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  • Archive for the 'Clausewitz Roundtable' Category

    Carl von Clausewitz, Book III, General Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 2nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    Strategy is a very misunderstood concept. Over the last eight years the United States has implemented a number of various strategies which were more the nature of public relations campaigns, attempts to give the impression of government design on what have been commonly seen as disorganized chaos following mismanaged policy adventures. Too often it seems that „strategy“ is used interchangeably with „intentions“, in order to give the impression that by calling one’s stated intentions a „strategy“ it magically increases the likelihood of success.

    Reading Clausewitz’s On War during what has been arguably a nadir of strategic thought’s influence on US policy formulation could be seen as depressing. At the same time our current situation is comprehensible in Clausewitzian terms. As Americans (addressing the American contributors to this roundtable) it may be particularly difficult for us to understand (let alone face) the dysfunctions of our own domestic political system (dysfunctional policy sharing the character of those who have implemented and supported it) along with the assumptions of our own strategic culture.

    Clausewitz offers a different perspective and a theory-based methodology – in effect a conceptual yardstick – with which to look at our own situation and compare it to other situations at present or in the past. There are no guarantees that this will lead to better policy however, or to more practical and farsighted statesmen, even the best strategic theory could not save Prussia which no longer exists as a political entity.

    So, a bit of an introduction as to the importance of strategic theory but also its obvious limitations. Another obvious limitation is lack of understanding. Book III offers a good point of departure for a quick review of what Clausewitz is up to here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Painting by Numbers

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 1st February 2009 (All posts by )

    One theme of Book III is the contrast between strategy, a world of uncertainty, and tactics, a world of mechanistic certainty. This contrast is most striking in the contrast between the moral and the material. Military theorists like von Bulow and Jomini, the immediate predecessors of Clausewitz, attempted to take the deterministic approach that met with some success in tactics and use it to reduce strategy to a “war by algebra”, amputating that inconvenient and unquantifiable moral dimension:

    It is even more ridiculous when we consider that these very critics usually exclude all moral qualities from strategic theory, and only examine material factors. They reduce everything to a few mathematical formulas of equilibrium and superiority, of time and space, limited by a few angles and lines. If that were really all, it would hardly provide a scientific problems for a schoolboy.
     
    But we should admit that scientific formulas and problems are not under discussion. The relations between material factors are all very simple; what is more difficult to grasp are the intellectual factors involved. Even so, it is only in the highest realms of strategy that intellectual complications and extreme diversity of factors and relationships occur. At that level there is little or no difference between strategy, policy, and statesmanship, and there, as we have already said, their influence is greater in question of quantity and scale than in forms of execution. While execution is dominant, as it is in the individual events of a war whether great or small, than intellectual factors are reduced to a minimum.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Painting by Numbers

    Clausewitz, On War, Book III: The Substance of Strategy

    Posted by Shane on 31st January 2009 (All posts by )

    After laying the definitional framework of war in Books I and II, Clausewitz now drills deep into the practice of strategy. His admonishments in Book III resonate today, and in fact are echoed by nearly every business management book on shelves today: to wit, “The strategist must go on campaign himself” (i.e., to allow adaptation to emerging conditions on a chaotic battlefield).

    Careful to distinguish between strategy and tactics, Clausewitz underscores the temptation to deal with the present – the “thousands of diversions” that can throw the execution of a well-formulated plan off course. His assertion that “… it takes more strength of will to make an important decision in strategy than in tactics” is particularly apt, especially since the tactician can observe “at least half the problem” empirically, while the strategist has to guess and presume.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Factors to Be Considered in Making and Executing Strategy

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz set forth the nature of war, in Book I. What we saw there was that the nature of war can only be incompletely known, by a series of analogies. It is deepest nature cannot ever be realized in practice, but only tends toward “Absolute War”. In Book II Clausewitz discussed the theory of war, disclosing that there is no actual theory, but only a method of study, which is to be internalized by the commander. In Book III, “On Strategy in General” he tells that strategy is at bottom simple, yet exceedingly difficult in practice, and devotes most of his discussion to telling us the things that other writers have erroneously believed to be true about strategy. So, to recap our journey so far, we have been told that (1) there is an inner logic to war — that never happens in reality, (2) the theory of war is induction and intuition and examples, but not a theory in any ordinary sense, and (3) strategy is simple as an idea, hard in practice, and not what most people think it is.

