Archives for posts with tag: Carl von Clausewitz

War has been the subject of many books. From war novels to ‘how to’ treaties.
When the subject is mentioned, two stand up high. Sun Zu’s “The Art of War” and Clausewitz’s “On War“.

I’m not going to discuss the relative merits of the two treaties. Only to point out a few parallels.
The authors had been involved in wars. Wars between states inhabited by more or less the same people. Sharing more or less the same culture. Wars which had ended when the warring parties had coalesced into the what we call nations. China and Germany, respectively.

Yet we currently refer to those two treaties when we consider war between totally different nations/cultures.

Furthermore, we consider those two as being the pinnacles of strategic thinking. In a sense, that would be right. After all, both had been written by the winners of those respective wars.

But what happened next?

What major war had China won after becoming an united nation? WWII? When her enemy had been first beaten to a pulp, literally, by the US?
What major war had Germany won after becoming an united nation? The one against France in 1870? OK. And afterwards?

And what is the real meaning of ‘Si vis pacem, parabellum’?

‘If you want peace, prepare to wage war’ or ‘if you want peace, make your self resilient to war‘?

In nature, most organisms feed on other organisms.
Deer eats grass, wolf eats deer. Scavengers and microbes eat poop and corpses. All together ‘eventually’ enrich the soil. Allowing for more grass to grow.

One way to look at this is to call it ‘fight for life’. ‘Survival of the fittest’.
Yet this entire ‘carnage’ has a very interesting ‘conclusion’.

A fine tuned ecosystem. Which has lasted, as a system, for a couple of billions of years. Becoming more and more elaborate in the process.
And which has survived – as a system, I repeat, momentous events.
Asteroids, geomagnetic reversals, continental drift…

The ecosystem has been so stable that it allowed one creature to evolve so much as to develop a special trait.
Self-awareness.
Which has eventually given birth to ‘reason’. To ‘rational behavior’.

Which means that while wolves eat deer to satisfy their hunger we start wars to satisfy our egos.

We see, therefore, that 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. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

Carl von Clausewitz

Which wars have proven to be so destructive that we finally found a way to dissuade ourselves from starting new ones. New majors ones… until now…

And if you don’t have any clue about what I’m talking about, click on the next word.
MAD.

Don’t fret. It is actually a very rational concept.
Not reasonable at all, only rational.

Acknowledgment.
I was inspired to write this by David Sarac’s Twitter profile.
“Theory of evolution points to the conclusion that becoming, not being, is the essence of reality”

Tomorrow will be a full century since the ‘Miracle of the Marne’, a battle from the WWI during which the French managed to stop the seemingly invincible German army at some 35 miles from Paris. Apparently the Germans erroneously appraised the state of the French army and lost a huge opportunity while the French had shown a lot more stamina and determination than they were credited for.

Also there are some chances that tomorrow will be remembered as the first day of peace in Eastern Ukraine after many month of (un)civil war.

What I would like to do now is take a fresh look at what we know as ‘wars’. Hot, cold, asymmetric, commercial, trade…you name it.

There are two interesting definitions that I would like to share with you:
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”  This one belongs to Claus von Clausewitz, the mastermind behind the German strategic thinking during the second half of the XIX-ht century. The most immediate impression one gets from reading it is that war, per se, is a legitimate tool when it comes to solving problems. You try ‘diplomacy’ first but if that doesn’t work there is always the option of “WAR”.
“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” A XX-ht century hippie tree hugger? Not exactly… Another German, a writer this time, who had witnessed the WWI as a mature thinker – Thomas Mann, 1875 – 1955. I don’t know when had Mann come up with his definition but it is quite the opposite from the one proposed by his fellow countryman. On the other hand I cannot fail to observe that while in von Clausewitz time Germany was on the rise as a military power during Mann life it had suffered two humiliating defeats.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

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