausewitz's usage, which he took from
Newtonian mechanics Newton's laws of motion are three Scientific law, laws of classical mechanics that describe the relationship between the motion of an object and the forces acting on it. These laws can be paraphrased as follows: ''Law 1''. A body continues ...
. In U.S. military doctrine, "center of gravity" refers to the basis of an opponent's power at the operational, strategic, or political level, though this is only one aspect of Clausewitz's use of the term.


Late 20th and early 21st century

The deterrence strategy of the United States in the 1950s was closely inspired by President
Dwight Eisenhower Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American military officer An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. In its broadest sense, the term ...
’s reading of Clausewitz as a young officer in the 1920s. Eisenhower was greatly impressed by Clausewitz’s example of a theoretical, idealized “absolute war” in ''Vom Kriege'' as a way of demonstrating how absurd it would be to attempt such a strategy in practice. For Eisenhower, the age of nuclear weapons had made what was for Clausewitz in the early 19th century only a theoretical vision an all too real possibility in the mid-20th century. From Eisenhower's viewpoint, the best deterrent to war was to show the world just how appalling and horrific a nuclear “absolute war” would be if it should ever occur, hence a series of much publicized nuclear tests in the Pacific, giving first priority in the defense budget to nuclear weapons and delivery systems over conventional weapons, and making repeated statements in public that the United States was able and willing at all times to use nuclear weapons. In this way, through the
massive retaliation Massive retaliation, also known as a massive response or massive deterrence, is a military doctrine and nuclear strategy in which a state commits itself to retaliate in much greater force in the event of an attack. Strategy In the event of an ...
doctrine and the closely related foreign policy concept of
brinkmanship Brinksmanship, or Brinkmanship, is the practice of trying to achieve an advantageous outcome by pushing dangerous events to the brink of active conflict. The tactic occurs in international politics The field of international relations dates ...
, Eisenhower hoped to hold out a credible vision of Clausewitzian nuclear “absolute war” in order to deter the Soviet Union and/or China from ever risking a war or even conditions that might lead to a war with the United States. After 1970, some theorists claimed that
nuclear proliferation Nuclear proliferation is the spread of nuclear weapons A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructi ...

nuclear proliferation
made Clausewitzian concepts obsolete after the 20th-century period in which they dominated the world. John E. Sheppard, Jr., argues that by developing nuclear weapons, state-based conventional armies simultaneously both perfected their original purpose, to destroy a mirror image of themselves, and made themselves obsolete. No two
powers Powers may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Powers (comics), ''Powers'' (comics), an American creator-owned comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming ** Powers (American TV series), ''Powers'' (American TV seri ...
have used nuclear weapons against each other, instead using iplomacy,conventional ilitarymeans, or
proxy wars A proxy war is an armed conflict between two states or non-state actorNon-state actors include organizations and individuals that are not affiliated with, directed by, or funded through the government. The interests, structure, and influence ...
to settle disputes. If such a conflict did occur, presumably both combatants would be
annihilated The eighth season of the television series, ''Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' premiered September 19, 2006 and ended May 22, 2007 on NBC. The series remained in its 10pm/9c Tuesday timeslot. With the introduction of a new partner for Detectiv ...
. Heavily influenced by the war in Vietnam and by antipathy to American strategist
Henry Kissinger Henry Alfred Kissinger (; ; born Heinz Alfred Kissinger; May 27, 1923) is a German-born American politician, diplomat, and Geopolitics, geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor (Unite ...

