Carl von Clausewitz or known as General Carl Phillip Gottfried von Clausewitz was born in Magdenburg in July 1, 1780 and died of cholera at the age of 51 in Breslau, Germany in November 16, 1831. He left a legacy that until this day his writings are still compulsory for reading in military academies both in the US and Europe.
He famous book “Von Kriege” or translated in English as “On War” discusses many of his optimisms in considering war as an extension of political thoughts rather than pure readings for military strategies. Analysts say Clausewitz’s theories of war were considerations during war and not provocations on how to stage war against the enemies.
In fact, he is not the total war strategist of the “absolute war” as other people branded him but even though his thoughts does not provoke the art of making war our armed forces until today consider them as great contributions to the development of military strategies because of his concepts in advising technical discussion in the event of war.
Although Clausewitz wrote about different battle conditions, he goes further in relating battles to psychological and political considerations. He became popular in connecting his principles of war to be regarded as motivation for military strategies because his theories inspire military leaders to act on certain situations according to the demand of the situation. Therefore his theories must never be applied as models of committing war but to serve as aids to judgment during wars.
However, through the passing of time most of his tactical views were altered or replaced by other political and strategic thoughts but what he left about military systems and political strategies are regarded as pure standard for military strategic commitments (Teijebakker, 2008).
Clausewitz served as a Prussian soldier, military historian and military theorist whose influence was most famous for military treatise. Although participated in military campaigns, his sole purpose was to be a military theorist and do examinations of war. During his time, other soldiers also examined the war during the Napoleonic era but not any of them has undertook the greatest philosophical examination of war other than Clausewitz and Tolstoy did.
Another great writer, Jomini also took the same observation as Clausewitz but while Jomini based his theories on the system of war, Clausewitz writes on the philosophical view of it. If we are going to asses Clausewitz’s philosophical view that militaries based the development of their strategies, we can see that Clausewitz has been able to introduced systematic philosophical inspection into Western and European military thinking. His strategic principles have powerful implications that are used for historical and analytical writing but also for logical policy, military education and planning on operations.
Clausewitz believes that war is just a natural event that is part of social organisms such as man and always part of practical experience. He underlined that warfare is just as changeable as our societies that is why there is the need for the distinction in manipulating strategies and tactics. He also asserted that there are no fixed principles that are adapted for tactical calculations and no laws for strategies either because wars are not all the same.
This kind of philosophy motivates military leaders to assume that because of the changeable attitude and conditions of war, Clausewitz provokes on the idea that defense is a stronger form of strategic principle than offense. This is because as Clausewitz warned, once offensive advantage has an imbalance of momentum such as a weakened or divided forces, the offensive stance can transform into a defensive orientation. So the general principle, as he stresses, is that defense is a prerequisite for good offense (Abegglen, 2003).
Moreover, Clausewitz great emphasis on military strategies is that he wants to emphasize that wars are the continuation of government policies or in other words an extension of politics. There is warfare because war is motivated by political objectives and the only means to achieve these political objectives is the commitment of war.
Therefore he argues that what determines the character and activities of military operations are what the military leaders do in following the authority given to them by the state driven by political aims. In this manner, since the military are under the ruling governing body of the state, the states which compose of the public sector can also exercise their authority over military activities.
But what was the most important message Clausewitz wants to convey is that although war is not extraordinary, the waging of war must be dependent on the political situation of those who wages it and with their allies and enemies. The strength of the military is not an assurance for victory but a defensive war seems to be the contributory factor in achieving victory.
The machines that man made for human destruction and the skill those soldiers learned were all part of human endeavor to achieve victory. But these machines are useless unless use in the battlefield and maneuvered with precise realistic approach to warfare which include the art of defense and offense and military skills (Jolley, 2003).
As a Prussian staff officer with political and military responsibility and with combat experience against armies of Revolutionary France, Clausewitz is prominently a military educator. Having to rise to the rank of a Major-General at the age of 38, his book On War which was written in Germanic language became the most important work that is written that deals on the theory of warfare and strategy. The book tells of theories on the area of interest of military strategists, historians, political thinkers and political scientists.
