In his pursuit, Clausewitz was not the exception. Many wrestled to understand the momentous and violent events they had experienced. Antoine-Henri Jomini, for example, may have been the most famous military writer of the era, but scores of memoirs, studies of campaigns, and treatises on military leadership and strategy were published in the early nineteenth century.
Clausewitz became a prolific reader of these texts, as his correspondence bears witness. What distinguished his work was an incredible ambition; he sought to describe the events he had witnessed in their totality while testing long-held dogmas and analyzing the phenomenon of war with a realist language. Still, an important element was lacking. He needed a mentor. Marie von Clausewitz emphasized this point clearly. Similar to his talented pupil, Scharnhorst was also an outsider and a self-made man. The son of a Hanover farmer, Scharnhorst lacked noble birth, and for a decade he was confined to the rank of lieutenant.
The selection of students there was based on merit, and Clausewitz enrolled in its first class.
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Yet Scharnhorst had plans for nothing less than the complete overhaul of the Prussian army. Just as at the Kriegsakademie , the goal was not to preach what to think. Instead, Scharnhorst recognized the complexities of warfare and taught individuals how to think about strategic dilemmas. Scharnhorst won immortal glory on the battlefield and died in Yet the years as a passionate director of the Kriegsakademie , head of the military reform committee, and chief of the Prussian General Staff were his true and lasting legacy. His long, bitter decade as lieutenant taught Scharnhorst empathy and wisdom.
He understood that talent needed to be actively sought, nurtured, and promoted, especially when it came in a rough shape, as in the case of Clausewitz. Scharnhorst recognized that reforms required a strong network of people prepared to implement them, when the time was right. The relationship between Scharnhorst and Clausewitz underlines the pivotal role a mentor can play in discovering and developing talents.
Building a network—either as mentor or mentee, getting to know the people with whom we work and supporting their aspirations, building a community and a bridge between junior and senior ranks—is a process that yields long-lasting benefits, for everyone. In our own time, time Sheryl Sandberg is a technology executive and best-selling author who argues the most important decision one makes about his or her career is whom to marry.
Two hundred years ago, Clausewitz recognized something similar, that no one succeeds in this life alone. There were two things that made him feel proud of himself, Clausewitz wrote in as a twenty-six-year-old subaltern captain something like a promotable lieutenant. The latter, he admitted sincerely, brought him close to the life he dreamed of:.
Marie also provided him with invaluable insight about how politics and decisions were made at the highest level, an elusive realm even for early nineteenth century military men. She also exposed him to diverse ideas and flamboyant characters. Finding the ideal partner in life is a matter of luck. Yet actively searching for ideas, literary works, and people who will challenge our minds and enrich our life is a crucial trait for strategic leaders.
In all probability, Clausewitz, despite being gravely ill in his later life, never felt the urge to publish On War prematurely, for he knew that in a case of sudden death Marie would take care of his legacy. Modern readers might wish Marie had been a more hands-on editor. He rightfully fixed grammatical and print errors and modernized the language, but he then went a step further, altering the meaning of whole paragraphs.
Consider, for example, his reversal of the relationship between policy and the military. Marie anticipated that her minimalist approach opened the text to multiple and conflicting interpretations. Nothing is further from the truth. His enormous body of work, of which On War is only the most famous and important element, was not a substitute for a failed military career but an attempt to summarize lessons synthesized from an incredibly rich professional experience. Shortly before his twelfth birthday he enlisted in the Prussian army as a Fahnenjunker , or a junior non-commissioned officer.
As was the practice in the old Frederician army, boys who would later became officers were required to spend the early years of their service among the troops. This fostered the art of soldiery from the ground up. This experience as a participant in great events at relatively early age continued into with the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, the worst disaster the Prussian army would suffer at the hands of Napoleon.
On that dark day, when many Prussian officers ran from the battlefield or surrendered, Clausewitz fought with honor. In , at the age of twenty-eight, he became a personal assistant to Scharnhorst, now chief of the general staff and head of the war ministry.
The issues he worked on as a captain and later as a major varied from the development and manufacture of weapons, through tactical regulations, to the introduction of conscription. His accumulation of unique experience would continue. In , when Friedrich Wilhelm III was forced as a reluctant ally to provide Napoleon with troops for the Russian campaign, Clausewitz famously left Prussian service and fought on the side of the tsar. He participated in such iconic engagements as the Battles of Vitebsk, Smolensk, Borodino, and was present when Moscow was abandoned and burned.
