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Carl von Clausewitz

Carl von Clausewitz

Overview
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (icon; June 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831) was a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

. His most notable work, Vom Kriege
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

(On War), was unfinished at his death.

Clausewitz espoused a romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and Hegelian
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

 conception of warfare, though he also had at least one foot planted firmly in the more rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

.
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Quotations

War therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.

Chapter 1, paragraph 2

Intelligence alone is not courage, we often see that the most intelligent people are irresolute. Since in the rush of events a man is governed by feelings rather than by thought, the intellect needs to arouse the quality of courage, which then supports and sustains it in action.

Chapter 3

We repeat again: strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one’s balance in spite of them. Even with the violence of emotion, judgment and principle must still function like a ship’s compass, which records the slightest variations however rough the sea.

Chapter 3

Action in war is like movement in a resistant element. Just as the simplest and most natural of movements, walking, cannot easily be performed in water, so in war it is difficult for normal efforts to achieve even moderate results.

Ch. 7, as translated by Michael Howard (historian)|Michael Howard and Peter Paret|Peter Paret (1976)

Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst.

The invention of gunpowder and the constant improvement of firearms are enough in themselves to show that the advance of civilization has done nothing practical to alter or deflect the impulse to destroy the enemy, which is central to the very idea of war.

The worst of all conditions in which a belligerent can find himself is to be utterly defenseless.

Men are always more inclined to pitch their estimate of the enemy's strength too high than too low, such is human nature.

...only the element of chance is needed to make war a gamble, and that element is never absent.

...in the whole range of human activities, war most closely resembles a game of cards.

Encyclopedia
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (icon; June 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831) was a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

. His most notable work, Vom Kriege
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

(On War), was unfinished at his death.

Clausewitz espoused a romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and Hegelian
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

 conception of warfare, though he also had at least one foot planted firmly in the more rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

. He stressed the dialectic
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

 of how opposite factors interact, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the "fog of war
Fog of war
The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign...

" called for rapid decisions by alert commanders. He saw history as a complex check on abstractions that did not accord with experience. In opposition to Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

 he argued war could not be quantified or graphed or reduced to mapwork and graphs. Clausewitz had many aphorisms, of which the most famous is "War is the continuation of policy by other means", a description that has won wide acceptance.

Name


Clausewitz's Christian names are sometimes given in non-German sources as Carl Philipp Gottlieb, Carl Maria, or misspelled Karl, due to reliance on mistaken source material, conflations with his wife's name, Marie, or mistaken assumptions about German orthography
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

. Carl Philipp Gottfried appears on Clausewitz's tombstone and is thus most likely to be the correct version.

Life and military career


Clausewitz was born on June 1, 1780 in Burg bei Magdeburg
Burg bei Magdeburg
Burg bei Magdeburg is a town of about 24,700 inhabitants on the Elbe-Havel-Canal in Germany, northeast of Magdeburg. It is situated around a former weir, the Sachsenschleusen...

, Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

, the fourth and youngest son of a lower middle-class family. His grandfather, the son of a Lutheran pastor, had been a professor of theology. Clausewitz's father was once a lieutenant in the Prussian army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 and 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, eventually attaining the rank of Major-General.

Clausewitz served in the Rhine Campaign
First Coalition
The War of the First Coalition was the first major effort of multiple European monarchies to contain Revolutionary France. France declared war on the Habsburg monarchy of Austria on 20 April 1792, and the Kingdom of Prussia joined the Austrian side a few weeks later.These powers initiated a series...

s (1793–1794) including the Siege of Mainz, when the Prussian army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 invaded France during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, and served in the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 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") in Berlin in 1801 (age 21), studied the writings of the philosopher Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, and won the regard of General Gerhard von Scharnhorst
Gerhard von Scharnhorst
Gerhard Johann David Waitz von Scharnhorst was a general in Prussian service, Chief of the Prussian General Staff, noted for both his writings, his reforms of the Prussian army, and his leadership during the Napoleonic Wars....

, the future first chief of staff of the new Prussian Army (appointed 1809). Clausewitz, Hermann von Boyen
Hermann von Boyen
Leopold Hermann Ludwig von Boyen was a Prussian army officer who helped to reform the Prussian Army in the early 19th century...

