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Old November 8th, 2012, 04:03 AM   #111

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This is probably true but totally irrelevant.
What a white wash. It's extremely relevant for any German alive today, in contrast to Germans alive about 70 years ago.

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In his book he doesn't care whether this is an acceptable policy or not. He just cares about the consequences on war...

He wrote a book On War, not a book On what's an acceptable policy...
And this is why much of what Clauzy wrote about policy, about what is acceptable, is out of date.

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Why do you write "what we mutually understand when we talk about political motivations" if I state that I understand something completely different than you, that the German language has a totally different meaning for the word Politik than what you mean with politics and that Clausewitz explained that he meant something else?
But he didn't. And you're trying to hide behind semantics. Clauzy is part of the curriculum at West Point, but only part of it. I doubt that West Point makes errors in translation, nor many other scholars or folks.

Clauzy meant exactly what he wrote. He also understood his considerations were incomplete, and left instructions his work should not be published, but burnt. What is it about Clauzy's understanding of his own work are you unable to accept? Many folks subsequently accepted Clauzy's work as complete, however he himself did not.

And myself as well as many others note this and accept it. We are more in agreement with Clauzy than his future disciples who treat his work as though it were eternally valid and writ in stone.

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Considering that your interpretation restricts Clausewitz's ideas to be nearly always wrong,
Then you are merely one of those folks who react badly because not everything you believe in is agreed with. You are one of those all-or-nothing folks. That's extremist. One of the plagues of our modern era is extremism.

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while mine means that Clausewitz's ideas become a timeless truth which is extremely helpful to interpret events, I think there's something to be said for my interpretation.
Yes, and the thing to say about it is that it's not 1820s Europe anymore.

In Chapter One, Book I, Clauzy compares the warfare of "savages" to that of "civilized" nations, noting that civilized nations do not destroy towns and countries. Oh? What do you think happened during WW II?

Even worse from Chapter One, "Now, philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming the enemy and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed ... However possilbe this may appear, still it is an error which must be expirtated."

Such an idea, such a strategic or even tactical method, is horrendous. And also flat out wrong. The best commanders throughout history have sought to minimize casualties and avoid bloodbath Clausewitzian "decisive battles."

Clauzy is very consistent. From considering war as a mere extension of policy to considering war as a wrestling match to his insistence that the goal of war is a decisive "bloody" battle. This is a horrendous error.

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Considering that your interpretation is also utterly at odds with the rest of his chapters on the nature of war and the relationship between politics and war, I think that there's a rather strong case that your interpretation is wrong.
And I think there's a rather strong case that Napoleon up to 1805 was right, as well as Guderian, and as well as Herr Schicklegrubber until the fall of France. And also Hannibal, Julius Caesar (when he didn't blunder), Belisarius, Marlborough, Sherman of the US Civil War and many others who refrained from seeking Clausewitzian decisive battles. Far better to threaten multiple objectives rather than seek a single objective, as Clauzy insisted on. Then it's not a wrestling match, but a matter of careful chess, as Timur no doubt would have agreed with.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 09:25 AM   #112

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In regard to your example about On Horses, I couldn't have put it better myself. Sooo, you still ride a horse to work or to the local grocer?
Has the nature of war ever changed though? Moreover, has the nature of transportation? The objective of going from point A to point B is the same and always will be. These are the parts of war Clausewitz talks about in his first and last chapters or "books" (By far the most important chapters). Man will always be man, war will always be war.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 01:17 PM   #113
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But he didn't. And you're trying to hide behind semantics. Clauzy is part of the curriculum at West Point, but only part of it. I doubt that West Point makes errors in translation, nor many other scholars or folks.
Here’s a webpage about Clausewitz. http://www.clausewitz.com/

The main force behind it is Chris Bassford. From his CV: He was director of studies in the theory and nature of war at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, then associate professor of National Policy Issues at the U.S. Army War College. He returned to the Marine Corps orbit as a concepts and doctrine analyst for Marine Corps Combat Developments Command. He then served as Professor of Strategy at the National War College, in Washington, DC, for twelve years. He is now Professor of International Security Studies in the College of International Security Affairs (CISA) program at the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, NC.