Henry Kissinger
, the American biologist, musician, and game-theorist
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an United States, American mathematical psychology, mathematical ...
argued in 1968 that a Clausewitzian view of war was not only obsolete in the age of nuclear weapons, but also highly dangerous as it promoted a "zero-sum paradigm" to international relations and a "dissolution of rationality" amongst decision-makers. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen many instances of state armies attempting to suppress
insurgencies An insurgency is a violent, armed rebellion against authority waged by small, lightly armed bands who practice Guerrilla warfare, guerilla warfare from primarily rural base areas. The key descriptive feature of insurgency is its asymmetric nat ...
,
terrorism Terrorism, in its broadest sense, is the use of intentional violence to achieve political aims. The term is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the ...
, and other forms of
asymmetrical warfare Asymmetric warfare (or asymmetric engagement) is war War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), stat ...
. Clausewitz did not focus solely on wars between countries with well-defined armies. The era of the French Revolution and Napoleon was full of revolutions, rebellions, and violence by "non-state actors," such as the wars in the French Vendée and in Spain. Clausewitz wrote a series of “Lectures on Small War” and studied the rebellion in the Vendée (1793–1796) and the Tyrolean uprising of 1809. In his famous “Bekenntnisdenkschrift” of 1812, he called for a “Spanish war in Germany” and laid out a comprehensive guerrilla strategy to be waged against Napoleon. In ''On War'' he included a famous chapter on “The People in Arms.” One prominent critic of Clausewitz is the Israeli military historian
Martin van Creveld Martin Levi van Creveld ( he, מרטין ון קרפלד; born 5 March 1946) is an Israeli military historian Military history is a humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human ...

Martin van Creveld
. In his book ''The Transformation of War'', Creveld argued that Clausewitz's famous "Trinity" of people, army, and government was an obsolete socio-political construct based on the state, which was rapidly passing from the scene as the key player in war, and that he (Creveld) had constructed a new "non-trinitarian" model for modern warfare. Creveld's work has had great influence. Daniel Moran replied, 'The most egregious misrepresentation of Clausewitz's famous metaphor must be that of Martin van Creveld, who has declared Clausewitz to be an apostle of Trinitarian War, by which he means, incomprehensibly, a war of 'state against state and army against army,' from which the influence of the people is entirely excluded." Christopher Bassford went further, noting that one need only ''read'' the paragraph in which Clausewitz defined his Trinity to see "that the words 'people,' 'army,' and 'government' appear nowhere at all in the list of the Trinity’s components.... Creveld's and Keegan's assault on Clausewitz's Trinity is not only a classic 'blow into the air,' i.e., an assault on a position Clausewitz doesn't occupy. It is also a pointless attack on a concept that is quite useful in its own right. In any case, their failure to read the actual wording of the theory they so vociferously attack, and to grasp its deep relevance to the phenomena they describe, is hard to credit." Some have gone further and suggested that Clausewitz's best-known aphorism, that war is a continuation of politics with other means, is not only irrelevant today but also inapplicable historically. For an opposing view see the sixteen essays presented in ''Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century'' edited by
Hew Strachan Sir Hew Francis Anthony Strachan ( ), (born 1 September 1949) is a British military historian, well known for his leadership in scholarly studies of the British Army and the history of the World War I, First World War. He is currently Professor ...

Hew Strachan
and Andreas Herberg-Rothe. In military academies, schools, and universities worldwide, Clausewitz's ''Vom Kriege'' is often (usually in translation) mandatory reading.


In popular culture

Literature * 1945: In the
Horatio Hornblower Horatio Hornblower, a fictional officer in the British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically ...
novel ''
The Commodore ''The Commodore'' (published 1945) is a Horatio Hornblower novel written by C. S. Forester. It was published in the United States under the title ''Commodore Hornblower''. Plot summary Having achieved fame and financial security, Captain Sir Hor ...
'', by C. S. Forester, the protagonist meets Clausewitz during the events surrounding the defence of
Riga Riga (; lv, Rīga , liv, Rīgõ, ) is the capital of Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links ...

Riga
* 1945: In ''
That Hideous Strength ''That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups'' is a 1945 novel by C. S. Lewis, the final book in Lewis's theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is tau ...
'' by C. S. Lewis, Lord Feverstone (Dick Devine) defends rudely cutting off another professor by saying " ..but then I take the Clausewitz view. Total war is the most humane in the long run." * 1952: In
John Steinbeck John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (; February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) was an American author and the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature ) , image = Nobel Prize.png , caption = , awarded_for = Outstanding contributions in literatu ...

