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Carl von Clausewitz

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"Clausewitz" redirects here. For the part of defense of Berlin during the World War II,
see Operation Clausewitz.
Carl von Clausewitz

Portrait while in Prussian service, by Karl Wilhelm Wach
Birth name Carl Philipp Gottfried
von
[1]
Clausewitz
Born June 1, 1780
Burg bei Magdeburg, Prussia
Died November 16, 1831 (aged 51)
Breslau, Prussia (now
Wrocaw, Poland)
Allegiance
Kingdom of Prussia (17921808,
18131831)
Russian Empire (18121813)
Years of
service
17921831
Rank Major-General
Unit Russian-German Legion (III Corps)
Commands
held
Kriegsakademie
Battles/wars Siege of Mainz
Napoleonic Wars
Carl Philipp Gottfried [Gottlieb] von Clausewitz
[1]
(/klazvts/; June 1, 1780 November
16, 1831)
[2]
was a German general 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 was a realist and used 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" (Politikbeing variously translated as "policy" or
"politics", terms with very different implications), a description that has won wide acceptance.
[3]

Contents
[hide]
1 Name
2 Life and military career
3 Theory of war
o 3.1 Principal ideas
4 Interpretation and misinterpretation
5 Influence
o 5.1 Late 20th and early 21st century
6 In popular culture
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
o 9.1 Scholarly studies
o 9.2 Primary sources
10 External links
11 External links
Name[edit]
Clausewitz's Christian names are sometimes given in non-German sources as "Carl Philipp
Gottlieb" or "Carl Maria." He spelled his own given name with a "C" in order to identify with the
classical Western tradition; writers who use "Karl" are often seeking to emphasize his German
(rather than European) identity. "Carl Philipp Gottfried" appears on Clausewitz's
tombstone.
[4]
Nonetheless, reputable Clausewitz experts such as Peter Paret and sources such
as Encyclopdia Britannica still use Gottlieb instead of Gottfried, presumably based on their
reading of handwritten birth records.
[5]

Life and military career[edit]
Clausewitz was born on June 1, 1780 in Burg bei Magdeburg, Prussia, the fourth and youngest
son of a middle-class family. His grandfather, the son of a Lutheran pastor, had been a
professor of theology. Clausewitz's father was once a lieutenant in the Prussian army and held
a minor post in the Prussian internal revenue service. Clausewitz entered the Prussian military
service at the age of twelve as a Lance-Corporal, eventually attaining the rank of Major-
General.
[6]
Clausewitz's family claimed descent from the Barons of Clausewitz in Upper Silesia,
but this is now doubted by scholars.
[7]

Clausewitz served in the Rhine Campaigns (17931794) including the Siege of Mainz, when
the Prussian army invaded France during the French Revolution, and served in the Napoleonic
Warsfrom 1806 to 1815. He entered the Kriegsakademie (also cited as "The German War
School," the "Military Academy in Berlin," and the "Prussian Military Academy") in Berlin in 1801
(age 21), studied the writings of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and won the regard of
General Gerhard von Scharnhorst, the future first chief of staff of the new Prussian Army
(appointed 1809). Clausewitz,Hermann von Boyen (17711848) and Karl von Grolman (1777
1843) were Scharnhorst's primary allies in his efforts to reform the Prussian army between 1807
and 1814.
Clausewitz served during the Jena Campaign as aide-de-camp to Prince August. At the Battle
of Jena-Auerstedt on October 14, 1806 when Napoleon invaded Prussia and defeated the
massed Prussian-Saxon army commanded by Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick he
was captured, one of the 25,000 prisoners captured that day as the Prussian army
disintegrated. He was 26. Clausewitz was held prisoner in France from 1807 to 1808. Returning
to Prussia, he assisted in the reform of the Prussian army and state.


