Military Strategy Magazine  /  Volume 3, Issue 1  /  

Clausewitz and Connectivity

Clausewitz and Connectivity Clausewitz and Connectivity
To cite this article: Betz, David, “Clausewitz and Connectivity”, Infinity Journal, Volume 3, Issue No. 1, Winter, 2012, pages 4-9.

‘So you think you’re changed, do you?’

The Caterpillar to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

Amongst the small subset of students of politics who concern themselves with the nature and conduct of contemporary war there is something of a holiday tradition. Periodically they gather to discuss what to do about the family patriarch, Carl von Clausewitz. Argument soon rages across the divide. ‘He’s a withered corpse. It’s past time for the mausoleum!’ exclaims one side. ‘He’s a venerable sage!’ splutters the other. ‘He speaks to me everyday!’ Then they separate to different rooms—half going with Martin Van Creveld to the lounge to mutter about non-trinitarianism; the other half going to the library with Colin Gray to bellow at each other for the nth time ‘but it says right there in black and white, book 1, chapter 1, there are two trinities. Two!’[i] Then everybody vows never to go back home for Thanksgiving ever again.

It’s a caricature, of course, but not a totally unfair one. The pattern of debate is now well worn and predictable. Clausewitzeans are dogmatists. ‘Like the aging Marxists with a Karl of their own,’ wrote one critic, ‘the Clausewitzeans today are more interested in exonerating their idol from the evil perpetrated in his name than in demonstrating what good he could bring to the current challenges facing the military.’[ii] Anti-Clausewitzeans are dilettantes. Take, for instance, the British strategist Basil Liddell-Hart, the granddaddy of Clausewitz-haters who once bestowed on him the epithet ‘Mahdi of mass and mutual massacre’ laying primary blame on him for having laid the intellectual foundation of the ghastly industrial slaughter of First World War trench warfare.[iii] It is increasingly widely thought that Liddell-Hart had not so much misread On War as not read it at all until later in his career.[iv]

Quite commonly calls for the dethroning of Clausewitz are predicated on the basis of the occurrence of some technological development that has fundamentally altered the nature of war. Alternately, more subtly, some technological development has fundamentally altered the nature of the society in which war occurs. Either way, the point is that Clausewitz’s theory of war—its utility as a conceptual framework—has been unhinged as a result of some external factor. Clausewitzeans, who ought always to be mindful that the ‘contexts of war are all important’, should not blithely dismiss the latter argument in particular.[v] It has some powerful supporters, as we shall see below.

That, in essence, is the object of this paper—not to settle the debate per se—but to give fair (albeit brief) hearing to the notion that the Clausewitzean trinity, the ‘most original and insightful’ of his discoveries, is no longer up to the task of explaining contemporary war.[vi] The finding: actually, it still seems quite adequate. Before explaining why that is the case it behoves us first to say a few words about technology and specifically about information and communications technology or, as I prefer, the ‘connectivity’, that underpins the current iteration of anti-Clausewitzean thinking.[vii]

‘Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.’

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004), Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History and Technology

In Clausewitz’s day technology was relatively static. In historical perspective it is our time that is unusual in respect of the pace of change. As one recent analysis of digital media and society put it:

The information society is a society in constant flux and change. It moves at an ever-quickening pace and causes the ties that bind us to the old, to the traditional and to the known, to easily slip their moorings.[viii]

Score one for the anti-Clausewitzeans, then, who share the same premise. If practically everything else is changing because of the way that the world has been wired up so should war also. By and large, the pace of scientific discovery and developments in engineering was very slow throughout history up to Clausewitz’s time and for a few decades after.[ix] This was true of industrial, agricultural, and military enterprise. As late as the 18th century commanders still found the tactical advice of the 4th century Roman text De Re Militari by Vegetius to be very apposite.[x] The Napoleonic Wars which so preoccupied Clausewitz that they pervade practically every chapter of On War, were fought almost entirely with weapons that would have been mostly recognisable to soldiers 300 years earlier. Napoleon’s astonishing run of victorious battles was achieved through innovative use of existing technologies combined with new tactics and military organisational forms. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that the industrial revolution developed such a momentum that changes in technology became more apparent and rapid.[xi] Mechanical transportation (initially steam-powered rail and ships followed by vehicles powered by internal combustion engines), electrical communications (first the telegraph followed by telephone and radio), combined with advancements in diverse fields of design and manufacture that drove rapid increase in the range and lethality of weapons, all have had a vast impact on the conduct of warfare—ultimately, in respect of the development of nuclear weapons at least, taking it beyond the point of which the Clausewitzean conception of war as a rational act of policy made much sense to anyone.[xii]

