The probing of the theorist of the moral pretension of the national interest puts him in an awkard position by making him suspect of being indifferent to all truth and morality. This is why there are so many ideologies and so few theories.
Hans Joachim Morgenthau, 1962
The first chapter of Book 2 has some interesting points which lead to a fuller understanding of Clausewitz’s intent and the various falacies that he sees associated with theory. I will comment on four points, but this is not meant to indicate that there are not others present in this chapter.
First, Clausewitz shows the distinction between weapons and equipment and fighting, the latter however is the essential element to the phenomenon of war, which is what designates war from other types of social activity. There is also this, “Fighting has determined the nature of the weapons employed, these in turn influence the combat; thus an interaction exists between the two.”
Edward Luttwak developed this interaction very well in his book Strategy, The Logic of War and Peace in his technological level of war which interacts with his tactical, operational or strategic levels producing the corresponding effect. Yet another example of how the general theory can be built upon and further developed.
Second, Clausewitz describes the utility of his general theory (once again the points he makes here concern war as a phenomenon, not any specific epoch), that being “valid for the great majority of cases and not completely unsuitable for any” that in turn dealing with the means which is fighting, not a specific technology. As is commonly understood in social theory today, all theories of this type encounter anomalies. The question is which theory does a better job of describing the phenomenon of war? That of Clausewitz or any of his competitors? And that theory is not expected to describe the military culture of any one political community, which for Clausewitz is outside of war itself, belonging to the social conditions that predate and (as “objective politics”) influence war. The theory rather is expected to describe the interaction between the two or more warring political communities. Finally, the distinctions between strategic and tactical theory are also introduced, with the tactical being more time-bound (based on the examples provided) than the strategic.
Third, fighting consists of a sequence of engagements, each complete in itself. Here we see his famous distinction between “tactics” and “strategy”. Hew Strachan has mentioned in his biography of Clausewitz (Clausewitz’s On War, pp 109-110), that Clausewitz saw the “operational” as existing between “tactical” and “strategic” but avoided this third concept “as an obstacle to conceptual clarity”. Later I will comment on Clausewitz being in effect the creator of the concept of operational art. This distinction/dialectic between tactics and strategy is covered more thoroughly later in this book.
Fourth, and the final point I will bring up, is the summary consisting of the final three paragraphs of this chapter which are worth careful comtemplation. Does the comment as to the “rankest pedant” concern expecting predictive qualities from strategic theory, which must necessarily be retrospective? What exactly is the “fixed point of view” mentioned in the last paragraph? I’ll leave the answer to the first question to the reader, as to the second, the answer in my mind is obvious. The “fixed point of view” is the political purpose, the rational element of the remarkable trinity. This the perspective from which the seemingly chaotic phenomenon of war can theoretically make sense.