American forces withdrew at the end of 2015, leaving only a token force for training oversight. A short bloody civil war ensued with a faction of the Islamic extremists affiliated with the original Taliban quickly retaking the government. They consolidated their power over the next five years, bringing isolated tribal groups under control with an extreme interpretation of sharì’a law. Afghans see this turn of events not as a return to a life of repression, or even a triumph for Islam, but as a victory over another in a series of invading states and the triumph of nationalists over subjugation to a foreign nation under the regime of a puppet government. The current government was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2035, however the United States has only limited diplomatic relations to this day.
This is the first time I have read Clausewitz. The experience has changed and expanded my understanding of conflict and warfare. I am certain it will influence the remainder of my academic and professional career.
As a Marine NCO, I was at the lowest possible layer of leadership that Clausewitz discusses. The majority of the decisions I was expected to make were operational, and therefore tactical. I was given instruction in the strategic realm only as an overview, and was expected to be concerned with the how, and not worry about the why. Hindsight, combined with insight gained from Clausewitz allows me to broaden the view and (in some cases anyway) see the strategic value in the tasks that a young Corporal grumbled over.
Clausewitz’ theory culminates in the eighth book, on “War Plans”. While it is clear by the absence of chapters that Clausewitz had more to tell us, he does a great job of bringing everything full circle in order to demonstrate the application of the information in the other books. Clausewitz manages to pull all of the previous discussions together to demonstrate applied strategy, complete with supporting examples from recent history at the time of his writing. In my mind, however, the most valuable chapters of the book are those in which Clausewitz expands on his ideas about war’s relation to the Government, particularly section B of chapter 6.
To me, book seven feels the most unfinished of all of Clausewitz’ writings. It is true that in discussing other ideas in other books, Clausewitz has already given us several points that might be contained in seven. Even so, more than the rest of the series, this book has the feel of an outline or draft to built on later.
Even though this may be the case, Clausewitz gives us the fundamentals of strategic attack. Essentially, Clausewitz tells us, seize and hold the initiative, assault through the enemy using fire and maneuver, and don’t over-extend. Also, choose objectives appropriately, and be mindful of the terrain. Of course, Clausewitz goes into some detail on each of these points, and where the overall theme is similar to ideas in early works, Clausewitz explains to us the nuances regarding application in the attack. Again, while some of the fine details have changed do to the progress of time and advances in technology, the overall ideas are still sound.
Book six gives us Clausewitz’ theory of the defense. While he is particularly verbose in this book, Clausewitz lays out for us some timeless concepts that can and should be applied as the basis to any defensive strategy. First, Clausewitz gives us the purpose of the defense. Essentially it is to gain time for the commander to seek a battle that is more advantageous to him (p.370, 380). He makes it clear that the defense is merely a means to an end, a method of war, and not the end result in its self (p.392).