Carl von Clausewitz

Biography of Carl von Clausewitz

Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (July 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831) was a German-Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was unfinished at his death.

Clausewitz espoused a romantic conception of warfare, though he also had at least one foot planted firmly in the more rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment. His thinking is often described as Hegelian because of his references to dialectical thinking but, although he probably knew Hegel, Clausewitz's dialectic is quite different and there is little reason to consider him a disciple. He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the "fog of war" (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders. He saw history as a vital check on erudite abstractions that did not accord with experience. In contrast to Antoine-Henri Jomini, he argued that war could not be quantified or reduced to mapwork, geometry, and graphs. Clausewitz had many aphorisms, of which the most famous is that "War is the continuation of Politik by other means" (Politik being variously translated as 'policy' or 'politics,' terms with very different implications), a description that has won wide acceptance.

[Report Error]