Clausewitz has met so many oppositions with his theories contain in his books but his influence is so great that even the Marxists-Leninists, the great navalists Sir Julian Stafford Corbett and the American nuclear strategists apply his principles to their own theoretical application. Although they have different culture, background and military orientation they all share the same belief that Clausewitz’s writings are of fundamental importance not because only of their content but because of the influential his great mind has perceived.
The book On War itself is always very hard to read and comprehend because it was still in its unfinished state and so the subjects seem too hard to follow. So many nations and great minds have failed to master it because of its unfamiliar style. But because Clausewitz’s statements define great political thinking, precise military planning with principles of strategic calculations that are used by organizations in developing different strategies, Clausewitz’s ideas evoke superiority in leadership and management in war and of societies.
His continuation of defining policy with politics by other means happens to be misunderstood because probably his perception provokes alarm and opposition. According to him he objects on the role of policy makers because these so-called policy makers always tend to create war just to achieve their goals when they cannot achieve it through peaceful means. On the other hand, experienced politicians and soldiers are against it because they know that war becomes really dangerous, chaotic and unpredictable when it is created for political goals.
Another great significance of Clausewitz’s theory to the advantage on the development of military strategy is that his ideas integrates a vast range of military concerns which include political, strategic, operational, analytical, tactical, pedagogical and historical concern that are in relation with the fundamental socio-political framework of the military.
The good things about his theories is that they also successfully interrelates to a wide range of consideration and can adapt to any political and historical changes that is why until today, Clausewitz’s concept of strategies on war and politics are still being utilized as fundamental in military statesmanship (Bassford, 1996).
But what are the main teachings of Clausewitz that they are still utilized in the management of military strategies today? In teaching Clausewitz’s concept of strategies, military officials try to imbue to their soldiers how to analyze Clausewitz’s theory of war so that they can check on its applicability on the military power on any given time.
The soldiers must be able to assess the learning concepts with thorough examination such as learning the nature of warfare as compared during the French revolution against today’s practical application of military concept. As Clausewitz advised, mission analysis is essential to provide the learners or soldiers the sophisticated understanding of war, the nature of war, the purpose of war and the conduct of war. Assessing these activities help the soldiers develop in internalizing their way of thinking so that they may be critical in all areas of war and discover the characteristic of the opponent.
Understanding the adversary makes the soldiers be critical on what analytical approach they can do to gain advantage during war. Then the essential points of engagement and following policies must be conveyed to the soldiers.
These essential points include how to interact with war and its policy, understanding absolute war vs. the real war, perception on the moral and physical dimensions of war, strategic effects for the future leaders of war, understanding the sources of power and the dialectics of offense and defense. By assessing the principles of Clausewitz, we can now measure success according to the management of war (Bassford, 1985).
As a conclusion, as Clausewitz always say that as wars are conceived, the generals of war must have clear idea on what are the goal of this wars. The militaries are learning from Clausewitz’s admonition that no one starts a war or rather nobody in his right mind ought to start a war without prioritizing what the objectives are. The objectives of war can be of political purpose which the military must be aware while the conduct of war is the operational part wherein the military must operate accordingly. This governing principle of Clausewitz will set every war on its course and thus contributory to the development of military strategy.
ABEGGLEN, C. M. V. (2003) The Influence of Clausewitz on Jomini’s Précis de l’Art de la Guerre Erlenstrasse 3 4414 Füllinsdorf, King’s College London. Available from URL: http://www.homepage.bluewin.ch/abegglen/papers/clausewitz_influence_on_jomini.pdf
BASSFORD, C. (1985) An Instructor’s Guide To Teaching Clausewitz. Available from URL: http://www.clausewitz.com/CWZHOME/KassNWC/KassNotes3.html
BASSFORD, C. (1996) Review Essay: Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Berlin, 1832). Available from URL: http://www.clausewitz.com/CWZHOME/CREV/CWZREV.htm