Clausewitz Today

Clausewitz Today:

Here is a review of On War at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Von Clausewitz remains the standard text for military science's beginnings. Though other introductory material now exists -- the Marine Corps' Warfighting, for example -- there is still a great deal of value in the book.

The reason it is so valuable is that the basic concepts remain powerful. Clausewitz was writing in the Age of Napoleon, but even in the age of maneuver warfare -- even in the age of Air/Land Warfare -- even in the age of Hybrid Warfare, the basic concepts he described exist. There is an enemy, with a structure that has to be attacked. There is a population, which is the key to final victory. There is friction in every action.

Vegetius, a Roman writer of the fourth century AD, said, "Let him who desires peace prepare for war." Carl von Clausewitz sharpened the point: "The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms." Darfur has made clear that that is not just a metaphor.
Just so, though denying that fact has been the strong hope of many people who wish it was not the case. For one such competing view, see here.

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