Here’s an extract from his web-page about Clausewitz’ famous line:

Many writers unfamiliar with Clausewitz's actual purpose and meaning are repulsed by his famous line that "war is merely the continuation of policy by other means." Part of the problem is that this is neither the best translation of the original wording nor On War's most definitive statement of the concept. Critics also argue (quite correctly, for both ethical and practical reasons) that war should not be seen as just another routine tool for politicians—but Clausewitz would have agreed with that argument in practical terms, for he saw war as a very risky and uncertain instrument. They also object to his rejection of moderation in war as an essential element of war itself (and fail to note his explanation as to why moderation is nonetheless and necessarily pursued by civilized societies as a matter of practical policy). The claim is frequently made (especially by British historians) that Clausewitz's ideas "caused" the disasters of World War I. An actual look at the evidence (a rare undertaking) indicates that this is quite false—at best, simplistic to the point of meaninglessness.

Much of the disagreement over On War, however, reflects fundamental issues that Clausewitz did not address in any detail. That is, On War is a book that, for all its length, attempts to focus narrowly on the practical problems of conducting military operations in war—it does not attempt to describe the character of the physical universe or the nature of man, nor to define such basic concepts as policy, politics, society, or the state. It is simply a mark of the book's profundity that discussion of it inevitably raises all of these issues. Writers with varying views on these fundamental matters inevitably interpret Clausewitz in varying ways—especially when they deal only with isolated statements (or rumors of statements) from the book rather than comprehensively with Clausewitz's overall treatment of the problem.

Obviously I’m not able to write anything that has the slightest impact on the way you look at this issue. If you’re interested in a point of view different from yours, the web page above is in my opinion an extremely interesting read.

Maybe this different point of view is wrong and you’re right. But personally I think that you’re missing a very interesting work if you don’t try look at them from a different angle.

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Old November 8th, 2012, 01:34 PM   #114
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Immediately, from the opening of Bassford's analysis of Keegan's position on Clausewitz, I see that it was foolish not to read it at once. I could have avoided some serious errors, actually.

The first thing that jumps to mind is regret, because I allowed myself to lose my temper with beetle. Beetle seemed to be willfully obstinate before, in my eyes; at times, he showed the intellectual ability to understand the simple theories and axioms of Clausewitz, but it was as if he was deliberately misrepresenting them, just to be contrary or something. How could this be, I thought, when he seems to demonstrate the ability to reason things through at other times?

If I had merely read the Bassford piece, I would have understood that I was dealing with something more than a simple error of intellect:

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Keegan's treatment represents something more, however, than an intellectual failure. More, that is, than a mere inability to comprehend Clausewitz's arguments. Keegan is, after all, a very bright and creative fellow, and an accomplished writer... Keegan's problem with Clausewitz stems from irrational sources. There is no logical thought process that could account for [his errors]...
If an historian and thinker of Keegan's stature can fall victim to these errors in good faith (I will assume good faith, even if Bassford sometimes suggests something more), then it is not surprising that ordinary people who are trying to think these things through would also get trapped in similar mistakes. I apologize for losing my temper earlier, beetle. I should have been more understanding of your difficulties with Clausewitz, even if it seems clear and simple to me. I might have acquired this understanding and patience, if I had merely read the above-mentioned article.

Every single error in your understanding of Clausewitz seems to have already been foreshadowed in Keegan (according to Bassford):

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Keegan's greatest error... lies in his naive and one-dimensional definition of the word politics and in a misconception common among the lay public—but surprising in a professional historian—concerning Clausewitz's most famous phrase, "war is merely the continuation of politics by other means." Keegan condemns Clausewitz's alleged argument that war is entirely a rational tool of rational state policy, an argument with which he is entirely right to disagree. Unfortunately for Keegan and his more credulous readers, this was not Clausewitz's position at all.
I should surely be more understanding. This common misconception has taken root in your mind. Like me, I assume you are a layman. Perhaps I have read more battle and campaign histories than is usual for a layman, and that helps me grasp Clausewitz's simple concepts with ease. For whatever reason, I am free of the anti-Clausewitzian prejudices that cloud the mind of Keegan. Other people read Clausewitz, and it is like they are reading an entirely different book. They find him bloodthirsty and cynical, for example, forgetting that his advice against moderation in warfare is actually designed to mitigate suffering. But many otherwise intelligent people have misread him in exactly the same way. When an error is found to be that widespread, then the roots of it must go very deep. When trying to chop down the tree that is anchored to such a strong foundation, it is childish to become angry when it does not yield to the very first swing of the ax. Once more, my apologies!

