Clausewitz Reconsidered

Clausewitz Reconsidered

Clausewitz Reconsidered

Clausewitz Reconsidered

Synopsis

This fascinating book assesses Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz's famous theory on warfare in relation to historical and modern-day conflict and future trends.

Excerpt

On War must be one of the most irritating books ever written, and for two very obvious reasons: first, no matter how carefully and painstakingly one studies its contents, every time one opens its pages one finds something that one had never previously noticed, and, second, it is a book that if it did not give rise to the comment, “more quoted than read,” then most certainly it could well have done so. But one would suggest that even Clausewitz (1780–1831), if he were allowed the indulgence of considering the treatment afforded On War, would have just cause for irritation. At a wholly personal level he could not but be flattered by the treatment afforded the book and himself, but one would suspect that his reasoned response would be somewhat different, and again on two counts. First, On War was clearly written in an attempt to explain, not to describe, and in a very obvious sense it sought to present questions and to provide the basis of understanding. But so much of recent and present treatment of On War starts from a premise that Clausewitz himself would question: most certainly the status of holy writ and the mantle of uncritical acceptance of self-evident truths are ones with which Clausewitz, intellectually, would be uncomfortable. Second, despite the acclaim afforded On War, there is no escaping the fact that the analysis is dated and much of its contents have been overtaken by events. And the simple fact is that there have been such massive changes in terms of war and warfare, the nature and conduct of war, and the state and society, that there is a need for a recast On War that may serve as the basis of understanding conflict at the present time.

If one is permitted, one would give but one example of the manner in which On War is dated, and it is perhaps the one element of Clausewitz’s writing with . . .

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