 (1771–1848) and Karl von Grolman (1777–1843) were 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
Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

 to Prince August. At the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt
Battle of Jena-Auerstedt
The twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt were fought on 14 October 1806 on the plateau west of the river Saale in today's Germany, between the forces of Napoleon I of France and Frederick William III of Prussia...

 on October 14, 1806 – when Napoleon invaded Prussia and defeated the massed Prussian-Saxon army commanded by Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick – he was captured, one of the 25,000 prisoners captured that day as the Prussian army disintegrated. He was 26.

Clausewitz was held prisoner in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 from 1807 to 1808. Returning to Prussia, he assisted in the reform of the Prussian army and state. He married the socially prominent Countess Marie von Brühl
Marie von Brühl
Marie Sophie Gräfin von Brühl was a member of the German von Brühl noble family originating in Thuringia....

 and socialized with Berlin's literary and intellectual elite. Opposed to Prussia's enforced alliance with Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, he left the Prussian army and served in the Russian army from 1812 to 1813 during the Russian Campaign, including at the Battle of Borodino
Battle of Borodino
The Battle of Borodino , fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia and all Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties...

. Like many Prussian officers living in Russia he joined the Russian-German Legion
Russian-German Legion
The Russian-German Legion was a military unit set up in 1812 by the banished Graf Peter of Oldenburg on the instigation of Tsar Alexander I of Russia.-Formation:...

, in 1813. In the service of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, Clausewitz helped negotiate the Convention of Tauroggen
Convention of Tauroggen
The Convention of Tauroggen was a truce signed 30 December 1812 at Tauroggen , between Generalleutnant Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg on behalf of his Prussian troops, and by General Hans Karl von Diebitsch of the Russian Army...

 (1812), which prepared the way for the coalition of Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 that ultimately defeated Napoleon and his allies.

In 1815, the Russo-German Legion was integrated into the Prussian Army and Clausewitz re-entered Prussian service. He was soon appointed chief of staff of Johann von Thielmann
Johann von Thielmann
Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielmann was a Saxon soldier who served with Saxony, Prussia and France during the Napoleonic Wars.-Biography:...

's III Corps. In that capacity, he served at the Battle of Ligny
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon I. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The bulk of the Prussian army survived, however, and...

 and the Battle of Wavre
Battle of Wavre
The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18-19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard under the command of General Johann von Thielmann and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A...

 during the Waterloo Campaign in 1815. The Prussians were defeated at Ligny
Ligny
Ligny is a village in the municipality of Sombreffe . It is known as the site of the Battle of Ligny, when Napoleon defeated Blücher two days before the battle of Waterloo while Wellington and Marshal Ney were engaged at Quatre Bras...

 (south of Mont-Saint-Jean
Mont-Saint-Jean, Belgium
Mont-Saint-Jean is a hamlet located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium, south of Waterloo located partly on Waterloo and partly on Braine-l'Alleud where the National road going from Brussels to Charleroi crosses the National road going from Nivelles to Leuven.-History:Mont-Saint-Jean is...

 and the village of Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium
Waterloo is a Walloon municipality located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium. On December 31, 2009, Waterloo had a total population of 29,573. The total area is 21.03 km² which gives a population density of 1,407 inhabitants per km²...

) by an army led personally by Napoleon, but Napoleon's failure to destroy the Prussian forces led to his defeat a few days later at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, when the Prussian forces arrived on his right flank late in the afternoon and joined the Anglo-Dutch forces pressing his front.

Clausewitz was promoted to Major-General in 1818 and appointed director of the Kriegsakademie, where he served until 1830. In that year the outbreak of several revolutions around Europe and a crisis in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 appeared to presage another major European war. Clausewitz was appointed chief of staff of the only army Prussia was able to mobilize, which was sent to the Polish border. He died after commanding the Prussian army's efforts to construct a 'cordon sanitaire' to contain the great cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 outbreak in 1831 (the first time cholera had appeared in Europe, causing a continent-wide panic). His widow was left to publish his magnum opus
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

on the philosophy of war
Philosophy of war
The philosophy of war examines war beyond the typical questions of weaponry and strategy, inquiring into such things as the meaning and etiology of war, the relationship between war and human nature, and the ethics of war...

 in 1832, which he had started working on in 1816 but had not completed.