I even find in this article a good criticism of my own position, in a description of Keegan's attack on the students of Clausewitz:

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Overtly Clausewitzian thinkers are indeed annoyingly apt to restate others' observations in Clausewitzian terms, the better to integrate what is new and useful in an argument into an existing and immensely flexible conceptual framework...
Of course, this describes my own style, borrowed directly from the master himself. This method of presentation certainly makes me sound like an arrogant know-it-all. At times, beetle, I have observed you take a dismissive and somewhat insulting tone with me, but now I think you were merely reacting to my style, which probably did come off with a hint (perhaps more) of smug pretension. You adopt a derisive tone in response (perfectly understandable in hindsight), and then I lose control of myself further. Not the most mature behavior, I have to admit.

I now realize that maybe 50% of the prejudice against Clausewitz comes from a similar reaction to his style of presentation, and has little to do with the substance of his thought. A lot of these Germans have it - for example, Schopenhauer: a seemingly unshakable confidence in their own intellectual powers - as if Hannibal Lector himself had condescended to explain his irrefutable theories to us pitiful mortals ("First principles, Clarice. What is it, in itself? What does he do, this man you seek?" -- "He kills women?" -- "NO!! that is incidental..."). It is easy to read this as arrogance.

I now understand the reason you insist on referring to him as "Clauzy": that is your way of trying to knock him down a peg - to hell with this old white guy, you're probably thinking; his followers adopt the same arrogant style; they probably get a little thrill every time they spell out his name, like a Kabbalist as he intones the secret name of God; to hell with that; this antiquated philosopher is hardly relevant in the 21st century, and so he hardly deserves such respect.

I think he does deserve respect, but not because of his style. I am not offended by it, but I read a lot of German philosophers, so maybe I am used to it.

I can still say, with an even stronger feeling of confidence than ever before, that you misunderstand old Clauzy's basic message. These systematic mistakes will be difficult for you to ever overcome, and my badgering does not help the process. Do not be too ashamed for these errors, because when you make these mistakes, you are in the company of many otherwise impressive thinkers, like John Keegan. I suggest that you read the Bassford article; he makes the case for Clausewitz in very compelling terms, and he is much less insulting in dealing with the critics than one would expect to find from an anonymous weirdo on the internet, like me. This guy is a real historian.

Now I will put aside all of these nambly-pambly apologies, and I will proceed directly to tear your arguments and assertions to shreds, because I believe the Bassford piece has given me some insight into your errors... just kidding. I am interested in exploring your interpretation of Clauzy, and you provided a series of direct quotes and paraphrases from the man himself recently, and your short evaluations of these thoughts seem so close to what Bassford says of Keegan's opinion, I have to try and deploy my new-found insights in a real-world test [one last note before I proceed: Thanks for your persistence in following this anti-Clauzewizitan line of attack; There have been a few disparaging comments tossed aside here and there, but no one has persisted in this at multi-paragraph length; One of the motives behind this thread was to try and see if there was any anti-Clausewitzian thought out there, and what form it would take; Thanks to your efforts (and thanks to the Bassford-link from another poster), it seems that I have achieved my objective].

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In Chapter One, Book I, Clauzy compares the warfare of "savages" to that of "civilized" nations, noting that civilized nations do not destroy towns and countries. Oh? What do you think happened during WW II?
I will have to look up the passage you cite, because I am sure you have misunderstood something in the context. It can be confusing when one tries to bring modern concepts, concerning politics, civilization, or whatever, into the intellectual environment of the 19th century. Your strict allegiance to a modern definition of the author's terms will inevitably distort your understanding of his intended meaning. It is like watching an old movie, and every time they say the word "gay," you insist they are referring to homosexuality. I bet that is what has happened here, but we must wait for a future post for me to look up the passage in question and identify the specific error. It should be easy, but we shall see.

