On War by Clausewitz, Carl von (auth.); Howard, Michael Eliot

By Clausewitz, Carl von (auth.); Howard, Michael Eliot (transl.); Paret, Peter (transl.)

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THE GENESIS OF O n War character of war more prominence than they receive in much of the text, and, further, if he amends the unrevised sections to the effect that limited wars need not be a modification, but that theoretically and in reality two equally valid types of war exist. Clausewitz came to the recognition of the dual nature of war largely by way of historical study, which convinced him that limited conflicts had often occurred not because the protagonists' means precluded greater effort or their leadership had faltered, but because their intentions were too limited to justify anything more.

In practice the use of force tended to be limited. The power of friction reduced the abstract absolute to the modifications it assumed in reality. The major, unrevised part of On War is dominated by the mutually clarifying dialectical relationship between absolute and real war. But was it actually true that real war always modified the abstract absolute? And, secondly, was it valid to deduce from the concept of the absolute that all wars, whatever their cause and purpose, must be waged with supreme effort?

The name of Clausewitz became associated in the popular mind with battle and blood. As for the military specialists, the concept of annihilation as the object of strategy was no less dominant-if only because they could not see how else, under the conditions of early twentieth-century warfare wars, especially wars conducted by Germany on two fronts, could conceivably be won. "24 If Germany could not destroy one or other of her principal adversaries as rapidly and as totally as she had destroyed French military power in 1870, she was likely eventually to be squeezed to death between them.

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