Theory of war


Clausewitz was a professional soldier who was involved in numerous military campaigns, but he is famous primarily as a military theorist interested in the examination of war. He wrote a careful, systematic, philosophical examination of war in all its aspects, as he saw it and taught it. The result was his principal work, On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

,
the West's premier work on the philosophy of war. It was only partially completed by the time of his death, but just how close to completion it was is a matter of considerable scholarly debate. Clausewitz constantly sought to revise the text, particularly between 1827 and his departure on his last field assignment, to include more material on "people's war" and forms of war other than between states, but 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 Clausewitz's and Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

's, both of which were inspired by the events of the Napoleonic Era
Napoleonic Era
The Napoleonic Era is a period in the history of France and Europe. It is generally classified as including the fourth and final stage of the French Revolution, the first being the National Assembly, the second being the Legislative Assembly, and the third being the Directory...

.

Clausewitz's work is still studied today, demonstrating its continued relevance. More than ten major English-language books focused specifically on his work were published between 2005 and 2010. Lynn Montross
Lynn Montross
Lynn Montross was born in Battle Creek, Nebraska in 1895, and lived in Denver, Colorado, before moving to Washington, D.C. He studied at the University of Nebraska before serving three years in an American Expeditionary Force regiment in World War I, and afterward became a free-lance writer for...

, writing on that topic in War Through the Ages (1960), said; "This outcome... may be explained by the fact that Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

 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." Although Jomini also wrote extensively on war, he did not attempt to define war. Clausewitz did, providing the following definition:
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 historical sources. His historiographical approach is evident in his first extended study, written when he was 25, of the Thirty Years War. He rejects the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

's view of the war as a chaotic muddle and instead explains its drawn-out operations by the economy
Economy
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

 and technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 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 has several definitions, the most famous one being that war is the continuation of politics by other means. He also stressed the complex nature of war, which encompasses both the socio-political and the operational and stresses the primacy of state policy.

The word "strategy
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

" 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." Some modern readers find this narrow definition disappointing, but his focus was on the conduct of military operations in war, not on the full range of the conduct of politics in war. Nonetheless, Clausewitz conceived of war as a political, social, and military phenomenon which might — depending on circumstances — involve the entire population of a nation at war. In any case, Clausewitz saw military force as an instrument that states and other political actors use to pursue the ends of policy, in a dialectic between two 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. However, the inherent superiority of the defense obviously does not mean that the defender will always win: there are other asymmetries to be considered. He was interested in cooperation 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 with Napoleon, which were energized by a rising spirit of nationalism, he emphasized 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 democratization of the armed forces much as universal suffrage democratized 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 the fog of war
Fog of war
The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign...

. 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 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.

Clausewitz's "fascinating trinity" (wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit) comprises (1) a blind impulse, located in the people and their passions, including hate and enmity, (2) free will, which belongs to the army and its leader and includes chance and probability, and (3) pure reason, which pertains to the government. The theory of war needs to deal with all three factors.

Principal ideas


Key ideas discussed in On War include:
  • the dialectical approach to military analysis
  • the methods of "critical analysis"
  • 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 war
  • philosophical distinctions between "absolute" or "ideal war," and "real war"
  • in "real war," the distinctive poles of a) limited war and b) war to "render the enemy helpless"
  • "war" belonging fundamentally to the social realm—rather than to the realms of art or science
  • "strategy" belonging primarily to the realm of art
  • "tactics" belonging primarily to the realm of science
  • 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
    Fog of war
    The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign...

  • "friction" - the disparity between the ideal performance of units, organisation 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 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 Prussian military establishment – especially Moltke the Elder
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field...

 – 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
Military theory is the analysis of normative behavior and trends in military affairs and military history, beyond simply describing events in war and military theories, especially since the influence of Clausewitz in the nineteenth century attempt to encapsulate the complex cultural, political and...

 and practice, 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.... [Clauswitz's] theory 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
Christopher Bassford is an American military historian. Bassford graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in history and honors for his dissertation on tactical nuclear weapons and completed his MA in American diplomatic history at Ohio University. Subsequent to receiving his...

, professor of strategy at the National War College
National War College
The National War College of the United States is a school in the National Defense University. It is housed in Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., the third-oldest Army post still active. It was officially established on July 1, 1946, as an upgraded replacement for the...

 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," ("Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln") 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 [or wrestling match, a better translation of the German Zweikampf] on 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" [wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit]: 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
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 as used in the Third Reich's propaganda in the 1940s. He did not use the term: rather, he discussed "absolute war" or "ideal war" as 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, 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: "war to achieve limited aims"; and war to "disarm" the enemy, "to render [him] 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 some dispute. One analysis was that of Panagiotis Kondylis
Panagiotis Kondylis
Panagiotis Kondylis , was a Greek writer, translator and publications manager who principally wrote in German, in addition to translating most of his work into Greek...