John Steinbeck
's novel '' East of Eden'', the character of Lee makes several references to Clausewitz in Chapter 43. * 1955: In
Ian Fleming Ian Lancaster Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 August 1964) was a British writer, journalist and naval intelligence officer who is best known for his ''James Bond The ''James Bond'' series focuses on a fictional Secret Intelligence S ...
's novel '' Doctor No'', James Bond (character), James Bond reflects that he has achieved Clausewitz's first principle in securing his base, though this base is a relationship for intelligence purposes and not a military installation. * 1977: In ''The Wars'' by Timothy Findley, a novel about a 19-year-old Canadian officer who serves in the First World War, one of his fellow soldiers reads ''
On War ''Vom Kriege'' () is a book on war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * T ...
'', and occasionally quotes some of its passages. * 2000: In the Ethan Stark military science fiction book series by John G. Hemry, Clausewitz is often quoted by Private Mendoza and his father Lieutenant Mendoza to explain events that unfold during the series. * 2004: Bob Dylan mentions Clausewitz on pages 41 and 45 of his ''Chronicles: Volume One'', saying he had "a morbid fascination with this stuff," that "Clausewitz in some ways is a prophet" and reading Clausewitz can make you "take your own thoughts a little less seriously." Dylan says that was one of the books he looked through among those he found in his friend's personal library as a young man playing at The Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village. Film * 1962: In ''Lawrence of Arabia (film), Lawrence of Arabia'', General Edmund Allenby, Allenby (Jack Hawkins) contends to T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) that "I fight like Clausewitz, you fight like Maurice de Saxe, Saxe", to which Lawrence replies, "We should do very well indeed, shouldn't we?" * 1977: In Sam Peckinpah's ''Cross of Iron'', Feldwebel Steiner (James Coburn) has an ironic conversation in the trenches in gaps in hostilities with the advancing Red Army with his comrade, Cpl. Schnurrbart, in which they refer to German philosophers and their views on war. Schnurrbart: "Clausewitz said, 'war is a continuation of state policy by other means.'" "Yes," Steiner says, overlooking the trenches, " ...by other means." * 1978: In the Deutscher Fernsehfunk, East German Television television series Clausewitz was played by Bodo Wolf. * 1980: East German Television produced a television film, television biopic, (''Clausewitz – Life picture of a Prussian General''), with Jürgen Reuter as Clausewitz, directed by Wolf-Dieter Panse. The film was released on DVD in 2016. * 1995: In ''Crimson Tide (film), Crimson Tide'', the naval officers of the nuclear submarine have a discussion about the meaning of the quote "War is a continuation of politics by other means." The executive officer (Denzel Washington) contends that the interpretation of Clausewitz's ideas by the captain (Gene Hackman) is too simplistic. * 2004: In ''Downfall (2004 film), Downfall'', set during the last days of the Third Reich, Hitler initiates Operation Clausewitz, as part of the last defence of Berlin * 2007: In ''Lions for Lambs'', during a military briefing in Afghanistan Lt. Col. Falco (Peter Berg) says: "Remember your von Clausewitz: 'Never engage the same enemy for too long or he will ...'", "adapt to your tactics", completes another soldier * 2009: In ''Law Abiding Citizen'', Clausewitz is frequently quoted by Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), the main character. * 2012: In the film ''The Gatekeepers (film), The Gatekeepers'', Ayalon quotes Clausewitz's definition of “victory” as constituting an improvement of one's political situation and gets one of the film's very rare laughs by describing the military theorist as being "smart even though he doesn’t seem to have been Jewish". * 2016: In the 3rd season of the TV series ''The Last Ship (TV series), The Last Ship'', Captain Chandler quotes Clausewitz as he uses the military theory of "centres of gravity" and SLQ-32 EMW suite to identify command centre with EM wave strength charts. Video games * Paradox Development Studio#Clausewitz Engine, Paradox Development Studio's grand strategy game engine, used in titles such as Europa Universalis III, Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron III, Hearts of Iron, is named Clausewitz Engine. * In ''Civilization V: Brave New World'', an autocratic nation can adopt the "Clausewitz's Legacy" tenet, granting the nation a temporary bonus on the military offensive. * In the game ''Napoleon: Total War'', Clausewitz is available for recruitment as a high rated general for the Prussia faction. * In ''Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition'', Clausewitz teaches the "Art of War" series of tutorials, which are aimed at preparing players for competitive play.


See also

August Otto Rühle von Lilienstern – Prussian officer from whom Clausewitz allegedly took, without acknowledgement, several important ideas (including that about war as pursuing political aims) made famous in ''On War''. However, such ideas as Clausewitz and Lilienstern shared in common derived from a common influence, i.e., Scharnhorst, who was Clausewitz's "second father" and professional mentor. * Famous military writers ** Niccolò Machiavelli – ''The Prince'' **
Antoine-Henri Jomini Antoine-Henri, Baron Jomini (; 6 March 177924 March 1869) was a French-Swiss officer who served as a General officer, general in the France, French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of ...

