By Clausewitz, Carl von (auth.); Howard, Michael Eliot (transl.); Paret, Peter (transl.)
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Extra info for On War
The situation, he claimed, had changed since Clausewitz had written. Now "if two European Powers of the first order collide, their whole organized forces will at once be set in motion to decide the quarrel. " War was certainly an instrument of policy in that war arose from a political situation; but, he continued: "War will on that account be in no way lowered in importance nor restricted in its independence, if only the commander in chief and the leading statesmen are agreed that, under all circumstances, war serves the end of politics best by a complete defeat of the enemy.
The above-quoted note makes it clear that had Clausewitz lived to finish the work it would have been the second of the above three elements which would have received the most emphasis: the dominance which the political end should exert over the military means. As it is, however, Clausewitz has very little to say about this even in Book Three on strategy. Strategy he defines baldly as "the use of the engagement for the purposes of the war" (see below, p. 177). It is here that we find the doctrine which was to be seized on so avidly by later writers: "The best strategy is to be very strong: first everywhere, and then at the decisive point" (see below, p.
1812 he had fully grasped its theoretical implications. 12 Waging war is very difficult, he wrote, "but the difficulty is not that erudition and great talent are needed . . there is no great art to devising a good plan of operations. " To explain why this should be so, Clausewitz resorted to a simile: "The conduct of war resembles the workings of an intricate machine with tremendous friction, so that combinations which are easily planned on paper can be executed only with great effort. Consequently the commander's free will and intelligence find themselves hampered at every turn, and remarkable strength of mind and spirit are needed to overcome this resistance.