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Even worse from Chapter One, "Now, philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming the enemy and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed ... However possilbe this may appear, still it is an error which must be expirtated."

Such an idea, such a strategic or even tactical method, is horrendous. And also flat out wrong. The best commanders throughout history have sought to minimize casualties and avoid bloodbath Clausewitzian "decisive battles."

Clauzy is very consistent. From considering war as a mere extension of policy to considering war as a wrestling match to his insistence that the goal of war is a decisive "bloody" battle. This is a horrendous error.
As I try to apply Bassford's criticism of the criticism, the first attempt proves to be inconclusive, because I am too lazy right now to look up the precise passage, nor to trace through the index any other reference to the concept of "savage" warfare versus "civilized" warfare, in order to gauge old Clauzy's precise meaning. From your paraphrase, it seems that he has simply suggested that "savage" warfare is actually more civilized than so-called "civilized" warfare, but I expect this point to be lost on you; with your inflexible definitions, how could you grasp that a society can be both savage and civilized at the same time, on various levels, in various mixtures? But, we will wait to see if a brief scan of the sourced material bears my reading out.

But in your thoughts as I have quoted most recently above, the errors of Keegan are perfectly reproduced, although Keegan has less of an excuse for these errors, because he is a professional historian.

First of all, thank you for providing this quote. I assume from the typos that you transcribed this yourself, and I thank you for that effort. Obviously, you would avoid such an effort if you did not honestly believe that your reading was correct. This also tells me that you keep your Clausewitz close by - good for you!

You correctly tie the meaning of the quoted passage to Clauzy's many emphatic reminders that the ultimate outcome of a war or campaign is almost always determined in a decisive battle (in all of the remaining cases, the outcome is determined by the threat of such a battle). In the passage that is directly quoted, he takes a rhetorical jab at certain "philanthropists" who mean well, but their advice he suggests would lead to even more suffering, if it was seriously adhered to by the commanders of troops in war. It is true that the decisive battle is always a scene of "great bloodshed," and you are right to find this horrendous.

That is what you got right - now the errors:

First of all, you do not complete your quote correctly: "...it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as War, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst." That is one of his more provocative thoughts, especially to modern ears. If you start to tell a joke, you have to tell the punchline also, don't you?

Second error: you do not seem to understand the audience that this is addressed to. It is as if you assume that it is some kind of universal statement of absolute truth designed to be valid for everyone across the board, in all situations. He is preaching against benevolence in war, not against benevolence in general. But you can't see that, can you?

Your third error is historical amnesia: "The best commanders throughout history have sought to minimize casualties and avoid bloodbath Clausewitzian 'decisive battles.'" There are several obvious counter-examples that leap to mind when evaluating your assertion: Grant, for instance. This example works particularly well, because we can compare his success to the mixed results of his predecessors. Meade won Gettysburg, but why could he not beat Lee? Because he tended to avoid the decisive battle when it was in his power (when the battle was forced upon him as at Gettysburg, his performance was better). He got more of his men killed in the long run anyway, because he eventually had to be replaced by a general who understood that the war would be won by decisive battles (Grant), and the conflict was extended as a result.

Your fourth error is nonsense. I am sure this meant sense to you at the time, but the thought animating it is foggy at best: "Clauzy is very consistent. From considering war as a mere extension of policy to considering war as a wrestling match to his insistence that the goal of war is a decisive 'bloody' battle. This is a horrendous error." 1st, I thought you already understood that the goal of war is a political objective; the decisive battle is only the means by which the objective is achieved. 2nd, where is the error - the advice not to avoid battle because of superficially benevolent concerns, the metaphor of wrestling to help illustrate the nature of combat in war, or his reduction of the basic motive in war to politics? These are three separate points, but you lump it all together. 3rd, why do you find Clauzy to be "very consistent," when his theory does not fit the facts of history as you imagine them? I would say that this would make him very inconsistent.

Concluding observations: I have noticed that you have begun to favor policy over politics in your misrepresentations of Clauzy's thinking. This reproduces the errors of Keegan's thinking so closely it is scary. Also, the way you put the word "blood" in quotes, as if the word itself must be neutralized and separated from the rest of your thought by quotation marks, or else you risk some kind of horrendous contamination. You seem to have a certain squeamishness about these things, which is not surprising in a normal person these days. Keegan has almost no excuse for his errors, on the other hand, because we expect more from a professional historian.