Clausewitz continually impressed his superiors with his ability as a staff officer. In , he assumed the position as chief of staff for the Russo-German Legion, but upon arriving at the headquarters General Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn promptly promoted him to the chief of staff for his whole army corps, some 22, men. Lacking sufficient resources, Clausewitz still prepared the new formation for the fall campaign against Napoleon.
As an ambitious and insistent subordinate—and often grumbling outsider—he devoted much of his time and energy to understanding his surroundings, advocating for proactive leadership, and pondering the great strategic questions. Even in less-than-ideal jobs, Clausewitz found learning opportunities and never stopped writing, reading, and debating as a way to maximize his experience. In the end, making the best of life might be the more realistic and advantageous goal. Later Prussian and German generals, such as Helmuth Graf von Moltke , were clearly influenced by Clausewitz: Moltke's widely quoted statement that "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy" is a classic reflection of Clausewitz's insistence on the roles of chance, friction, "fog," uncertainty, and interactivity in war.
Clausewitz's influence spread to British thinking as well, though at first more as a historian and analyst than as a theorist. Clausewitz's broader thinking came to the fore following Britain's military embarrassments in the Boer War — One example of a heavy Clausewitzian influence in that era is Spenser Wilkinson , journalist, the first Chichele Professor of Military History at Oxford University, and perhaps the most prominent military analyst in Britain from c.
Another is naval historian Julian Corbett — , whose work reflected a deep if idiosyncratic adherence to Clausewitz's concepts and frequently an emphasis on Clausewitz's ideas about 'limited war' and the inherent strengths of the defensive form of war. Corbett's practical strategic views were often in prominent public conflict with Wilkinson's — see, for example, Wilkinson's article " Strategy at Sea ," The Morning Post , 12 February Liddell Hart in the s erroneously attributed to him the doctrine of "total war" that during the First World War had been embraced by many European general staffs and emulated by the British.
More recent scholars typically see that war as so confused in terms of political rationale that it in fact contradicts much of On War. Gray ; historian Hew Strachan like Wilkinson also the Chichele Professor of Military History at Oxford University, since has been an energetic proponent of the study of Clausewitz, but his own views on Clausewitz's ideas are somewhat ambivalent.
With some interesting exceptions e. Johnston , Hoffman Nickerson , Clausewitz had little influence on American military thought before other than via British writers, though Generals Eisenhower and Patton were avid readers. He did influence Karl Marx , Friedrich Engels , Vladimir Lenin , Leon Trotsky  : —60 and Mao Zedong , and thus the Communist Soviet and Chinese traditions, as Lenin emphasised the inevitability of wars among capitalist states in the age of imperialism and presented the armed struggle of the working class as the only path toward the eventual elimination of war.
Mertsalov commented that "It was an irony of fate that the view in the USSR was that it was Lenin who shaped the attitude towards Clausewitz, and that Lenin's dictum that war is a continuation of politics is taken from the work of this [allegedly] anti-humanist anti-revolutionary. Sokolovsky :. In describing the essence of war, Marxism-Leninism takes as its point of departure the premise that war is not an aim in itself, but rather a tool of politics. In his remarks on Clausewitz's On War , Lenin stressed that "Politics is the reason, and war is only the tool, not the other way around.
Consequently, it remains only to subordinate the military point of view to the political". Henry A. Kissinger , however, described Lenin's approach as being that politics is a continuation of war by other means, thus turning Clausewitz's argument "on its head. As for Lenin's approval of Clausewitz, it probably stems from his obsession with the struggle for power.
The whole Marxist conception of history is that of successive struggles for power, primarily between social classes. This was constantly applied by Lenin in a variety of contexts.
Thus the entire history of philosophy appears in Lenin's writings as a vast struggle between "idealism" and "materialism". The fate of the socialist movement was to be decided by a struggle between the revolutionists and the reformers. Clausewitz's acceptance of the struggle for power as the essence of international politics must have impressed Lenin as starkly realistic.