Marie von Clausewitz (ne, Countess von Brhl)
On December 10, 1810 he married the socially prominent Countess Marie von Brhl and
socialized with Berlin's literary and intellectual elite. She was a member of the noble
German von Brhl family originating in Thuringia. They first met in 1803.
Opposed to Prussia's enforced alliance with Napoleon I, he left the Prussian army and served in
the Russian army from 1812 to 1813 during the Russian Campaign, including the Battle of
Borodino. Like many Prussian officers serving in Russia, he joined the Russian-German
Legion in 1813. In the service of theRussian Empire, Clausewitz helped negotiate
the Convention of Tauroggen (1812), which prepared the way for the coalition of Prussia,
Russia, and the United Kingdom that ultimately defeated Napoleon and his allies.
In 1815, the Russo-German Legion was integrated into the Prussian Army and Clausewitz re-
entered Prussian service. He was soon appointed chief of staff ofJohann von Thielmann's III
Corps. In that capacity, he served at the Battle of Ligny and the Battle of Wavre during
the Waterloo Campaign in 1815. The Prussians were defeated at Ligny (south of Mont-Saint-
Jean and the village of Waterloo) by an army led personally by Napoleon, but Napoleon's failure
to destroy the Prussian forces led to his defeat a few days later at the Battle of Waterloo, when
the Prussian forces unexpectedly arrived on his right flank late in the afternoon to support the
Anglo-Dutch forces pressing his front.
Clausewitz was promoted to Major-General in 1818 and appointed director of
the Kriegsakademie, where he served until 1830. In that year the outbreak of several
revolutions around Europe and a crisis in Poland appeared to presage another major European
war. Clausewitz was appointed chief of staff of the only army Prussia was able to mobilize,
which was sent to the Polish border. He died after commanding the Prussian army's efforts to
construct a cordon sanitaireto contain the great cholera outbreak in 1831 (the first time cholera
had appeared in Europe, causing a continent-wide panic).
His widow published his magnum opus on the philosophy of war in 1832, on which he had
started working in 1816, but had not completed.
[8]
She wrote the preface for On War and by
1834 had published several of his books. She died two years later.
Theory of war[edit]
Clausewitz was a professional soldier who was involved in numerous military campaigns, but he
is famous primarily as a military theorist interested in the examination of war. He paid special
attention to the campaigns of Frederick the Great and Napoleon.
[9]
He wrote a careful,
systematic, philosophical examination of war in all its aspects. The result was his principal
work, On War, a major work on the philosophy of war. It was unfinished when he died and
contains material written at different stages in Clausewitz's intellectual evolution, producing
some significant contradictions between different sections. The sequence and precise character
of that evolution is a source of much debate as are the level and exact meaning behind his
seemingly contradictory claims (discussions pertinent to the tactical, operational and strategic
levels of war are one example). Clausewitz constantly sought to revise the text, particularly
between 1827 and his departure on his last field assignment, to include more material on
"people's war" and forms of war other than between states, but little of this material was
included in the book.
[8]
Soldiers before this time had written treatises on various military
subjects, but none had undertaken a great philosophical examination of war on the scale of
those written by Clausewitz and Leo Tolstoy, both of which were inspired by the events of
the Napoleonic Era.
Clausewitz's work is still studied today, demonstrating its continued relevance. More than ten
major English-language books focused specifically on his work were published between 2005
and 2010. Lynn Montross, writing on that topic in War Through the Ages (1960), said; "This
outcome... may be explained by the fact that Jomini produced a system of war, Clausewitz a
philosophy. The one has been outdated by new weapons, the other still influences the strategy
behind those weapons."
[page needed]
Although Jomini also wrote extensively on war, he did not
attempt to define war. Clausewitz did, providing a number of definitions. The first is his
dialectical thesis: "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." The second,
often treated as Clausewitz's 'bottom line,' is in fact merely his dialectical antithesis: "War is
merely the continuation of policy by other means." The synthesis of his dialectical examination
of the nature of war is his famous "trinity," saying that war is "a fascinating trinitycomposed of
primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; the
play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and its element of
subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason."
[10]
Thus the
best shorthand for Clausewitz's trinity should be something like "violent emotion/chance/rational
calculation." It is frequently presented, however, as "people/army/government," a consequential
error based on a later paragraph in the same chapter. This error was popularized by U.S. Army
Colonel Harry Summers' Vietnam-era interpretation,
[11]
facilitated by weaknesses in the 1976
Howard/Paret translation.
The degree to which Clausewitz managed to revise his manuscript to reflect that synthesis is
the subject of much debate. His final reference to war and Politik, however, goes beyond his
widely quoted antithesis: "War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition
of other means. We deliberately use the phrase "with the addition of other means" because we
also want to make it clear that war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it
into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the
means it employs. The main lines along which military events progress, and to which they are
restricted, are political lines that continue throughout the war into the subsequent peace."
Clausewitz introduced systematic philosophical contemplation into Western military thinking,
with powerful implications not only for historical and analytical writing but also for practical
policy, military instruction, and operational planning. He relied on his own experiences,
contemporary writings about Napoleon, and on historical sources. His historiographical
approach is evident in his first extended study, written when he was 25, of the Thirty Years War.
He rejects the Enlightenment's view of the war as a chaotic muddle and instead explains its
drawn-out operations by theeconomy and technology of the age, the social characteristics of the
troops, and the commanders' politics and psychology. In On War, Clausewitz sees all wars as
the sum of decisions, actions, and reactions in an uncertain and dangerous context, and also as
a socio-political phenomenon. He has several definitions, the most famous one being that war is
the continuation of politics by other means. He also stressed the complex nature of war, which
encompasses both the socio-political and the operational and stresses the primacy of state
policy.
The word "strategy" had only recently come into usage in modern Europe, and Clausewitz's
definition is quite narrow: "the use of engagements for the object of war." Clausewitz conceived
of war as a political, social, and military phenomenon which might depending on
circumstances involve the entire population of a nation at war. In any case, Clausewitz saw
military force as an instrument that states and other political actors use to pursue the ends of
policy, in a dialectic between opposing wills, each with the aim of imposing his policies and will
upon his enemy.
[12]