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Old November 8th, 2012, 01:36 PM   #115

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Seriously man, I went step by step through this book at school. Even with the help of a PhD in military history the isolated concepts are very difficult and need to be thought of as a only the fragment of a whole. I've read the book several times and never once believed I had a firm grasp of it... Still don't. I never found it irrelevant to modernity though.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 02:06 PM   #116

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They find him bloodthirsty and cynical, for example, forgetting that his advice against moderation in warfare is actually designed to mitigate suffering.
I think I disagree (but not completely) with this statement and I'll tell you what I thought his idea of "moderation" was. Maybe you understand this as well but I'm going to write it anyways...

What we know is that Clausewitz says that one should not limit themselves, for if we limit our capacity to inflict damage, the enemy gains the upper hand (not those exact words but something to that effect). Simple enough concept. You yourself pointed to this one where Clausewitz states that some of war's biggest errors come from the desire to do good: "for in such dangerous things as War, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst" However, he also talks about proportioning or "moderating" your blows. I do not think this is because he believes war can or should be less destructive. I believe he says this in a way that suggests you should proportion the amount of energy and resources you expand with the political goals of your war. For example...

During WWII German High Command enacted "the hunger plan", a sweeping resource requisitioning policy for Eastern Occupied Territory. Moreover, Operation Barbarossa was to be quick and decisive, leading Germany swiftly to victory in the East. Of course, that did not pan out. HOWEVER, if Hitler had taken this page from Clausewitz and said:

"hey now, 1. I am using HUGE amounts of manpower to collect resources, engendering hatred all along the way, with the long-term goal of supporting my army through years of warfare"

Then he would have said:

"Hey wait, Clausewitz tells me a quick war is the best war when dealing with a large country like Russia, MAYBE I should proportion my manpower so that I end this war quickly and decisively."

See, here I think Hitler was distracted by something completely secondary (requisitioning resources) to the political goals of the war (IE Destroying the Soviet government and bringing about a Germanic Utopia or whatever the hell he wanted) and antithetical to Clausewitz principle of rapid victory.

That's what I think he means by proportional: Do not spend any more time, energy or money on something that is not compatible with your aims and do not spend it where you don't need it. You must try to concentrate your effort rather than diverging your army until it's splintered and thinned out.

Second point, I know people will fight me on this but I would say that the incendiary and nuclear bombs used on Japan during WWII were "without moderation". But this is to your point. If the Americans had of proportioned their bombing campaign with the aims of the war, they would not have needed to shed even close to as much blood.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 12:41 PM   #117

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Has the nature of war ever changed though?
The nature of war does not correspond broadly or equally. There are some who engage in warfare who couldn't care less about causing civilian casualties, and in fact have a policy of inflicting terror on local communities. There are others, however, who try very hard to refrain from causing the loss of innocent life.

The "nature" of war depends on the nature of those engaged in it.

The nature of warfare has changed throughout the ages. For much of human history conquerors destroyed communities or cities and force-marched the survivors into slavery. 18th-century warfare with all the professional armies was very different from what came after (during) the French Revolution. (18th-century European professional armies were brittle and very expensive to risk in open field battles, hence the chess-like nature of that warfare of the time and the many sieges. And hence Clauzy's reaction to the highly stylized, "scientific" considerations of warfare which developed out of that.) WW II air bombing erased the distinction Clauzy made between "savages" and "civilized nations."

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Moreover, has the nature of transportation?
Yes. Ever since the Wright brothers and the diesel/gasoline engine.

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The objective of going from point A to point B is the same and always will be.
Sorry, but this is a poor example. In the past point B was whatever blocked your line of march. Now point B can be flown over and assaulted from behind from the air. As a fact, point B is less of a consideration than what lies behind point B. But the best commanders in history have always been aware of this, and avoided the Clausewitzian-type decisive battle unless they were on terrain and circumstances of their own choosing. In a prior post I provided a short list of such commanders, but I forgot Subatai. I'm happy to add him the list.

