July 1, 2006  

Clausewitz: Right or wrong?

It’s not an entirely egregious bit of hyperbole to say that, since the publication of Vom Kriege in 1832, all writings on the way of war have been nothing more than commentaries on Clausewitz. But it is astonishing that a single soldier’s writings — a model of both clear Kantian logic but also convoluted Kantian prose — should remain so influential for so long.

Clausewitz was never himself a Great Captain or field commander, and his writings are more valuable for their insights into war, as opposed to battle. And so he comes back into focus now, when our questions are not how to kill the enemy but how to defeat him. Our confusions are not tactical or even operational, but strategic and political.

AFJ’s attempt to come to grips with the Eternal Prussian begins with Bob Scales’ interpretation of the modern meaning of the master. Ralph Peters’ conceit is that Clausewitz had it backward, but really confirms the central connection between war and politics. And, reviewing two recent and representative works predicting our latest “force transformation,” Frank Hoffman concludes that the more things change, the more they remain essentially the same.