Carl von Clausewitz

Clausewitz, Karl von

Karl von Clausewitz (kärl fən klou´zəvĬts), 1780–1831, Prussian general and military strategist. Clausewitz was an original thinker most influenced by the Napoleonic wars in which he fought. He served in the Rhine campaigns (1793–94), won the regard of Gerhard von Scharnhorst at the Berlin Military Academy, and served in the wars against Napoleon I. In the service of Russia from 1812 until 1814, he helped negotiate the convention of Tauroggen (1812), which prepared the way for the alliance of Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain against Napoleon. Later he reentered the Prussian army, played an important role at Waterloo, and was appointed (1818) director of the Prussian war college. His masterpiece On War was unfinished and was published posthumously. Written in a dialectic style influenced by Hegel and subject to varying interpretations, it remains influential. Clausewitz argued that although most conflicts tend toward total war in the abstract, the "friction" of reality keeps war limited, unpredictable, and dangerous. His most famous dictum, that war "is merely the continuation of policy by other means," emphasizes his conception of war as one part of normal and pragmatic politics. At the same time, he stressed the need to strive for the most complete military victories possible, using whatever reasonable resources were available. While his work echoes themes from the ancient text The Art of War, attributed to Sun Tzu, and even more from the work of Machiavelli, Clausewitz has influenced many 20th-century strategists and historians, especially Bernard Brodie. See strategy and tactics.

See P. Paret, Clausewitz and the State (1976).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Carl von Clausewitz: Selected full-text books and articles

On War By Karl von Clausewitz; O. J. Matthijs Jolles Infantry Journal Press, 1950
Clausewitz Reconsidered By H. P. Willmott; Michael B. Barrett Praeger Security International, 2010
Clausewitz on Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategist By Tiha Von Ghyczy; Bolko Von Oetinger; Christopher Bassford Wiley, 2001
Modern Strategy By Colin S. Gray Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Strategist's Toolkit: The Legacy of Clausewitz"
Military Education: Past, Present, and Future By Gregory C. Kennedy; Keith Neilson Praeger, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Educating Bellona: Carl von Clausewitz and Military Education"
Southern Trident: Strategy, History, and the Rise of Australian Naval Power By David Stevens; John Reeve Allen & Unwin, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "History and Theory: The Clausewitzian Ideal and Its Implications"
Strategic Logic and Political Rationality: Essays in Honor of Michael I. Handel By Michael I. Handel; Brandford A.Lee; Karl F.Walling Frank Cass, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Clausewitz and the Two Contemporary Military Revolutions: RMA and RAM"
European Armies and the Conduct of War By Hew Strachan Routledge, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Clausewitz and the Rise of Prussian Military Hegemony"
The Eagle in the Desert: Looking Back on U.S. Involvement in the Persian Gulf War By William Head; Earl H. Tilford Jr Praeger, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Clausewitz's On War and the Gulf War"
Strategic Thinking: An Introduction and Farewell By Philip Windsor; Mats Berdal; Spyros Economides Lynne Rienner, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Political Context of Strategy: Clausewitz"
The Pursuit of Victory: From Napoleon to Saddam Hussein By Brian Bond Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Napoleonic Legacy: The Influence of Jomini and Clausewitz"
Lieutenants: The Evolution of Political Styles By Michael Maher Praeger, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Carl von Clausewitz"
World Military Leaders: A Collective and Comparative Analysis By Mostafa Rejai; Kay Phillips Praeger Publishers, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Carl von Clausewitz" begins on p. 89
The Ongoing Civil War: New Versions of Old Stories By Herman Hattaway; Ethan S. Rafuse University of Missouri Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "McClellan, von Clausewitz, and the Politics of War" begins on p. 40
The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests, and Orders By Richard Ned Lebow Cambridge University Press, 2003
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