Nothing changed the nature of transportation more than air travel. Point B, as again the best commanders in history have seemed aware of, is actually a multiple number of point B's. That was the genius of Sherman's "march to the sea." Air transport has reinforced Sherman's ideas, and subtracted from Clauzy's.

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These are the parts of war Clausewitz talks about in his first and last chapters or "books" (By far the most important chapters). Man will always be man, war will always be war.
Please take time to read post #113 by Hans. His excerpt from Chris Bassford claims On War "focuses narrowly on the practical problems", etc. ... "it does not attempt to describe ... the nature of man", etc.

Well, while you two fellow Historumites are disagreeing with me (I'm not certain if you really understand what you are disagreeing with) you are now contradicting each other.

Along with my prior 2 statements, I'll now make a 3rd statement. Those who become unquestioning disciples of Clauzy are susceptible to regarding conflicts as morally relative. For such folks, conflict is just a matter of two wrestlers or office politics. Please look at my first paragraph of this post.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 12:51 PM   #118

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Here’s a webpage about Clausewitz.
I read your post, Hans. Unfortunately I'm not able to reply right now. Thank you for posting the Bassford excerpt. I enjoyed reading it.

I'll make one very quick comment, or rather, ask a question. Has Bassford ever given any consideration to or written anything about Guderian?

Bassford is apparently USMC, so perhaps his considerations may not extend to a Panzer commander who was one of the main persons who developed post-Clauzy military thought.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 03:34 PM   #119
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Seriously man, I went step by step through this book at school. Even with the help of a PhD in military history the isolated concepts are very difficult and need to be thought of as a only the fragment of a whole. I've read the book several times and never once believed I had a firm grasp of it... Still don't. I never found it irrelevant to modernity though.
It seems fairly straightforward to me. I set the context with a study of Vietnam, so I had concrete examples fresh in my mind. It is as if the NVA were directly inspired by Clausewitz:

I. Political Motive. What impresses me much more than the Tet offensive is the campaign launched by the NVA and VC later in May and April of the same year. The NVA drew Marines into battle against a prepared position in the north, in which they had to be dug out hole by hole. Meanwhile, the VC burrowed into the Cholon neighborhood once again and prepared yet another meat-grinder, in which they had to be dug out house by house, this time by the Army.

This time, unlike Tet, the communists had no illusions about the population rising up in support of the campaign. The conscious purpose was simply to kill as many American troops as possible. More Americans were killed in the May offensive than were killed in the more famous Tet, so I would say that they achieved their objective.

And what was the higher goal of all this bloodshed? To put pressure on Johnson in Paris, of course. To influence the outcome of a diplomatic conference - sounds like a political goal.

II. Decisive battle. The NVA never flinched from a decisive battle, when they thought the odds were in their favor, and when it suited their political objectives. At Ia Drang, they rushed into battle quite enthusiastically, once the opportunity presented itself. This battle was initiated by the US, but most of the big ones were initiated by the enemy. The most ambitous campaign, Tet, shows that they were a little too eager to wager everything on one big battle.

III. Moderation in warfare. The entire society of North Vietnam was mobilized for war on every level. There were no college deferments. They did not respect the independence or neutrality of Cambodia and Laos. You think the US wasted troops? The NVA were much more willing to send their troops into certain death. Those VC that prepared that deathtrap in Cholon in May, they had no plan of retreat or surrender. It was a conscious suicide mission.

These are just a few examples of Clausewitzian ideas that have been disparaged in this thread. The NVA fought the US and the ARVN in the 20th century, and they followed these exact same principles. If this old, dead, white guy can help us understand the motives, strategy and tactics of a 20th century army like the NVA, that makes him relevant.

Furthermore, the NVA won. They pressured the US into finally leaving, then they conquered the south. So, the NVA followed Clausewitzian principles, and when put to the test in concrete reality, they worked.

These are just the big ideas. They are very simple ideas. He develops and elaborates them in great detail, but it is never difficult to follow the links in his chain of reasoning. They follow one another in an even and steady way, typical of the best German thinkers. His definitions are very clear. No more difficult than Adam Smith, or Hobbes, Hume, Burke, Montesquieu - any serious author.