, a Greek-German writer and philosopher, who opposed the interpretations of Raymond Aron
Raymond Aron
Raymond-Claude-Ferdinand Aron was a French philosopher, sociologist, journalist and political scientist.He is best known for his 1955 book The Opium of the Intellectuals, the title of which inverts Karl Marx's claim that religion was the opium of the people -- in contrast, Aron argued that in...

 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 a means to the eternal quest for power, of raison d'État 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
Peter Paret is American military, cultural & art historian with a particular interest in German history. Paret was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Dr. Hans Paret and Suzanne Aimée Cassirer, who divorced in 1932...

 of Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 and Sir Michael Howard
Michael Howard (historian)
Sir Michael Eliot Howard, OM, CH, CBE, MC, FBA is a British military historian, formerly Chichele Professor of the History of War and Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford University, and Robert A...

, and the philosopher, musician, and game theorist
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

 Anatol Rapoport
Anatol Rapoport
Anatol Rapoport was a Russian-born American Jewish mathematical psychologist. He contributed to general systems theory, mathematical biology and to the mathematical modeling of social interaction and stochastic models of contagion.-Biography:...

. 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 British military historian John Keegan
John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

 has 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 On War, but despite this his ideas have been widely influential in military theory
Military theory
Military theory is the analysis of normative behavior and trends in military affairs and military history, beyond simply describing events in war and military theories, especially since the influence of Clausewitz in the nineteenth century attempt to encapsulate the complex cultural, political and...

 and have had a strong influence on German military thought specificially. Later Prussian and German generals such as Helmuth Graf von Moltke
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field...

 were clearly influenced by Clausewitz: Moltke's notable 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.

After 1890 or so, Clausewitz's influence spread to British thinking as well. One example is naval historian Julian Corbett
Julian Corbett
Sir Julian Stafford Corbett was a prominent British naval historian and geostrategist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose works helped shape the Royal Navy's reforms of that era...

 (1854–1922), whose work reflected a deep if idiosyncratic adherence to Clausewitz's concepts. Clausewitz had little influence on American military thought before 1945, but influenced Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 and Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, and thus the Communist and Soviet 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 Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 was an admirer of Clausewitz and called him "one of the great military writers", his influence on the Red Army was immense. 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 anti-humanist anti-revolutionary." Clausewitz directly influenced Mao Zedong, who read On War in 1938 and organized a seminar on Clausewitz as part of the educational program for the Party leadership in Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

. Thus the "Clausewitzian" content in many of Mao's writings is not merely second-hand knowledge via Lenin (as many have supposed), but reflects Mao's own in-depth 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
Fog of war
The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign...

derives from Clausewitz's stress on how confused warfare can seem while immersed within it. The term center of gravity
Center of gravity (military)
The center of gravity is a concept developed by Carl Von Clausewitz, a Prussian military theorist, in his work On War.-United States Department of Defense:...

, used in a military context derives from Clausewitz's usage, which he took from Newtonian Mechanics. 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


After 1970, some theorists claimed that nuclear proliferation
Nuclear proliferation
Nuclear proliferation is a term now used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons, fissile material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information, to nations which are not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the...

 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 have used nuclear weapons against each other, instead using conventional means or proxy wars to settle disputes. If such a conflict did occur, presumably both combatants would be annihilated.

The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen many instances of state armies attempting to suppress insurgencies
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

, terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, and other forms of asymmetrical warfare. If Clausewitz focused solely on wars between countries with well-defined armies, as many commentators have argued, then perhaps On War has lost its analytical edge as a tool for understanding war as it is currently fought. This is an ahistorical view, however, for 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 van Creveld
Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

. 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 policy by other means, is not only irrelevant today but also inapplicable historically. For an opposing view see Strachan, Hew
Hew Strachan
Brigadier Professor Hew Francis Anthony Strachan, DL, FRSE, FRHS is a Scottish military historian, well known for his work on the administration of the British Army and the history of the First World War...

, and Herberg-Rothe, Andreas, eds. Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century (2007). Others argue that the essentials of Clausewitz's theoretical approach remain valid, but that our thinking must adjust to the realities of particular times and places. Knowing that "war is an expression of politics by other means" does us no good unless we use a definition of "politics" that is appropriate to the circumstance and to the cultural proclivities of the combatants in each situation; this is especially true when warfare is carried on across a cultural or civilizational divide, and the antagonists do not share as much common background as did many of the participants in the First and Second World Wars.

