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Valuable Insights From a Professional Officer During the Napoleonic Age - Still Relevant Today
on July 29, 2017
Review of: "On War Paperback – January 21, 2012," by Carl von Clausewitz (Author).
On War (Vom Kriege) is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife Marie von Brühl in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War. On War is actually an unfinished work; Clausewitz had set about revising his accumulated manuscripts in 1827, but did not live to finish the task. His wife edited his collected works and published them between 1832 and 1835. His 10-volume collected works contain most of his larger historical and theoretical writings, though not his shorter articles and papers or his extensive correspondence with important political, military, intellectual and cultural leaders in the Prussian state. On War is formed by the first three volumes and represents his theoretical explorations. It is one of the most important treatises on political-military analysis and strategy ever written, and remains both controversial and an influence on strategic thinking. The edition currently under review, although three books, is condensed from those volumes.
The book contains a wealth of historical examples used to illustrate its various concepts. Frederick II of Prussia (the Great) figures prominently for having made very efficient use of the limited forces at his disposal, though Napoleon is perhaps the central figure.
According to some strategists, the "general message" of the book was that "the conduct of war could not be reduced to universal principles." Among many strands of thought, three stand out as essential to Clausewitz's concept:
1. War must never be seen as having any purpose in itself, but should be seen as an instrument of Politik - a German word that conflates the meanings of the English words policy and politics: "War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means."
2. The military objectives in war that support one's political objectives fall into two broad types: "war to achieve limited aims" and war to "disarm" the enemy: "to render [him] politically helpless or militarily impotent."
3. All else being equal, the course of war will tend to favor the party with the stronger emotional and political motivations, but especially the defender.
The text under review is 161 pages and set in size 8 or so font. This should not, however, detract from the buyer's interest. This text is packed with the essentials of von Clausewitz's works and for the price is a very good deal. Well done at five stars.