Clausewitz's emphasis on the inherent superiority of the defense suggests that habitual
aggressors are likely to end up as failures. The inherent superiority of the defense obviously
does not mean that the defender will always win, however: there are other asymmetries to be
considered. He was interested in cooperation between the regular army and militia or partisan
forces, or citizen soldiers, as one possible sometimes the only method of defense. In the
circumstances of the Wars of the French Revolution and with Napoleon, which were energized
by a rising spirit of nationalism, he emphasized the need for states to involve their entire
populations in the conduct of war. This point is especially important, as these wars
demonstrated that such energies could be of decisive importance and for a time led to a
democratization of the armed forces much as universal suffrage democratized politics.
While Clausewitz was intensely aware of the value of intelligence at all levels, he was also very
skeptical of the accuracy of much military intelligence: "Many intelligence reports in war are
contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain.... In short, most intelligence is
false." This circumstance is generally described as the fog of war. Such skeptical comments
apply only to intelligence at the tactical and operational levels; at the strategic and political
levels he constantly stressed the requirement for the best possible understanding of what today
would be called strategic and political intelligence. His conclusions were influenced by his
experiences in the Prussian Army, which was often in an intelligence fog due partly to the
superior abilities of Napoleon's system but even more to the nature of war. Clausewitz
acknowledges that friction creates enormous difficulties for the realization 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.
Principal ideas[edit]


The young Clausewitz
Key ideas discussed in On War include:
the dialectical approach to military analysis
the methods of "critical analysis"
the economic profit-seeking logic of commercial enterprise is equally applicable to the
waging of war and negotiating for peace
the nature of the balance-of-power mechanism
the relationship between political objectives and military objectives in war
the asymmetrical relationship between attack and defense
the nature of "military genius" (involving matters of personality and character, beyond
intellect)
the "fascinating trinity" (wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit) of war
[13]

philosophical distinctions between "absolute" or "ideal war," and "real war"
in "real war," the distinctive poles of a) limited war and b) war to "render the enemy
helpless"
"war" belonging fundamentally to the social realmrather than to the realms of art or
science
"strategy" belonging primarily to the realm of art, but is constrained by quantitative analyses
of political benefits versus military costs & losses
"tactics" belonging primarily to the realm of science
the importance of "moral forces" (more than simply "morale") as opposed to quantifiable
physical elements
the "military virtues" of professional armies (which do not necessarily trump the rather
different virtues of other kinds of fighting forces)
conversely, the very real effects of a superiority in numbers and "mass"
the essential unpredictability of war
the "fog" of war
[14]

"friction" - the disparity between the ideal performance of units, organisation or systems and
their actual performance in real world scenarios (Book I, Chapter VII)
strategic and operational "centers of gravity"
[15]

the "culminating point of the offensive"
the "culminating point of victory"
Interpretation and misinterpretation[edit]
Clausewitz used a dialectical method to construct his argument, leading to frequent
misinterpretation of his ideas. British military theorist B. H. Liddell Hart contends that the
enthusiastic acceptance by the Prussian military establishment especially Moltke the Elder
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.... [Clausewitz's] theory of war was expounded in a way too abstract
and involved for ordinary soldier-minds, essentially concrete, to follow the course of his
argument which often turned back from the direction in which it was apparently leading.
Impressed yet befogged, they grasped at his vivid leading phrases, seeing only their surface
meaning, and missing the deeper current of his thought.
[16]

As described by Christopher Bassford, professor of strategy at the National War College of the
United States:
One of the main sources of confusion about Clausewitz's approach lies in his dialectical method
of presentation. For example, Clausewitz's famous line that "War is a mere continuation of
politics by other means," ("Der Krieg ist eine bloe Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln")
while accurate as far as it goes, was not intended as a statement of fact. 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." His synthesis, which resolves the deficiencies of these two bold statements, says
that war is neither "nothing but" an act of brute force nor "merely" a rational act of politics or
policy. This synthesis lies in his "fascinating trinity" [wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit]: a dynamic,
inherently unstable interaction of the forces of violent emotion, chance, and rational
calculation.
[2]