    The pattern here is pretty clear. You expect Clausewitz to tell you something, but when he does, he takes most of it back, and he tells you that a lot of what matters is inarticulable. Clausewitz works not only by induction, and example, but also by indirection and paradox. Most of all, he works by analogy, to suggest the shape of something that cannot be explained to lay persons who have not experienced the stress of high command, the hardships of campaigning, the hazards and confusion of battle. Yet he is not trying to be difficult or clever. He is trying to show that what most smart people try to make war out to be is wrong, and why it is wrong. He wants to articulate a better understanding, so a superior practice of war can be undertaken, in place of the erroneous ideas and actions he sees all around. He would rather be difficult, or merely suggest something that cannot be said, than to say something that is actually false.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War: Book 3: Boldness

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 29th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Chapter 6 of Book 3 is one of Clausewitz’s gems. He strikes that middle ground that he so often aims for and frequently misses, balancing the rational and nonrational, outlining the pitfalls and long reach of this quality.

    My interest in Clausewitz goes beyond the military applications of his thought. My first substantive introduction to him was by a mentor who was partial to military thought (Sun Tzu as well) as a model for organizational strategy.

    I’ve never suffered from a deficiency of boldness, but that is a mixed blessing for a woman; was more than is. I recall springing up a flight of stairs in a college dormitory not my own, whistling. I was feeling good. “Women who whistle, and hens that crow,” came the word from a suddenly appearing housemother. (Yes, it was that long ago!) My boldness extended a poisonous look.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: War is an Act of Human Intercourse

    Posted by Zenpundit on 28th January 2009 (All posts by )

    I’d like to follow up on Younghusband’s excellent post “Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: Clausewitz as social theorist

    Social factors can play a pivotal role in an engagement. During the Kamakura period the Japanese style of one on one combat with longswords was forever changed after facing a Mongol cavalry charge and a wall of Chinese spearmen. Furthermore, social factors abound in the first Book of On War where Clausewitz lists the general variables of war (see my equation for examples). Part of Clausewitz’s military “genius” could be “social intelligence”. This type of intelligence plays an important role in understanding personal relations, navigating and influencing politics, and affects interpretive skills such as those needed in intelligence analysis. As in the Mongolian example above, social rules periodically clash with changing times or new enemies. A military “socialite” would have the attuned social intelligence to not only detect these changes but to be able to react to them.
     
    Clausewitz was correct to identify the social dimension as a weak point of the materialists. His only fault was being 250 years ahead of his time, before social constructivism had an established framework to deal with the problem.

    A nice piece of analysis by Younghusband. I was stirred to ponder along a related tangent by Clausewitz’s passage ” War is an Act of Human Intercourse”: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: War is an Act of Human Intercourse

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: Clausewitz as social theorist

    Posted by Younghusband on 28th January 2009 (All posts by )

    In Book 2 of On War Clausewitz attempts to clarify the reasons why formal theories of war are no help to a commander-in-chief. He criticizes contemporary theorists as being too mechanical, too reliant on material factors. Clausewitz reminds us that war takes place in a social space, with social conventions that are fluid and cannot be pinned down by static “rules of war”. However, he fails any attempt at social analysis. Rather, he spends his time trying to differentiate between “knowledge”, “intellect” and “judgement”. This muddles what is otherwise a brilliant observation: “War is an act of human intercourse” (pp. 149). Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2, Concluding Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 27th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Time constraints as usual are not allowing me to participate like I would wish to in this fascinating discussion.

    Just a few comments, a bit disjointed perhaps, but here goes:

    First, the “tactical nature” of victory.  Fighting is the means for tactics and military victory is the end, whereas military victory is the means for strategy whose end is the return to peace with the political purpose attained  (Book 2, ch 2).   Of course either side could forestall peace for whatever reason, seeing the continuation of (relatively low-level) hostilities as more advantageous than concluding peace.  This brings up potentially other problems as referred to in Section 3, Ch 1, Book 1.  In any case, a four-star general who says that he didn’t plan for “Phase IV” operations should be busted to private and expected to clean latrines for the duration.  You would only have to do this once, and the effect on strategic thought and its interaction with planning would be only beneficial.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 3: the Prussian as prophet

    Posted by Kotare on 26th January 2009 (All posts by )

    In chapter 17 of Book 3 we see Clausewitz as prophet, and a remarkably accurate one at that. Writing about the Napoleonic wars, Clausewitz identified three trends that would characterize combat in the Second World War: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War Book 2: The breath of war is the exhaustion of ideas

    Posted by selil on 26th January 2009 (All posts by )

    As I turn Carl Von Clausewitz over in my mind the writing of a long dead Prussian floats forward in time hopefully to inform decision about future conflict. If, as I have said, the concept that tactics and strategy are independent of technology. If the premise can be proven that technology is always an analogy or metaphor for previous forms and tools then Clausewitz may inform our ideas of future cyber conflict. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 25th January 2009 (All posts by )

    In book II, Clausewitz goes into great detail about the formation and application of theory. While he espouses little actual theory here, he does hammer home one extremely important idea.

