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Clauswitz


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Initial post: Jun 7, 2012 10:39:55 AM PDT
I read Clauswitz for a class then reading after some actual leaderhip experience. The professor who lectured on the book said it was an example of reason and military calulation. No doubt it is a long and complex book. The more I read the book the more I saw it in the Romantic tradtion.

The book starts with the mechinical assumption that those with the greater force should win all things being equal. The focus of the book that I read was in the CnC of the force. That the political leader gives the CinC the mission and they then figure out how to get it done. In the end of every anaylsis depends on the Genius of the commander. That is take in as much data as he can of his forces and what he knows of the enemy and make the right decissions. His model was Napoleon who was able to have a sence of the military and was able to pick leaders not on class but actual ability.

I can relate to the level and burdens of command he advocates where the whole army depends on the decissions of a single leader.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 10:16:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 8, 2012 10:16:55 PM PDT
Karen T. says:
Clausewitz came up in a class I took on War and Peace. My classmates and I were asked to define "war" and "peace" in our own terms - which I found to be an interesting exercise. Then our instructor provided four definitions for war given by well-known people: Clausewitz, Tolstoy, Deutsch, and Galtung.

Clausewitz: When you've tried diplomacy, and you still don't get what you want, then war is a reasonable, logical step you take.

Tolstoy: War is immoral, and you shouldn't participate in it, but no one has any control over it, either - it's like a natural disaster - like a flood or an earthquake, and you can't stop it from happening.

Deutsch: Even the threat of war is war. If two countries threaten each other with war, whether they actually bomb each other or not, just making the threat is making war. For Deutsch, the Cold War actually was a war.

Galtung: When you prevent people from having their basic needs, you are making war on them. Sexism is war. Racism is war. Poverty is war.
____________

From what I understand, von Clausewitz was a military genius. He believed war was a rational, logical step a nation takes to get what it wants. Of course, von Clausewitz lived before there were nuclear and atomic bombs - maybe if he lived today he would say that war is a completely irrational thing, and that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 11:03:27 PM PDT
If you're going to place Clausewitz in context, it's important to understand that the formative experience of his life was the defeat and subsequent subjugation of Prussia by Napoleon after Jena/Auerstadt. For Clausewitz, defeat in war is a catastrophe. This wasn't theoretical for him. He lived it.

Arguably, Clausewitz's motivation for writing "On War" was to try to prevent a comparable defeat from happening again in the future by creating a rational, methodical, framework for looking at war. IOW, if you think clearly, you're less likely to get you butt handed to you. However, I think that it would be wrong to think of him as a war-monger. He's more of an analyst whose objective is to promote clear, realistic thinking. This would be applicable both to the decision to go to war, as well as the decision not to go to war. Clausewitz accepted war as a fact of life, but then remember that from his perspective, it WAS a fact of life.

While there are aspects of Clausewitz's life which might have been influenced by a certain patriotic romanticism, with respect to "On War", he is pretty firmly in the scientific/empirical camp.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 8:50:01 AM PDT
*From what I understand, von Clausewitz was a military genius. He believed war was a rational, logical step a nation takes to get what it wants. Of course, von Clausewitz lived before there were nuclear and atomic bombs - maybe if he lived today he would say that war is a completely irrational thing, and that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

I have read most of the book and have time in the military. He says that war is not a moral act. I am currently reading War in Human Civilization

I am just starting the book but they are looking at human violence and in other anmials. I have also read Sun Zu who said the best commanders are those that get what they want while avoiding war.

Just reading Clauswitz, I get the leader really need to be trained and experienced in as many functions of the military as possible so he can have the most understanding of all the parts at his disposal. He has to understand what they care capable of and what their limitations are.

I think Sun Zu have more important points such as understaning your enemy and the ground you fight on. In some cases winning a war can involve avoiding losing it as Washington or as the Vietnamese. Clauswitz does take into consideration many things such as if you are too fortifed you can't win because you won't be attacked and there is no chance to destroy the opposing army. He is all about destroying the ability of your enemy to resiest he sees war and the military as subserviant to politics.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 8:51:54 AM PDT
*While there are aspects of Clausewitz's life which might have been influenced by a certain patriotic romanticism, with respect to "On War", he is pretty firmly in the scientific/empirical camp.

Yes, that is the common view. But I after reading the book I took the opposite position. That winning the battle after all the calulations and understanding your army it all came down to the decissions and genius of the commander.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  3
Total posts:  5
Initial post:  Jun 7, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 12, 2012

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