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

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.

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