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  • Clausewitz, Zen Master

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 19th January 2010 (All posts by )

    GONG!!!

    — GONG!!! —

    Per Lex’s request:

    The crude definition of a Zen koan is a non-rational assertion that, when meditated upon, can shock the non-rational mind into higher states of consciousness and insight. A famous example is:

    Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?

    — GONG!!! —

    Jon Sumida argues Clausewitz may have been providing his own heavy duty Zen: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs | 3 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Clausewitz on Combined Arms

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 22nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    Chapter Four of Book V of On War is titled “Relationship between the Branches of the Service.” This chapter, however, doesn’t really seek to explain the relationship between the branches (infantry, artillery, and cavalry). Instead, it seeks to explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three branches. The specific relationships between the branches are left for us to intuit.

    Clausewitz explains the strengths right off:

    “The engagement consists of two essentially different components: the destructive power of firearms, and hand-to-hand, or individual, combat. The latter in turn can be used for either attack or defense (words here employed in an absolute sense, for we are speaking in the broadest of terms). Artillery is effective only through the destructive power of fire; cavalry only by way of individual combat; infantry by both these means.

    In hand-to-hand fighting, the essence of defense is to stand fast, as it were, rooted to the ground; whereas movement is the essence of attack. Cavalry is totally incapable of the former, but preeminent in the latter, so is suited only to attack. Infantry is best at standing fast, but does not lack some capacity to move.” (p.285)

    Clausewitz then enumerates his thoughts on the combat arms:

    “1. Infantry is the most independent of the arms.
    2. Artillery has no independence.
    3. When one or more arms are combined, infantry is the most important of them.
    4. Cavalry is the most easily dispensable arm.
    5. A combination of all three confers the greatest strength.” (p.286)

    And so Clausewitz starts beating around the Combined Arms bush.

    But what is Combined Arms?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Clausewitz Roundtable, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Freedom is Worth the Mass

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 8th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Freedom lurks throughout On War. Not freedom for the poor, bloody infantry; in a Clausewitzian universe freedom is at its apogee when the freedom of the infantry is at its nadir. The freedom Clausewitz seeks to unleash is the freedom of the commander to work his will on the enemy. The commander’s freedom is essential to Clausewitz’s conception of war since war is an “act of force to compel our enemy to do our will”; our freedom ends where the enemy’s freedom begins. War is, therefore, fundamentally an effort to steal the enemy’s freedom and bestow it upon ourselves. We seek to take our political object, an object arrived at through the free exercise of creative will, and raise it above the oppression of enemy opposition and the dreary demands of friction. This is Clausewitz’s truth and his truth, he asserts, shall set you free.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: Clausewitz and Herman Kahn

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 13th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Herman Kahn consciously followed Clausewitz’s lead in choosing the title On Thermonuclear War.

    However, whereas Clausewitz was trying to develop a general theory of war from his and others’ experiences, Kahn was trying to develop a theory of a war of a kind that had never been fought.

    In Chapter 8 of Book 1, Clausewitz telescopes war down to “a single short blow” to show that this is not possible. Nuclear war moves closer to this idealization. Kahn’s analysis is that even a nuclear war does not consist of a single short blow. There can be warnings and exchanges.

    Kahn was analyzing the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. There was 30 minutes warning of a strike by one on the other. Kahn died before India and Pakistan achieved approximate nuclear parity in 1998. Their warning times come much closer to Clausewitz’s “single short blow.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 11 Comments »

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

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 11th January 2009 (All posts by )

    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Introductory Matter: The Continuation of Policy

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 11th January 2009 (All posts by )

    I heard the name Carl von Clausewitz many times during my education and career, but I only started to look into his writings a few years ago. The impetus for that was hearing “War is the continuation of policy by other means” and its variants a few too many times in a few too many contexts. I thought I had a use for it myself in something I was writing, but I wanted to find out what Clausewitz meant by it before I used it.

    The poles of meaning attributed to that simple sentence seemed to be, on the one hand,

    Politicians might do damn near anything. Make flamethrowers available in the US Congress, and they’ll probably use them.

    And on the other,

    War is a means to attaining a politically-defined result.

    What I wanted to say was closer to the second. I found a compendium of quotes from his work in the Web, with some commentary attached was pleased to find that I was in line with Clausewitz’s meaning, at least as far as I could tell from that limited selection of quotes.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 10 Comments »