    The most prominent point, in my mind, is that there is no one-size fits-all solution. Clausewitz discusses the use of “routine“ as necessary for ancillary functions and training, as it provides basic knowledge on a tactical level for troops in the field, and provide the junior officer with “brisk, precise, and reliable leadership, reducing natural friction and easing the working of the machine” (p. 153). Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: The Oblique Order, the Road Not Taken, and the Black Swan

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 24th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Themes and passages scattered throughout Book 2 reminded me of themes and passages scattered throughout mad prophet Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan. Both Book 2 and the The Black Swan detail the ways humans fool themselves, sometimes in disproportionately disastrous ways. Both preach a critical and conservative empiricism in the face of a baffling and shifting world. Both use some of the same empirical techniques, in Clausewitz’s case two hundred years too early.

    One of Taleb’s main themes is the tendency for specialists in any field to develop physics envy and attempt to reduce the horrifically complex phenomena they study to a deterministic and mechanistic model complete with grand and complex equations. This envy doesn’t lead to a higher level of truth and accuracy. It leads to a higher level of systemic self-deception and delusion. It creates financial weapons of mass destruction such as an MBA armed with a spreadsheet and the belief that manipulating rows and columns bestows the ability to prophesy. Vain dreams.

    Clauswitz joins Taleb in explaining why this delusion will lead to ruin:

    The essential difference is that war is not an exercise of the will directed at inanimate matter, as is the case with the mechanical arts, or at matter that is animate but passive and yielding, as is the case with the human mind and emotions in the fine arts. In war, the will is directed at an animate object that reacts. It must be obvious that the intellectual codification used in the arts and sciences is inappropriate to such an activity. At the same time it is clear that continual striving after laws analogous to those appropriate to the realm of inanimate matter was bound to lead to one mistake after another. Yet it was precisely the mechanical arts that the art of war was supposed to imitate. The fine arts were impossible to imitate, since they themselves do not yet have sufficient laws and rules of their own. So far all attempts at formulating any have been found too limited and one-sided and have been constantly been undermined and swept away by the currents of opinion, emotion and custom.

    You can see Clausewitz calling out Jomini here, since Jomini tried (and failed) to reduce war to a science that followed predictable and universal principles (see Clausewitz’s picking on Jomini’s beloved interior lines for a specific example). Many died in the Civil War because of Jomini and his perverse inspiration (they may also have been killed by a second generation of warfare but rifles, Minié balls, and Napoleon guns are a poor defense against an out-of-control theory straining for relevance or killer generations). For those that disbelieve that military theory can’t kill, Clausewitz provides warnings a plenty.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book II: Inducing a General Theory of War

    Posted by Shane on 24th January 2009 (All posts by )

    In 1916, Albert Einstein published the General Theory of Relativity. As its name implies, the “general” theory was a broader – ostensibly more strategic – application of his Special Theory of Relativity from 1905. After starting with the descriptive, Einstein then broadened his perspective to induce a general theory that could be used to describe the nature of all universal forces.

    Carl von Clausewitz followed this same path nearly a century earlier, first formulating his “Special Theory of War” in Book I – a descriptive text that defined “what” war is – before inducing a “General Theory” of how war applies across time and space. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 8 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: Chapter 1 Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 23rd January 2009 (All posts by )

    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. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    “U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clausewitz”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd January 2009 (All posts by )

    Many thanks to our esteemed colleague, Lord Curzon, who is not only the former Viceroy of India, but he apparently knows how to use Photoshop, too. He has put up a picture he made over at the terrific Coming Anarchy blog, which he says is his “one contribution to the Clausewitz Roundtable“:

    Clausewitz, US Army

    Clausewitz in camo, instead of sword, shako and epaulettes. If you squint a little, it works. The picture captures the spirit of our ongoing Clausewitz Roundtable, which is not meant to be an exercise in antiquarianism. What does Clausewitz have to say to us today? How do we better understand current issues, by looking at them through a “Clausewitzian lens”? What would it take to do a “critical analysis” of America’s defense challenges, along the lines Clausewitz suggests? The only way to get his perspective, without a ouija board or going to Heaven and asking him, is to read his book, as carefully as circumstances permit, and try to apply whatever remains of value in it to our current situation.