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Clausewitz directly influenced Mao Zedong, who read On War in and organised a seminar on Clausewitz for the Party leadership in Yan'an. Thus the "Clausewitzian" content in many of Mao's writings is not merely a regurgitation of Lenin but reflects Mao's study. The phrase fog of war derives from Clausewitz's stress on how confused warfare can seem while immersed within it. For Eisenhower, the age of nuclear weapons had made what was for Clausewitz in the early 19th century only a theoretical vision an all too real possibility in the midth century.
Philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skilful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as war, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are just the worst.
As the use of physical power to the utmost extent by no means excludes the co-operation of the intelligence, it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the quantity of bloodshed, must obtain a superiority if his adversary does not act likewise. By such means the former dictates the law to the latter, and both proceed to extremities, to which the only limitations are those imposed by the amount of counteracting force on each side.
After , some theorists claimed that nuclear proliferation made Clausewitzian concepts obsolete after the 20th-century period in which they dominated the world. Sheppard, Jr. No two powers have used nuclear weapons against each other, instead using conventional means or proxy wars to settle disputes. If such a conflict did occur, presumably both combatants would be annihilated. Heavily influenced by the war in Vietnam and by antipathy to American strategist Henry Kissinger , the American biologist, musician, and game-theorist Anatol Rapoport argued in that a Clausewitzian view of war was not only obsolete in the age of nuclear weapons, but also highly dangerous as it promoted a "zero-sum paradigm" to international relations and a "dissolution of rationality" amongst decision-makers.
The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen many instances of state armies attempting to suppress insurgencies , terrorism , and other forms of asymmetrical warfare. Clausewitz did not focus solely on wars between countries with well-defined armies. One prominent critic of Clausewitz is the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld.
In his book The Transformation of War ,  Creveld argued that Clausewitz's famous "Trinity" of people, army, and government was an obsolete socio-political construct based on the state, which was rapidly passing from the scene as the key player in war, and that he Creveld had constructed a new "non-trinitarian" model for modern warfare. Creveld's work has had great influence.
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Daniel Moran replied, 'The most egregious misrepresentation of Clausewitz's famous metaphor must be that of Martin van Creveld, who has declared Clausewitz to be an apostle of Trinitarian War, by which he means, incomprehensibly, a war of 'state against state and army against army,' from which the influence of the people is entirely excluded. Creveld's and Keegan's assault on Clausewitz's Trinity is not only a classic 'blow into the air,' i.
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It is also a pointless attack on a concept that is quite useful in its own right. In any case, their failure to read the actual wording of the theory they so vociferously attack, and to grasp its deep relevance to the phenomena they describe, is hard to credit. Some have gone further and suggested that Clausewitz's best-known aphorism, that war is a continuation of politics by other means, is not only irrelevant today but also inapplicable historically. In military academies, schools, and universities worldwide, Clausewitz's literature is often mandatory reading.
However, such ideas as Clausewitz and Lilienstern shared in common derived from a common influence, i.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the Paradox computer strategy games engine, see Clausewitz Engine. Portrait while in Prussian service, by Karl Wilhelm Wach. Prehistoric Ancient Post-classical Early modern Late modern industrial fourth-gen. Blitzkrieg Deep operation Maneuver Operational manoeuvre group.
Grand strategy. Military recruitment Conscription Recruit training Military specialism Women in the military Children in the military Transgender people and military service Sexual harassment in the military Conscientious objection Counter recruitment. Arms industry Materiel Supply chain management. I pgs. While von always lower case is part of the family name or territorial designation, not a first or middle name, if the noble is referred to by surname alone in English , use Schiller or Clausewitz or Goethe , not von Schiller , etc.
The armed forces of every belligerent, whether of a single state or of an alliance of states, have a certain unity, and in that way, connection; but where connection is there come in analogies of the centre of gravity. There are, therefore, in these armed forces certain centres of gravity, the movement and direction of which decide upon other points, and these centres of gravity are situated where the greatest bodies of troops are assembled. But just as, in the world of inert matter, the action against the centre of gravity has its measure and limits in the connection of the parts, so it is in war, and here as well as there the force exerted may easily be greater than the resistance requires, and then there is a blow in the air, a waste of force.
II pg. Retrieved July 9, Howard, Michael ; Paret, Peter eds. On War [ Vom Krieg ] Indexed ed. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Clausewitz: Philosopher of War.
Carl von Clausewitz
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