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 1940s. He did not use the term: rather, he
discussed "absolute war" or "ideal war" as the purely logical result of the forces underlying a
"pure," Platonic "ideal" of war. In what he called a "logical fantasy," war cannot be waged in a
limited way: the rules of competition will force participants to use all means at their disposal to
achieve victory. But in the real world, 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." Thus the complete defeat of the enemy may not be
necessary, desirable, or even possible.
In modern times the reconstruction of Clausewitzian theory has been a matter of some 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. 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." In Theory of War, Kondylis claims that this is
inconsistent with Clausewitzian thought. 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. For
Clausewitz, war is simply a means to the eternal quest for power, of raison d'tat in an anarchic
and unsafe world.
Other notable writers who have studied Clausewitz's texts and translated them into English are
historians Peter Paret of Princeton University and Sir Michael Howard, and the philosopher,
musician, and game theorist Anatol Rapoport. Howard and Paret edited the most widely used
edition of On War (Princeton University Press, 1976/1984) and have produced comparative
studies of Clausewitz and other theorists, such as Tolstoy. Bernard Brodie's A Guide to the
Reading of "On War", in the 1976 Princeton translation, expressed his interpretations of the
Prussian's theories and provided students with an influential synopsis of this vital work.
The British military historian John Keegan has attacked Clausewitz's theory in his book A
History of Warfare.
[17]
Keegan argued that Clausewitz assumed the existence of states, yet 'war
antedates the state, diplomacy and strategy by many millennia'.
Influence[edit]
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
specificially. Later Prussian and German generals such as Helmuth Graf von Moltke were
clearly influenced by Clausewitz: Moltke's notable 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.
After 1890 or so, Clausewitz's influence spread to British thinking as well. One example is naval
historian Julian Corbett (18541922), whose work reflected a deep if idiosyncratic adherence to
Clausewitz's concepts. The British scholar B. H. Liddell Hart in the 1920s attributed to him a
doctrine of "absolute war," that during the First World War was embraced by 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 contradicts much of On War.
[18]

Clausewitz had little influence on American military thought before 1945. He did influence Karl
Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, and thus the Communist and Soviet
traditions, as Lenin emphasized 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.
[19]
Because Lenin was an admirer of Clausewitz and called him "one
of the great military writers", his influence on the Red Army was immense.
[20]
The Russian
historian A.N. 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 anti-humanist anti-
revolutionary."
[20]
The American mathematician Anatol Rapoport wrote in 1968 that Clausewitz
as interpreted by Lenin formed the basis of all Soviet military thinking since 1917, and quoted
the remarks by Marshal V.D. 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".
[21]

Rapoport argued that:
"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. This was constantly applied by Lenin in a variety of contexts.
Thus the entire history of philosophy appears in Lenin's writings as a vast struggle between
"idealism" and "materialism". The fate of the socialist movement was to be decided by a
struggle between the revolutionists and the reformers. Clausewitz's acceptance of the struggle
for power as the essence of international politics must had impressed Lenin as starkly
realistic".
[22]

Clausewitz directly influenced Mao Zedong, who read On War in 1938 and organized a seminar
on Clausewitz for the Party leadership in Yan'an. Thus the "Clausewitzian" content in many of
Mao's writings is not merely a regurgitation of Lenin but reflects Mao's own in-depth study.
[23]

The idea that war involves inherent "friction" that distorts, to a greater or lesser degree, all prior
arrangements, has become common currency in fields such as business strategy and sport.
The phrase fog of war derives from Clausewitz's stress on how confused warfare can seem
while immersed within it.
[24]
The term center of gravity, used in a military context derives from
Clausewitz's usage, which he took from Newtonian Mechanics. In U.S. military doctrine, "center
of gravity" refers to the basis of an opponent's power, at the operational, strategic, or political
level, though this is only one aspect of Clausewitz's use of the term.
Late 20th and early 21st century[edit]
The deterrence strategy of the United States in the 1950s was closely inspired by
President Dwight Eisenhowers reading of Clausewitz as a young officer in the
1920s.
[25]
Eisenhower was greatly impressed by Clausewitzs example of a theoretical, idealized
absolute war in Vom Krieg as a way of demonstrating how absurd it would be to attempt such
a strategy in practice.
[25]
For Eisenhower, the age of nuclear weapons had made what was for
Clausewitz in the early 19th century only a theoretical vision an all too real possibility in the mid-
20th century.
[25]
From Eisenhowers viewpoint, the best deterrent to war was to show the world
just how appalling and horrific a nuclear absolute war would be if it should ever occur, so
hence a series of much publicized nuclear tests in the Pacific, giving first priority in the defense
budget to nuclear weapons and delivery systems over conventional weapons, and making
repeated statements in public that the United States was able and willing at all times to use
nuclear weapons.
[25]
In this way through the Massive retaliation doctrine and the closely related
foreign policy concept ofBrinkmanship, Eisenhower hoped to hold out a creditable vision of
Clausewitzian nuclear absolute war in order to deter both the Soviet Union and/or China from
ever risking a war or even conditions that might lead to a war with the United States.
[26]

