Carl von Clausewitz On War

For anyone who wishes to become an armchair General in their living room while watching the nightly news unfold on their TV set, these are some things they need to know. So often the news media will give opinions and ask other reporters what they think about this or that or the other thing. Yet few really understand what war is, why it exists or even its main objectives. Certainly killing one’s own species is not a smart thing to do, but political will seems to be a greater driver of the human endeavor, whether this is good or bad should be left for additional debate. War is hell, war makes no sense, but if you find your self in the position of defending a nation or serving up a dish of political will; Carl von Clausewitz has some insight which you owe it to yourself to understand before you join in an critique or comment on any current war we are having. I therefore recommend the following book:

“Carl Von Clausewitz on War, a translated work” by Anatol Rapoport a Russian American.

Carl von Clausewitz is one of the most quoted authors on War by US Military Generals and Spokesmen. After reading the entire works and this book I would like to comment on it. First it is interesting the way in which; war is categorized by Carl von Clausewitz. I do not believe that in this day and age all of his ideals are to be followed as absolute, but you cannot deny his concepts. He is very cut and dry in his observations and of his time. I agree his observations were correct about Political will and war, however I disagree with the left out issues of mad men and personal will as they play out in war. A leader’s personal will and the will of his army are said to be one of the strongest factors in out come of a war. I disagree and would have to say is more like two-thirds as I believe Patton and even Churchill would agree. I also wish to involve the author is a series of questions, however he is dead. I would like to dismiss his assertion that Pride and innate characteristics of man play an even more bizarre part in the outcome of an individual battle whether it is a first strike, reciprocal response or end of attack due to highly sophisticated defensive plan.

As we see in Bin Laden’s fight to the death army, which may end in a cave like the Japanese Island defenders of Okinawa. I would say we have much different issues going on that were not addressed or foreseen in the works of Von Clausewitz. Although as I continually watch history repeat itself I wonder if it is even possible that mankind’s innate characteristics were not in play with highly irrational strategic moves in his day.

General Custard said Take No Prisoners, Remember Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead, or in Star trek when the Vulcan ship was approaching and how defensive shields existed (simply a replay of past wars in a modern fictitious story). It appears that the human mind in the heat of battle will get so caught up in game, inertia and even adrenalin that it cannot stop or yield; we see this in sports and many of us have participated in the heat of the battle, sometimes we lost, sometimes we won (speak for yourself I always won) but we all know this is a factor indeed. In von Clausewitz case this is considered valor or even an act of heroism and is explained and has not changed in centuries, yet in a leader he does not address the act of sending in parts or entire armies into known annihilation, which has occurred and we have seen it in wars in our lifetime.

It is also of interest the unanticipated theory of killing a future Hitler before he grows up. What if Hitler was killed as a young man and never rose to power, would there have been another leader capable of moving such a large country in that direction? He did so through a Nationalistic approach instead of Bin Laden’s religious approach, yet was able to move more people faster. Incidentally has anyone been watching the growing numbers of enlisted personnel and ROTC sign-ups after 9-11? It is nothing short of amazing. Nothing like it since WWII; Osama Bin Laden did not ever understand the Nationalistic pride we have as Americans have and he clearly did not read Von Clausewitz, or if he did he cheated on the test and used a very bad set of Cliff’s Notes; because if he had he would have done things differently. Terrorists have been shown in many futuristic book to control the World, yet none are taken as seriously as books like Arthur C Clark who show a Chinese Control of regions of the World and the annihilation of Terrorists due to their own unyielding demand for power and followers based on a false god and mind manipulation. This seems to be a common theme in Clancy novels too.

In Nationalism, it is more of a choice than a leading by fear. So then who has the strongest army? The one led by a false god and fear from the leadership or the one led into battle by absolute will of every man in the army. I could never bet against a Nationalistic Will over a religious one, but both are very strong. Imagine what happens in the US when we just put both of them together. WOW.

Carl von Clausewitz also had no idea of the power of media manipulation in war and what an incredible part it plays in a modern day. Of course the Machiavelli work on the other hand talked briefly on the subject of word of mouth and controlling a battle through the role of propaganda. I can see why Carl von Clausewitz is so widely respected even to this day, but for someone to think that the battle is so cut and dry would be leaving themselves up for a new strategy never used before that would catch someone off guard such as the Wall Pass which was used by the German Soccer team to beat out their rivals. Or the Bicycle Kick used by Pele. It is those unknown things (fog of war if you will) that will catch someone off guard and cause a loss. Japanese generals when asked how do you fight against Americans, were told that just when you are winning, they do some crazy thing, you just cannot trust those cowboy Yankees, never underestimate them, they will pull something out of their ass at the last minute. It has been written into stories like James Bond or other intense dramas that when all is lost to set a trap for the enemy and blow them up and you along with it.

Leaders who have everything in their power to do this and nothing left as like a tiger in a corner may attempt this un benounced to their army who will also be sacrificed in the process. Carl Von Clausewitz talks only slightly about this and it appears that wars were rational and part of life in his day and time, and many generals would lead armies throughout their life on different sides and different leaders, yet today’s terrorist war is different and therefore we should be looking into other possibilities. The battle which occurs in side a warriors head is a battle of strength to a cause. Look at Mike Tison as he bites of the ear of his opponent, I bet if he had a machine gun he would have unloaded it into the skull of his opponent and put in another clip. It is this rage inside a man that can be unnerving to the opponent, it is like wearing red; it is an advantage indeed.

We should realize that this tendency does exist and that evil is inside and after a leader watches everything he has built melt to nothing, we may find some interesting and unexpected outcomes to the end of this Afghan struggle. If we are to believe the legend behind the man and the man to live up to the legend look out. But perhaps as von Clausewitz would say if he were to be leading this strategic defeat of the Talaban “tally men;” do not be too hastily to move into action without the knowledge needed make accurate decisions. Now on the other hand if the Talaban had nuclear capability from spent fuel from the generation plants in North West Pakistan were they might have received Uranium 238, then we may wish to re-consider at what length they will go to use them and where they might try.

Turning the desert into glass to prove a point maybe extreme, yet so is their entire mission. So if they do this we need not be there, they only need to believe we are to use this weapon if they have it, so we need a decoy and blurb on all stations that we are sending in 5-10 thousand troops and see if they blow themselves up. If they do we use weather control though seeding of clouds to fill up the sand turned to glass by way of nuclear explosion to contain rain fall water and melted ice to provide life and water to the region. In von Clausewitz theory war can only be waged in certain circumstances and therefore we need to change the rules and fight when a where we desire to stop terrorism now and forever. Carl von Clausewitz On War (1832) should be required of all Military Academies, I think it must be and also discussed in detail why not all of it works in a modern context, but that the concepts are completely valid in strategic thinking of anyone involved in the very serious game of winning a war, because losing sucks and you are out of quarters. Think about it.

“Lance Winslow” – If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs

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