All of this was after Clausewitz, however; he, it is fair to say, had little interest in technology whose portent was somewhat nascent in his lifetime and he barely mentions it in his work. This lacuna in On War has in subsequent years attracted the interest of many scholars. Nowadays, for example, many of the new prophets of cyber power implicitly or explicitly disparage him, consigning his philosophy to the bin of history as ‘outdated’ and ‘ever more irrelevant’ because of this lack. It is noteworthy, though, that thoughtful observers of the effects of connectivity in other fields do not feel it necessary to slaughter the iconic figures in their disciplines in order to comprehend the present. The Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells, for instance, who perhaps better than any other thus far has explained the social and economic relations of the emerging ‘network society’ does not disparage Max Weber, another nineteenth century German philosopher and political economist, although he defined the exercise of ‘power’ in almost exactly the same terms that Clausewitz did i.e. war as the collective action of a group of men to realize their own will even against the resistance of another group. Quite the opposite, he concludes of Weber that ‘…the voice of the master resonates with force one hundred years later’.[xv]

Why is what is good for sociologists studying the workings of the network society not sauce for the strategists looking at a key aspect of the same thing? Surely, if Clausewitz had written in the 20th century then he would have read with great interest about such things as the growth of a factory proletariat, the urbanisation of the bourgeoisie, the consequent political adaptations of European regimes, and other developments of the Industrial Revolution and discussed the application of his theory in that context—no doubt observing the shift it caused in the basis of military power to one based in a large part upon industrial capability.[xvi] Similarly, if he were writing in the 21st century, now, when the rapidity of technological change provides the leitmotif of much scholarship from anthropology through zoology he would wonder about the sources and meaning of military power in the post-industrial ‘Information Age’. These are not especially impertinent assumptions. Clausewitz himself was no dogmatist. Towards the end of On War he explained how every age has its ‘own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.’ The events of every age, therefore, ‘Must be judged in the light of its own peculiarities.’[xvii]

‘We’re lima lima mike foxtrot in Iraq’, says Sergeant Frank Cleveland, who’s riding shotgun in the truck where I’ve hitched a ride.

‘What does that mean?’ I ask from the backseat.

‘We’re lost like a motherfucker’, he says.

A conversation in Iraq somewhere near Baghdad (April 2003)[xviii]

In that spirit, then, let us consider what happens to the element of the trinity that would seem most subject to mitigation and remediation by information technology: chance. Does it go away? Does information and communications technology make managing the ‘interplay of probability and chance’ no longer the hallmark of the art of war? This is one of the most vital of all Clausewitz’s dicta:

War is the realm of chance. No other human activity gives it greater scope: no other has such incessant and varied dealings with this intruder. Chance makes everything uncertain and interferes with the whole course of events. [xix]

If it were no longer true then, truly, it would mean the theory was seriously deficient. The answer, however, is no—of course no.[xx] Ironically, since it was precisely on this point that expectations were the highest in the years between the triumph in the Gulf War of 1990/91 and the post-9/11 expeditionary campaigns of the War on Terror, it is harder now to convince people that the enthusiasts of the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ were partly right than it is to say they were simply utterly wrong. Consider this passage from the memoirs of General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, upon whom more ordure has been poured in a decade than the averagely well-fertilised farmer’s field:[xxi]

In the 21st century, operational success—what the military calls ‘effect’—would be found in both space and time: putting the most effective force, at the right place, at the right time. In this new way of thinking, the historical strategic imperatives of objective, mass, and economy of force would acquire new meaning. [xxii]