After 1970, some theorists claimed that nuclear proliferation made Clausewitzian concepts
obsolete after the 20th-century period in which they dominated the world.
[27]
John E. Sheppard,
Jr., argues that by developing nuclear weapons, state-based conventional armies
simultaneously both perfected their original purpose, to destroy a mirror image of themselves,
and made themselves obsolete. No two powers have used nuclear weapons against each
other, instead using conventional means or proxy wars to settle disputes. If such a conflict did
occur, presumably both combatants would be annihilated. The American game theorist Anatol
Rapoport argued in 1968 that a Clausewitzian view of war was not only obsolete in the age of
nuclear weapons, but also highly dangerous as it promoted a "zero-sum paradigm" to
international relations and a "dissolution of rationality" amongst decision-makers.
[28]

The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen many instances of
state armies attempting to suppress insurgencies, terrorism, and other forms of asymmetrical
warfare. If Clausewitz focused solely on wars between countries with well-defined armies, as
many commentators have argued, then perhaps On War has lost its analytical edge as a tool for
understanding war as it is currently fought. This is an ahistorical view, however, for the era of
the French Revolution and Napoleon was full of revolutions, rebellions, and violence by "non-
state actors", such as the wars in the French Vende and in Spain. Clausewitz wrote a series of
Lectures on Small War and studied the rebellion in the Vende (17931796) and the Tyrolean
uprising of 1809. In his famous Bekenntnisdenkschrift of 1812, he called for a Spanish war in
Germany and laid out a comprehensive guerrilla strategy to be waged against Napoleon. In On
War he included a famous chapter on The People in Arms.
One prominent critic of Clausewitz is the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld. In his
book The Transformation of War,
[29]
Creveld argued that Clausewitz's famous "Trinity" of
people, army, and government was an obsolete socio-political construct based on the state,
which was rapidly passing from the scene as the key player in war, and that he (Creveld) had
constructed a new "non-trinitarian" model for modern warfare. Creveld's work has had great
influence. Daniel Moran replied, 'The most egregious misrepresentation of Clausewitzs famous
metaphor must be that of Martin van Creveld, who has declared Clausewitz to be an apostle of
Trinitarian War, by which he means, incomprehensibly, a war of 'state against state and army
against army,' from which the influence of the people is entirely excluded."
[30]
Christopher
Bassford went further, noting that one need only read the paragraph in which Clausewitz
defined his Trinity to see "that the words 'people,' 'army,' and 'government' appear nowhere at
all in the list of the Trinitys components.... Creveld's and Keegan's assault on Clausewitz's
Trinity is not only a classic 'blow into the air,' i.e., an assault on a position Clausewitz doesn't
occupy. It is also a pointless attack on a concept that is quite useful in its own right. In any case,
their failure to read the actual wording of the theory they so vociferously attack, and to grasp its
deep relevance to the phenomena they describe, is hard to credit."
[31]

Some have gone further and suggested that Clausewitz's best-known aphorism, that war is a
continuation of policy by other means, is not only irrelevant today but also inapplicable
historically.
[32]
For an opposing view see Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century edited by Hew
Strachan, and Andreas Herberg-Rothe.
[33]
Others argue that the essentials of Clausewitz's
theoretical approach remain valid, but that our thinking must adjust to the realities of particular
times and places. Knowing that "war is an expression of politics by other means" does us no
good unless we use a definition of "politics" that is appropriate to the circumstance and to the
cultural proclivities of the combatants in each situation; this is especially true when warfare is
carried on across a cultural or civilizational divide, and the antagonists do not share as much
common background as did many of the participants in the First and Second World Wars.
In military academies, schools, and universities worldwide, Clausewitz's literature is often
mandatory reading.
[34]

In popular culture[edit]