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Adam Elkus posts on “Clausewitz, The Rage of the People, and Strategies of Positive Ends”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd January 2009 (All posts by )

    This is an excellent, link-laden post on Rethinking Security: Asymmetric Analysis by Adam Elkus. Adam points out that many of the modern manifestations of large scale violence in recent times are derived from one of the three segments of Clausewitz’s “trinity” — the rage of the people. But, as Adam notes, without the other segments, political aim and military organization and direction and discipline, the violence cannot accomplish anything. It either burns itself out, or turns into a pointless “vortex” of violence. (Vortices go around and around as I recall.)

    The challenge for policy makers, military commanders and democratic publics in developed countries is: How do you deal with this type of outbreak? As we know:

    The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish by that test [i.e., what’s the value of the objectives] the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to make it into something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.

    If you are the French, and it is happening in Algeria, you leave. If you are the USA and these events are happening in a place that threatens your oil supply, or in a collapsing state that has nukes such as Pakistan may eventually be, what then? What if one side has all the elements of Clausewitz’s trinity in place, but its opponent does not? What if only one side has an articulable political purpose? Is the conflict a war at all? I ask this not to be pedantic. Getting terms clear from the outset is an essential aid to analysis. I think it is a war, since at least one side has political goals. But it is war which most of the time may have a relatively dilute mixture of what we would now call “kinetics”. Whether it is called a war or not, there are likely to be political and/or police measures rather than military measures in place much of the time. Bribing and coopting a faction in the “vortex” may make more sense than sending your own people into it, for example. The British failed to conquer Nepal, and they made lemons into lemonade — they brought the Gurkhas into their employ, to their mutual benefit for almost two centuries.

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 2: the fog of war

    Posted by Kotare on 22nd January 2009 (All posts by )

    Many people talk about “the fog of war”, even if they don’t know who coined the phrase. It was Clausewitz, and he used it to describe the pervasive difficulties of uncertainty, distorted perception and unreliable information that plague the commander in battle:

    “all action takes place…in a kind of twilight, which, like fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.” [2.2]

    In Clausewitz’s era – the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries – the commander’s sense of the battle was shaped by what he and his aides could see and hear, and on reports coming to him from subordinates. Good generals stuck close to the action, but much was hidden by ground, trees, mist, rain, noise, and the billowing clouds of white smoke that issued from thousands of muskets and guns firing. Information was slow in coming, contradictory, fragmented and inaccurate. Perceptions were distorted by worry, fear, excitement, fatigue and mental strain. “Whatever is hidden from full view in this feeble light,” Clausewitz wrote, “has to be guessed at by talent or simply left to chance”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: The “theory” of war is purely a means of professional formation.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st January 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz attempted to discern, and show to us, the “nature of war”, in Book I. He discerned that there is a theoretical “ideal case” or “maximum” case, that he calls “absolute war”, a sort of gravitational core toward which war by its nature, will tend. He also showed that this ideal case is unrealizable in practice. So, the nature of War in the ideal case, in the simplicity of the ideal case, will never be encountered. Instead, all actual cases, will be complicated (both the verb and the adjective) in a variety of ways.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 7 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: Clausewitz’s Science

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 19th January 2009 (All posts by )

    After the apparent clarity of Book 1, we find something of a muddle in Book 2. Clausewitz warned us of this. In his unfinished note, probably of 1830, he says that the first chapter of Book 1 is the only part of the book he regards as finished. The first six books, he says in an earlier note, are a “rather formless mass.”

    He says quite a bit, but not enough, about how he planned to revise the book and how he wrote it. I recognize in these comments and in the shape of On War many undesirable characteristics of my early drafts. I sit at a keyboard, however, able to highlight and delete, rewrite and move sentences and paragraphs with a few keystrokes. I see a printed version in which my eyes can easily take in the contradictions within a paragraph. Clausewitz used a quill pen, or, if he was really up to date, a metal-nibbed dip pen. In any case, simply getting the words on paper required much more physical effort than I am expending, with more distractions. More friction towards getting ideas properly expressed within the written words, he might have said.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 8 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War: Book 1-Proposition: War is fractal

    Posted by Critt Jarvis on 19th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Snip from Cheryl Rofer, commenting:

    That is, do the same conditions apply to war overall, to engagements, battles and on down?