Antoine-Henri Jomini
** B.H. Liddell Hart **
John Keegan Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan (15 May 1934 – 2 August 2012) was an English military historian Military history is a humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society ...
** Sun Tzu ** Chanakya **
Martin van Creveld Martin Levi van Creveld ( he, מרטין ון קרפלד; born 5 March 1946) is an Israeli military historian Military history is a humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human ...

Martin van Creveld
* Absolute war * Operation Clausewitz * Philosophy of war * Principles of War * Strategic studies * Total war


References

Informational notes Citations


Further reading

::Scholarly studies * See massive Clausewitz bibliographies in English, French, German, etc., o
''The Clausewitz Homepage'' bibliography section
* Raymond Aron, Aron, Raymond. ''Clausewitz: Philosopher of War.'' (1985). 418 pp. * Christopher Bassford, Bassford, Christopher.
Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815–1945
'' New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. * Christopher Bassford,

" Working paper. * Christopher Bassford,
Clausewitz's Categories of War and the Supersession of 'Absolute War'
(Clausewitz.com). This is a 'working paper' first posted in 2016."
Cormier, Youri
"Fighting Doctrines and Revolutionary Ethics" Journal of Military and Security Studies, Vol 15, No 1 (2013) https://web.archive.org/web/20140729225332/http://jmss.synergiesprairies.ca/jmss/index.php/jmss/article/view/519 *
Cormier, Youri
War As Paradox: Clausewitz & Hegel on Fighting Doctrines and Ethics, (Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen's University Press, 2016) pp. 183–232 * * Donker, Paul.
The Evolution of Clausewitz's ''Vom Kriege'': a reconstruction on the basis of the earlier versions of his masterpiece
" Trans. Paul Donker and Christopher Bassford, ClausewitzStudies.org, August 2019. Originally "Die Entwicklung von Clausewitz’ Vom Kriege: Eine Rekonstruktion auf der Grundlage der früheren Fassungen seines Meisterwerks," in the Clausewitz-Gesellschaft’s Jahrbuch2017, pp.14–39. * Echevarria, Antulio J., II. ''After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers before the Great War.'' (2001). 346 pp. * * Gat, Azar. ''The Origins of Military Thought from the Enlightenment to Clausewitz'' (1989) * Handel, Michael I., ed. ''Clausewitz and Modern Strategy.'' 1986. 324 pp. * Handel, Michael I. ''Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought.'' (2001) 482 pages. Based on comparison of Clausewitz's ''On War'' with Sun Tzu's ''The Art of War'' * Heuser, Beatrice. ''Reading Clausewitz.'' (2002). 238 pages, * * * Sir Michael Howard, ''Clausewitz'', 1983 [originally a volume in the Oxford University Press "Past Masters" series, reissued in 2000 as ''Clausewitz: A Very Short Introduction'']. * ** See critique of Keegan's arguments by Christopher Bassford,
John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz: A Polemic
" ''War in History'', November 1994, pp. 319–336. * * * Mertsalov, A.N. “Jomini versus Clausewitz” pages 11–19 from ''Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy'' edited by Mark and Ljubica Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004, . * Paret, Peter
in His Time: Essays in the Cultural and Intellectual History of Thinking about War''
New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015. * * Paret, Peter. ''Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times''. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976. * * * Paul Roques, Le général de Clausewitz. Sa vie et sa théorie de la guerre, Paris, Editions Astrée, 2013. http://www.editions-astree.fr/BC/Bon_de_commande_Roques.pdf * Hans Rothfels, Rothfels, Hans "Clausewitz" pages 93–113 from ''The Makers of Modern Strategy'' edited by Edward Mead Earle, Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1943. * * Smith, Hugh. ''On Clausewitz: A Study of Military and Political Ideas.'' (2005). 303 pp. * Stoker, Donald J. ''Clausewitz: His Life and Work'' (Oxford UP, 2014) 376 pp.
online review
als
excerpt
* * Strachan, Hew, and Andreas Herberg-Rothe, eds. ''Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century'' (2007
excerpt and text search
* * Sumida, Jon Tetsuro. ''Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War'' Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2008. * Villacres, Edward J. and Bassford, Christopher