In military academies, schools and universities worldwide, Clausewitz's literature is mandatory reading.

In popular culture


Literature
  • 1945: In the Horatio Hornblower
    Horatio Hornblower
    Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy officer who is the protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester. He was later the subject of films and television programs.The original Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy...

     novel The Commodore
    The Commodore
    The Commodore is a Horatio Hornblower novel written by C. S. Forester. It was published in the United States under the title Commodore Hornblower.-Plot summary:...

    , by C. S. Forester
    C. S. Forester
    Cecil Scott "C.S." Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith , an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen...

    , the protagonist meets Clausewitz during the events surrounding the defence of Riga
    Riga
    Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

    .
  • 1945: In That Hideous Strength
    That Hideous Strength
    That Hideous Strength is a 1945 novel by C. S. Lewis, the final book in Lewis's theological science fiction Space Trilogy. The events of this novel follow those of Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra and once again feature the philologist Elwin Ransom...

    by C. S. Lewis
    C. S. Lewis
    Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

    , 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."
  • 1955: In Ian Fleming
    Ian Fleming
    Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

    's novel Moonraker, James Bond
    James Bond (character)
    Royal Navy Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR is a fictional character created by journalist and novelist Ian Fleming in 1953. He is the main protagonist of the James Bond series of novels, films, comics and video games...

     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
    The Wars
    The Wars is a 1977 novel by Timothy Findley telling the story of a young Canadian officer in World War I. First published by Clarke Irwin, it won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1977.-Plot overview:...

    by Timothy Findley
    Timothy Findley
    Timothy Irving Frederick Findley, OC, O.Ont was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.-Biography:...

    , a novel about a 19-year-old Canadian officer who serves in World War I, one of his fellow soldiers reads On War
    On War
    Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

    , and occasionally quotes some of its passages.
  • 2000: In the Ethan Stark military science fiction
    Military science fiction
    Military science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction in which the principal characters are members of a military service and an armed conflict is taking place, normally in space, or on a planet other than Earth...

     book series by John G. Hemry
    John G. Hemry
    John G. Hemry is an American author of military science fiction novels. Drawing on his experience as a retired United States Navy officer, he has written the Stark's War and Paul Sinclair series. Under the name Jack Campbell, he has written six volumes of the Lost Fleet series...

    , Clausewitz is often quoted by Private Mendoza and his father Lieutenant Mendoza to explain events that unfold during the series.
  • 2004: Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

     mentions Clausewitz on pages 41 and 45 of his Chronicles: Volume One
    Chronicles: Volume One
    Chronicles, Volume One is the first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir. Published on October 5, 2004, by Simon & Schuster, the 304-page volume covers selected points from Dylan's long career. The book spent 19 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction books...

    , 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 Vom Kriege 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
    The Gaslight Cafe
    The Gaslight Cafe was an American coffee house located in the basement of 116 MacDougal Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York...

     in Greenwich Village
    Greenwich Village
    Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

    .


Film
  • 1962: In Lawrence of Arabia
    Lawrence of Arabia (film)
    Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company, Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the title role. It is widely...

    , General Allenby (Jack Hawkins
    Jack Hawkins
    Colonel John Edward "Jack" Hawkins CBE was an English actor of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.-Career:Hawkins was born at Lyndhurst Road, Wood Green, Middlesex, the son of master builder Thomas George Hawkins and his wife, Phoebe née Goodman. The youngest of four children in a close-knit family,...

    ) contends to T. E. Lawrence
    T. E. Lawrence
    Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

     (Peter O'Toole
    Peter O'Toole
    Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is an Irish actor of stage and screen. O'Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and then went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most...

    ) that "I fight like Clausewitz, you fight like Saxe", to which Lawrence replies, "We should do very well indeed, shouldn't we?"
  • 1977: In Sam Peckinpah
    Sam Peckinpah
    David Samuel "Sam" Peckinpah was an American filmmaker and screenwriter who achieved prominence following the release of the Western epic The Wild Bunch...

    's Cross of Iron
    Cross of Iron
    Cross of Iron is a 1977 war film directed by Sam Peckinpah, featuring James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason and David Warner. The film is set on the Eastern Front in World War II during the Soviet's Caucasus operations that forced the Wehrmacht to retreat from the Taman Peninsula on the...

