On War: Clausewitz’s Legacy

On War: Clausewitz’s Legacy



On War: Clausewitz’s Legacy

Clausewitz is the most enduring authority on war strategy. Contemporary theorists even his detractors have heavily appropriated or referenced his ideas towards fleshing out new ones. The Prussian was a paradox in that he acknowledged the essence ensuring his work reflected the prevalent reality all the while avoiding to be tied done by empiricism. He realized that war was irrational hence not subject to scientific conventions. The longevity of his works is attributed to his insights on the dynamic nature of war and its corresponding strategy. It follows that its concepts are adaptable to the moving target of war strategy. The overarching abstraction enables his concepts to be fluid uniting concepts that pros in opposite trajectories it follows that its primary strength downplaying of immediate practicality for the bigger picture. The hypothesis presented by Clausewitz has time and again been tested in contemporary context still retaining relevance. Proponents appropriating its ideas only have to utilize modern analogies and aphorisms to increase comprehension to the modern audience. His commitment to abstraction has rendered his seminal work open to interpretation thus characterized by differing opinions of various concepts. Some of clausewitz origin thought is often lost during translation due to the presence of problematic words. For instance, the word politik is translated to both policy and polituics. As such key clasewits assertion like the war is an instrument opf politik has varying implications. It is by no means the ultimate manual to victory in war, it is exposition on the disparate paths one can travel to achieve peace in an otherwise hostile world. Rather than elevate weapons Clausewitz reiterates the essence of humans in war. As war is an extension of politics, the battle begins in the political arena. Politics was a c onseqiuce if geography, natural resources of the given stae anmd ots population. Similarly, policy was a function of human leaders influenced by their idiosyncrasies and iqually unique situations. When reflecting historical wars the Prussian was keen to utilize the val;ues and instituions of the respective timerline in adherence to his belief in the dynamism of stratyegy. The advancement of technology has caused Clausewitz ideas to be further refined into self-sustaining subject matter. Key among these is Thomas schelllis’s work that has divorced coercion from violence elevating it as a strategic tool in its own right. Schellis use of coercion as a negotiation tactic is quintessential in an epoch where restraint is valued over aggression. The above is not prompted by [pursuit of honor rather by pragmatism. In the wake of nuclear weapons, the cost of war surpasses the glory and lot the conqueror may gain. A prominent playwright George Shaw further pursues the supposition on the futility of war by satirizing aristocrats of his day perception of war. War was elevated as a process of building character separating the weak from the strong in the purest sense of the word, survival for the fittest. Those who emerged victorious in war were recognized a benign warriors to whom the virtue of honor was intrinsic. However even in the days of the reign of aristocratic wars was still a function of politics with the nobility exploiting the peasants to achieve their ends while claiming the glory of victory and its corresponding spoils. Clausewitz posits that chaos is inherent in human relationships culminated in politics. As such war is a matter of when rather than if. As such it is the mandate of any rational leader to act first upon realizing that imminent war is inevitable in order to capitalize on its advantage. His distractors have often alleged that his theories were not conpreheisve excluding aspects of war suh culture. The above is more an error in inteprtation as his definition of state was all-encompasing. Rather than restrict its self to a sovereign entity it impliede an organized community. the trritinity of war is the central pillar that holds the character and disposition

of the populace, skill and

prowess of the military, and wisdom and

intelligence of the government.


Cohen, E. A., & Earle, E. M. (1997). Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler.

Keegan, J. (2011). A history of warfare. Random House.

Schelling, T. C. (2008). Arms and Influence: With a New Preface and Afterword. Yale University Press.

Shaw, G. B. (2004). Plays by George Bernard Shaw. Penguin.

Van Creveld, M. (1986). The Eternal Clausewitz. The Journal of Strategic Studies, 9(2-3), 35-50.

Von Clausewitz, C., & Graham, J. J. (1873). On war (Vol. 1). London, N. Trübner & Company.

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