Parameters, Autumn 95, pp. 9–19, * Jehuda L. Wallach, Wallach, Jehuda L. ''The Dogma of the Battle of Annihilation: The Theories of Clausewitz and Schlieffen and Their Impact on the German Conduct of Two World Wars.'' (1986). * ::Primary sources * Clausewitz, Carl von. ''Historical and Political Writings,'' ed. Peter Paret and Daniel Moran (1992). * Clausewitz, Carl von.
Vom Kriege
'. Berlin: Dümmlers Verlag, 1832. * * Clausewitz, Carl von. ''On War'', abridged version translated by Michael Howard (historian), Michael Howard and
Peter Paret Peter Paret (April 13, 1924 – September 11, 2020) was a German-born American cultural and intellectual historian, whose two principal areas of research were war and the interaction of art and politics from 18th to 20th century Europe.
, edited with an introduction by Beatrice Heuser Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press, 2007) * Clausewitz, Carl von.
Principles of War
'. Translated by Hans Gatske. The Military Service Publishing Company, 1942. Originally "Die wichtigsten Grundsätze des Kriegführens zur Ergänzung meines Unterrichts bei Sr. Königlichen Hoheit dem Kronprinzen" (written 1812). * Clausewitz, Carl von. Col. J. J. Graham, translator. ''Vom Kriege''.
On War — Volume 1
', Project Gutenberg eBook. The ''full'' text of the 1873 English translation can be seen in parallel with the original German text at http://www.clausewitz.com/CompareFrameSource1.htm

* Clausewitz, Karl von. ''On War.'' Trans. O.J. Matthijs Jolles. New York: Random House, 1943. Though not currently the standard translation, this is increasingly viewed by many Clausewitz scholars as the most precise and accurate English translation. * Clausewitz, Carl von
''Napoleon's 1796 Italian Campaign.''
Trans and ed. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle. This also includes the notes from J. Colin's French translation as well as extensive commentary on Clausewitz's history and theory. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas (2018). * Clausewitz, Carl von

Trans and ed. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas (2020). * Clausewitz, Carl von.
''The Campaign of 1812 in Russia''
'. Trans. anonymous [Wellington's friend Francis Egerton, later Lord Ellesmere], London: John Murray Publishers, 1843. Originally Carl von Clausewitz, ''Hinterlassene Werke des Generals Carl von Clausewitz über Krieg und Krieg führung'', 10 vols., Berlin, 1832–37, "''Der Feldzug von 1812 in Russland''" in Vol. 7, Berlin, 1835. * Clausewitz, Carl von, and Wellesley, Arthur (First Duke of Wellington), ed./trans. Christopher Bassford, Gregory W. Pedlow, and Daniel Moran
''On Waterloo: Clausewitz, Wellington, and the Campaign of 1815''
(Clausewitz.com, 2010). This collection of documents includes, in a modern English translation, the whole of Clausewitz's study,

' (Berlin: 1835). . It also include

to Clausewitz's discussion of the campaign, as well a

to his wife after the major battles of 1815 and other supporting documents and essays. * Clausewitz, Carl von.

'. Ed./trans. Peter Paret and Daniel Moran. Carlisle: Army War College Foundation, 1984.


External links


Mind Map of ''On War''


large amounts of information. * Corn, Tony
"Clausewitz in Wonderland"
''Policy Review'', September 2006. This is an article hostile to "Clausewitz and the Clausewitzians." See als

"Clausewitz's self-appointed PR Flack." * * *
The Influence of Clausewitz on Jomini's Le Précis de l'Art de la Guerre


addressed to the Prussian general-staff officer, Major von Roeder, respectively of 22 and 24 December 1827.
Erfourth M. & Bazin, A. (2014). Clausewitz’s Military Genius and the #Human Dimension. The Bridge.
{{DEFAULTSORT:Clausewitz, Carl von 1780 births 1831 deaths People from Burg bei Magdeburg People from the Duchy of Magdeburg Deaths from cholera German military writers German untitled nobility Prussian commanders of the Napoleonic Wars Major generals of Prussia Napoleonic Wars prisoners of war held by France Military theorists Political realists German prisoners of war 19th-century German writers Russian military personnel of the Napoleonic Wars German male non-fiction writers Philosophers of war