Of course, it demands some attention. It is not differential equations, however.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:19 AM   #120
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As I continue my reading project, leaving behind the Civil War and burrowing into the subject of WWI, I find several observations that call into question Clausewitz's theories. Specifically, his assertions about the decisive battle.

I am working on the battle of the Somme right now. I just finished the book by Prior and Wilson, and I am whittling down the pages of William Philpott's survey.

Now, Prior and Wilson never mention Clausewitz by name, but they describe how the British command time and time again caused unnecessary attrition to their own troops because they were always seeking a decisive breakthrough. It is almost as if Haig misunderstood the nature of 20th century warfare, his mind gripped by Clausewitzian reveries of sudden and decisive battles. Rawlinson understood, Foch understood: the proper method is "bite and hold" - bombard your objective with shells, capture it, then move the big guns up within range of the next objective, repeat. The problem is, with 1916 techniques of transportation and communication, this process will take weeks or months in order to achieve anything substantial. A big industrial battle of attrition will drag on and on (the Somme: July 1 to November 18!), quite unlike, say, the battle of Waterloo, which was so decisively ended in one day.

Philpott's analysis of the Somme stresses this point even more forcibly: modern industrial warfare does not hinge on decisive battles won in one day, but on grinding campaigns of attrition that drag on and on forever. In the face of such massive and advanced weaponry, the objectives must be scaled down to very modest levels. One trench, one redoubt at a time.

I am surprised that the anti-Clausewitzians have not stressed WWI in their criticisms. In Clausewitz's day, a battle was over in a day or two. Gettysburg was a three day battle. By 1916, a battle could drag on for a hundred days or more.

I can already conceive the answer to these criticisms, but I would like to save these for a later post, to give these ideas time to mature and develop.

One last note: the question of Clausewitz's influence on Marx and Engels has been broached in this thread, and I have found an excellent quote in my latest reading (Philpott). It does not mention Clausewitz directly, but it does illustrate a very deep understanding of the subject of European warfare, and superb foresight.

Quote:
. . . No war is any longer possible for Prussia-Germany except a world war and a world war indeed of an extent and violence hitherto undreamt of. Eight to ten millions of soldiers will massacre one another and in doing so devour the whole of Europe until they have stripped it barer than any swarm of locusts has ever done. The devastations of the Thirty Years’ War compressed into three or four years, and spread over the whole Continent; famine, pestilence, general demoralisation both of the armies and of the mass of the people produced by acute distress; hopeless confusion of our artificial machinery in trade, industry and credit, ending in general bankruptcy; collapse of the old states and their traditional state wisdom to such an extent that crowns will roll by dozens on the pavement and there will be no body to pick them up; absolute impossibility of foreseeing how it will all end and who will come out of the struggle as victor; only one result is absolutely certain: general exhaustion and the establishment of the conditions for the ultimate victory of the working class.

This is the prospect when the system of mutual outbidding in armaments, taken to the final extreme, at last bears its inevitable fruits. This, my lords, princes and statesmen, is where in your wisdom you have brought old Europe. And when nothing more remains to you but to open the last great war dance—that will suit us all right (uns kann es recht sein ). The war may perhaps push us temporarily into the background, may wrench from us many a position already conquered. But when you have unfettered forces which you will then no longer be able again to control, things may go as they will: at the end of the tragedy you will be ruined and the victory of the proletariat will either be already achieved or at any rate (doch ) inevitable.
In quite a sloppy way, this quote is sourced by Philpott to "Marx and Engels on Revolution and War", in W.B. Gallie, Philosophy of Peace and War (Cambridge, 1978). But, some simple internet research shows that the quote derives from Engels alone, from the preface to a pamphlet by Sigismund Borkheim, In Memory of the German Arch-Patriots of 1806-1807 (Zur Erinnerung für die deutschen Mordspatrioten 1806-1807).

What penetrating insight Engels show here! He understands the nature of the coming conflict perfectly, although his ideological hopes cause him to be overly optimistic in his projections about "the victory of the proletariat." But still, Engels' insight shows good understanding of military subjects, and so Clausewitz has obviously had a deep influence on his thoughts. He even seems to foresee the great depression: "hopeless confusion of our artificial machinery in trade, industry and credit, ending in general bankruptcy; collapse of the old states..."

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