    In my mind, when I look at the essence of conditions, I see fractal qualities. If I were king, benevolent of course, I would have my visionary thinkers and information disseminators begin their work from this premise: War is an act of force, an instrument of policy. Complete comprehension of war is to be found in a trilateral communication–a communal sharing of thoughts and feelings, policy and action– of the people, the government, and the military.

    Propostion: War is fractal.

    For me, as benevolent king, thinking as such allows for policy/action interventions, appropriate to the dynamics of extremes.

    Postscript: Before I made myself benevolent king, I was captain of a ship. It sank, without a trace. But that’s another story, less I digress…

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 5 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: Closing Comments and Section 28

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 18th January 2009 (All posts by )

    At this point in what has been a fascinating round table, I think it useful to consider the comment that Sir Michael Howard made during the Clausewitz Conference of 2005, that being that “Clausewitz is a Rorschach Test”, meaning that readers tend to see in him what ever they are looking for. Translations indicate this as well, with the various English translations of On War reflecting what were the dominate strategic emphasis or concern at the time of translation.

    There is nothing especially surprising about this, more the nature of human inquiry. How On War is approached will depend very much on the specific epoch, concerns and culture of the reader. Still there are three points which must be considered in reading On War imo since they do relate to the nature of the work.

    First, a knowledge of Napoleonic warfare, and Prussian history and culture is very useful, including the concept of Bildung, for which there is no direct English translation. Consider it self-education and development. For instance On War is expected to contribute to the Bildung of a military commander, allow him a theory in which to develop his sense of judgment in which to make tactical, or rather strategic command decisions.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

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

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th January 2009 (All posts by )

    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?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Education, Military Affairs | 8 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: A brief meditation

    Posted by Critt Jarvis on 18th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Berlin was cold.
    Disconnectedness was mean:
    Mad sectors of spy versus spy.
    Yet,
    In the end,
    Information with passion prevails,
    Permeates walls,
    Perturbs the politic.

    Paper. Scissors. Rock.
    Influence disseminated.
    Are we not all Berliners?

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book I: The Enduring Value of Clausewitz’s Articulation of the Nature of War

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th January 2009 (All posts by )

    (Herein are a few thoughts on Book I, at the 11th hour of this weeks discussion. I made many points in comments, but I have a few more left … .)

    On War is an ambitious book. In fact, it is over-ambitious, as Clausewitz himself seems to have recognized. But because his reach exceeded his grasp, in fact exceeded the graspable, he went very far. How well did he do? As many of our contributors have noted, there are criticisms one can level at his depiction of the nature of war. Yet it remains Clauzewitz’s statement of the nature of war that is our starting point, though we turn also to Sun Tzu, to Thucydides, and others. To change the metaphor, he cast his javelin to strike down Mars himself, and failed to do so, as he was bound to, as he knew he would fail. But he cast it so far and so hard that it is still flying almost two centuries later, and we can follow in its path.

    Another observation: The only other writer who is berated, almost two centuries after he wrote, for failing to comprehensively understand, discuss and predict absolutely everything, is Tocqueville. Democracy in America, like On War, so dominates its own field that we perversely end up taking for granted the amazing feat of writing a still-relevant book. We are a tough audience, and we are disappointed and even indignant that the author is not omniscient, and failed to fully explain everything that happened in the times since. This alone shows that each of them still remain dominant in their fields, and that any serious effort to cover the same ground must come to grips with their books.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz Roundtable, On War: Week of January 11, 2009

    Posted by Critt Jarvis on 17th January 2009 (All posts by )

    This link– CLICK HERE –opens a Grazr Window. It loads an OPML file, which, in this instance, is a structured container providing a list of links–this week’s posts categorized Clausewitz Roundtable.

    It’s also a sidebar navigation tool. How so? Open the link. Bookmark it, then edit its properties to open in sidebar. Easy?

    You can GO HERE to get embed code. I put it in my WordPress 2.7 blog, like this.

    If you have questions, suggestions, comments about this tool, please Leave a Reply.

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz Roundtable, On War: Week of January 11, 2009