Clausewitz and Contemporary War

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Clausewitz's Puzzle. Andreas Herberg-Rothe. On Small War. Sibylle Scheipers. Robert Stolt. The Image of the Soldier in German Culture, Dr Paul Fox. War, Clausewitz and the Trinity. Thomas Waldman. Understanding Military Doctrine. Harald Hoiback. Hero or Coward. Elmar Dinter.


Escape Routes. Dimitris Papadopoulos. The effect of the German separation on the communication in Germany. Heroism and the Changing Character of War. Queer Lovers and Hateful Others. Jin Haritaworn. The Military and Liberal Society. Tomas Kucera. Manhood and the Making of the Military. The Horrible Void Between the Trenches.

Clifton Wilcox. Why Strategy Matters. Flick Michaela Corinne. The Stigma of Surrender. Brian K. Theory of Strategy. European Armies and the Conduct of War. Reconsidering the American Way of War. Antulio J. Echevarria II. How to write a great review. The review must be at least 50 characters long. The title should be at least 4 characters long. Your display name should be at least 2 characters long. At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. You submitted the following rating and review.

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USAWC expert discusses Clausewitz

You've successfully reported this review. We appreciate your feedback. OK, close. Clausewitz acknowledges that friction creates enormous difficulties for the realisation of any plan, and the fog of war hinders commanders from knowing what is happening. It is precisely in the context of this challenge that he develops the concept of military genius, whose capabilities are seen above all in the execution of operations.

Key ideas discussed in On War include: [18]. Clausewitz used a dialectical method to construct his argument, leading to frequent misinterpretation of his ideas. British military theorist B. Liddell Hart contends that the enthusiastic acceptance by the Prussian military establishment — especially Moltke the Elder , a former student of his [23] — of what they believed to be Clausewitz's ideas, and the subsequent widespread adoption of the Prussian military system worldwide, had a deleterious effect on military theory and practice , due to their egregious misinterpretation of his ideas:.

As so often happens, Clausewitz's disciples carried his teaching to an extreme which their master had not intended Impressed yet befogged, they grasped at his vivid leading phrases, seeing only their surface meaning, and missing the deeper current of his thought. One of the main sources of confusion about Clausewitz's approach lies in his dialectical method of presentation. It is the antithesis in a dialectical argument whose thesis is the point — made earlier in the analysis — that "war is nothing but a duel [or wrestling match, a better translation of the German Zweikampf ] on a larger scale.

This synthesis lies in his "fascinating trinity" [wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit]: a dynamic, inherently unstable interaction of the forces of violent emotion, chance, and rational calculation. Another example of this confusion is the idea that Clausewitz was a proponent of total war as used in the Third Reich's propaganda in the s. In fact, he never used the term "total war": rather, he discussed "absolute war," a concept which evolved into the much more abstract notion of "ideal war" discussed at the very beginning of Vom Kriege --the purely logical result of the forces underlying a "pure," Platonic "ideal" of war.

But in the real world , he said, such rigid logic is unrealistic and dangerous. As a practical matter, the military objectives in real war that support political objectives generally fall into two broad types: "war to achieve limited aims"; and war to "disarm" the enemy, "to render [him] politically helpless or militarily impotent. In modern times the reconstruction of Clausewitzian theory has been a matter of much dispute. One analysis was that of Panagiotis Kondylis , a Greek-German writer and philosopher, who opposed the interpretations of Raymond Aron in Penser la Guerre, Clausewitz , and other liberal writers.

The Journal of Military History

According to Aron, Clausewitz was one of the first writers to condemn the militarism of the Prussian general staff and its war-proneness, based on Clausewitz's argument that "war is a continuation of politics by other means. He claims that Clausewitz was morally indifferent to war though this probably reflects a lack of familiarity with personal letters from Clausewitz, which demonstrate an acute awareness of war's tragic aspects and that his advice regarding politics' dominance over the conduct of war has nothing to do with pacifist ideas.

Other notable writers who have studied Clausewitz's texts and translated them into English are historians Peter Paret of the Institute for Advanced Study and Sir Michael Howard , and the philosopher, musician, and game theorist Anatol Rapoport. Bernard Brodie 's A Guide to the Reading of "On War" , in the Princeton translation, expressed his interpretations of the Prussian's theories and provided students with an influential synopsis of this vital work.

Clausewitz died without completing On War , but despite this his ideas have been widely influential in military theory and have had a strong influence on German military thought specifically. 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 [2] : —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.

Carl von Clausewitz

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.