On War

On War

On War

On War

Excerpt

War, like every other human activity, has its theory and its philosophy, and, like all other problems, those which arise in the conduct and in the consequences of war are solved only at haphazard if the speculative devices required for their analysis are neglected. We Americans have entered this war, as we have entered all wars, under the impulse of circumstances, and we have improvised the weapons by which to wage it. We know that it is a war of machines, and we have therefore made a great effort to outstrip our enemy quickly in the production of the instruments of mechanized warfare; we are less fully aware of the fact that it is also a war of ideas, but we have assumed that the new weapons have likewise revolutionized the theory of strategy and tactics. The Germans, who have thought of war more continuously and in terms of greater philosophic generality, have seen a continuity in practice and thought. When, in 1937, General von Blomberg, German Minister of War, wrote his introduction to the fifteenth edition of Clausewitz' On War, he still found, in spite of all changes of military organization and technique, the basis for any meaningful development of the art of war in that work, and Clausewitz' Principles of War was republished in 1936 by General Friedrich von Cochenhausen -- instructor at the German Academy of Aerial Warfare, an institution concerning which Clausewitz could least have been expected to make provision -- with only a few paragraphs marked to indicate points at which the principles had now been modified. Clausewitz was concerned with fundamental principles exemplified in the long history of war and rediscovered to be applied anew by such modern generals as Frederick the Great and Napoleon; they are principles which were followed, after Clausewitz, by Helmuth von Moltke and Count Schlieffen; the influence of the exposition of those principles in On War can be traced in the campaigns of the First World War, and the course of the invasion of Russia during the present war reflects Clausewitz' conception of defensive warfare as well as his discussion of Napoleon's campaign. Clausewitz conceived war, moreover, in terms which make clear its relation to political problems, its function as a means of realizing political policy, and the limitations which make the ultimate settlement of the problems which lead to war impossible by the instrumentalities of war alone. Finally, he treats in detail the moral factors involved in war -- which oddly enough have become the "psychological aspects" prominent in mod-

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