Clausewitz, On War, Book II: The Intellectual Style of the Military Genius

Last week Lexington Green and I wrote on the virtues intrinsic to military genius. These virtues were categorized as intellectual, or psychological, or both. The truths revealed came from Chapter 3, Book I of On War.

Book II of On War attempts to serve as bedrock to the theory of war, and in doing so, provides a guide to the kinds of knowledge that belongs in the intellect of the military genius. Book II also explains how that knowledge ought to be learned, and used, and ultimately the intellectual style of the military genius. This supplements the lengthy treatment I gave to psychological, emotional, and moral factors that help describe the military genius.

How does the commander go about learning what he must? What is his intellectual style and what are his habits? What must he learn? How must he learn it? Should have be a disinterested third party with respect to his knowledge? Must he internalize his military knowledge? Is his knowledge derived mainly from experience, or from study? What are the pitfalls of the intellectual methods of the military mind?

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Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: Clausewitz on Military Genius

I am reading Clausewitz because I fight as a profession. It is therefore my duty to heed my obligation to society that I read and understand my craft. Clausewitz, whether one agrees with him or not, has shaped the doctrine of all modern state-owned militaries. The capstone doctrinal document of the Marines, MCDP 1: Warfighting, is laced with Clausewitzian thought and terminology. Ask any Marine lieutenant what Friction is. He almost certainly knows!

On my road to professionalism I have wondered what makes a person a genius at the military arts and sciences. Fortunately Clausewitz provided me the Third Chapter of Book One of On War, where he dissects military genius into its component parts and discusses them. In doing so he provides a great starting point to discuss the nature of military genius. What is military genius? Where does it come from? What kinds of people are military geniuses? Do we make geniuses, or are they born?

Here I will digest the chapter and provide my thoughts, as well as questions for the Round Table.

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