    , Feldwebel Steiner (James Coburn
    James Coburn
    James Harrison Coburn III was an American film and television actor. Coburn appeared in nearly 70 films and made over 100 television appearances during his 45-year career, and played a wide range of roles and won an Academy Award for his supporting role as Glen Whitehouse in Affliction.A capable,...

    ) 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: " ...and von Clausewitz said, 'war is a continuation of state policy by other means.'" "Yes," Steiner says, overlooking the trenches, " ...by other means."
  • 1995: In Crimson Tide
    Crimson Tide (film)
    The film has uncredited additional writing by Quentin Tarantino, much of it being the pop-culture reference-laden dialogue.The U.S. Navy objected to many of the elements in the script — particularly the aspect of mutiny on board a U.S. naval vessel — and as such, the film was produced...

    , 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
    Denzel Washington
    Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter, director, and film producer. He first rose to prominence when he joined the cast of the medical drama, St. Elsewhere, playing Dr...

    ) contends that the interpretation of Clausewitz's ideas by the captain (Gene Hackman
    Gene Hackman
    Eugene Allen "Gene" Hackman is an American actor and novelist.Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two, Hackman has also won three Golden Globes and two BAFTAs in a career that spanned five decades. He first came to fame in 1967 with his performance as Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde...

    ) is too simplistic.
  • 2007: In Lions for Lambs
    Lions for Lambs
    Lions for Lambs is a 2007 American drama film about the connection between a platoon of United States soldiers in Afghanistan, a U.S. senator, a reporter, and a California college professor. It stars Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep...

    , during a military briefing in Afghanistan
    Afghanistan
    Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

     Lt. Col. Falco (Peter Berg
    Peter Berg
    Peter Berg is an American actor, film director, producer and writer. He is known for directing films such as Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, The Rundown, Hancock and Battleship. He also developed the television series Friday Night Lights, which was adapted from the film he directed. As an actor...

    ) 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
    Law Abiding Citizen
    Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. The film takes place in Philadelphia and tells the story of a man whose developed sociopathic tendencies drove him into killing while targeting not...

    , Clausewitz is frequently quoted by Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), the main character.

See also


  • Famous military writers
    • Niccolò Machiavelli
      Niccolò Machiavelli
      Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

       – The Prince
      The Prince
      The Prince is a political treatise by the Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus . But the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after...

    • Antoine-Henri Jomini
      Antoine-Henri Jomini
      Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

    • B.H. Liddell Hart
    • John Keegan
      John Keegan
      Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

    • Sun Tzu
      Sun Tzu
      Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

    • Chanakya
      Chanakya
      Chānakya was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta , and the first Indian emperor generally considered to be the architect of his rise to power. Traditionally, Chanakya is also identified by the names Kautilya and VishnuGupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise...

    • Martin van Creveld
      Martin van Creveld
      Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...


  • Absolute war
    Absolute war
    The concept of absolute war was a philosophical construct developed by the military theorist General Carl von Clausewitz. This concept was featured in the first half of the first chapter of his most famous book, On War...

  • Clausewitz Engine
    Clausewitz Engine
    Clausewitz is a game engine developed by Paradox Interactive. It is used by Europa Universalis III, Hearts of Iron III and Victoria II. It will also be used by Crusader Kings II that is sheduled to be released on February 2012....

  • Operation Clausewitz
    Operation Clausewitz
    Operation Clausewitz was part of the defence of Berlin by Nazi Germany during the final stage of the European conflict of World War II. It started on 20 April 1945 and called for a number of thus far unknown actions but which included the evacuation of all Wehrmacht and SS offices in Berlin and...

  • Philosophy of war
    Philosophy of war
    The philosophy of war examines war beyond the typical questions of weaponry and strategy, inquiring into such things as the meaning and etiology of war, the relationship between war and human nature, and the ethics of war...

  • Principles of War
    Principles of War
    The Principles of War were tenets originally proposed by Carl von Clausewitz in his essay Principles of War, and later enlarged in his book, On War. Additionally, Napoléon Bonaparte had pioneered the "Principles of War," and "The armies of today are based on the organization created by Napoleon...

  • Strategic studies
    Strategic studies
    Strategic studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning the relationship between politics, geography and natural resources, economics, and military power, such as the role of intelligence, diplomacy and threats in the preparation and use of force...

  • Total war
    Total war
    Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...



External links