Clausewitz On War, Book 1: A First Impression

Like the burdened and somewhat unprepared straggler I heave myself into camp to join this esteemed group as it gathers around the campfire to discuss On War by Carl von Clausewitz. My fellow travelers have journeyed from many realms and share a common passion to study and discuss military strategy and its place in an ever complex world.

I am a late joiner to the legion of followers who have discovered Clausewitz and made him the focus of their martial studies. In that vein, I will offer my impressions of his work as I synthesize his observations on military strategy with my own limited experiences and in light of my chosen field of study, history.

As I look back to my first personal experience with war. I discovered that vein winds back over forty years to 1966 and Christmas Eve in Vietnam. I was pulling my first outpost duty shortly after arriving in country. The Christmas Truce had lulled everyone into a semi sense of security and as the night slowly oozed along as it does in such a climate, the stillness was broken by the whirring and crash of an incoming mortar round. All hell broke loose and in those first few seconds of that day of peace, I faced what Clausewitz discusses in chapter four, Danger in War. The firefight lasted for a short time, but as green tracers raced to try and intersect with my head, I felt that exhilarating moment that comes with recognition that one’s life is in jeopardy. As I read Clausewitz’s account of the experience of a novice to the battlefield, that night came flooding back into my memory.

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