Actually, this is not wrong. It is possible to produce more combat power with a smaller force when you improve the quality of its information systems and processing.[xxiii] Sun Tzu mentioned this aphoristically 2,500 years when he enjoined his readers to ‘know yourself, know your enemies’ and advised them that ‘all war is deception’.[xxiv] Most generals ever since have found these points sufficiently self-evident not to bother belabouring them. George Washington, in a letter to one of his officers written in 1777, provides an excellent example: ‘The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged.’[xxv] If I may be forgiven for presuming to think as Clausewitz might have, I would say that he would improve on this phlegmatic and pithy statement only by underlining the word ‘good’. Because, as he observed, much information in war is contradictory, even more is false, and even more than that is doubtful. The good stuff is rare—and not always recognisably good until it is not nearly as useful as it might have been. Information technology can help you gather more data, it can help you move it around more widely and quickly, but that does not necessarily mean that the commander is better equipped with better knowledge upon which base to make decisions. It is a worthy aspiration but ‘total informatiton awareness’ is a chimera. Equally, even in the most wired-tight force someone, always, will pack the wrong batteries, insert the wrong code module, drop the GPS in the latrine… etc. Chance and its close relation, friction, are no less present today than they were in Clausewitz’s day or even Alexander’s day.

‘Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.’

Pablo Picasso[xxvi]

The larger truth, though, is that (as Clausewitz also noted) you make war against a living, thinking opponent and not against an inert mass. One of the most remarkable things about the 1990s discussion of ‘high performance information grids’ generating high levels of ‘battlespace awareness’ and closing the ‘sensor–shooter gap’ is how little it referred to the enemy. The ‘logical model of Network Centric Warfare’, for instance, referred only to ‘objects’ that are sensed, identified, and subsequently ‘negated’ by fire.[xxvii] The last decade of war has demonstrated, painfully and repeatedly, the limitations of this way of conceptualising war. As an illustration, the American defence analyst James Russell has recounted a conversation he had while receiving a briefing on counterinsurgent operations in Afghanistan in 2010:

I recall … seeing the obligatory PowerPoint slide with all the red ‘X’s’ through the Taliban’s leadership structure in the province I was visiting. Stupidly, of course, I mentioned to the briefer:

‘Well, we must be winning, then.’

He laughed and responded:

‘You could have shown up here for every year for the last few years and seen the exact same slide. They just keep coming back.’[xxviii]

It is not the fault of Clausewitz or a flaw in his theory that governments are attempting to make war ‘work’ as a tool of policy against threats that are difficult to permanently staunch with the kinetic blows that armed forces are generally designed to deliver. Indeed, it rather confirms the continuing salience of another aspect of the trinity: reason, or political purpose.[xxix] This ought not to have required pyrrhic (at best) victory in Iraq or (most likely) flat out defeat in Afghanistan to have become (now common) wisdom. The British general Rupert Smith, who commanded the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1995 at the decisive time in that war, glimpsed some while ago in the trend of recent military operations the unhappy truth:

…that the more the operation is intended to win the will of the people, the more the opponent adopts the method of the guerrilla and the more complex the circumstances, the longer it will take to reach the condition in which a strategic decision can be made and a solution be found. And while it is being found the condition has to be maintained, and since in part at least it has been arrived at by force it must be maintained by force for want of a strategic decision.[xxx]

Thus we may see how the modern theatre commander finds himself as if at the crux of a scissors. Faced tactically with opponents who generally quickly learn how to drop below the threshold of his weapons systems he must, like Alice, follow the White Rabbit down his rabbit hole into Wonderland. Contrary to some belief, it is possible for regular forces to become very good at hunting in this environment.[xxxi] Unfortunately, the dark fire cannot avail them much when it is harnessed to the achievement of misconceived policy, or when political forces persistently fail to set goals directly pertinent to and achievable within the context of the conflict in question. Although the problem is essentially widespread, the British Army has suffered particularly acutely in this way in its operations since 2003. Successive governments, eager to illustrate to the United States Britain’s value as an ally, have sought to keep ‘in the game’ militarily but at the lowest possible cost in blood and treasure. Generally, as one would expect with such a contingent mindset (which, moreover, it is politically inexpedient to state openly), they have forsaken answering the question ‘why are we here?’ in part because the occasional rhetorically vigorous efforts of ministers to do so have been contradictory, but more importantly in the hope that by avoiding the issue the public will remain lethargic enough for the matter to remain off the electoral agenda.[xxxii] Politically, this has been a moderately successful gambit; militarily, it has been quite costly.

‘The most unfortunate commander of all is the one with a telegraph wire attached to his back.’

Field Marshal Helmuth Von Moltke (1800-1891), Chief of the Prussian General Staff[xxxiii]

Connectivity has had the effect of heightening the invidiousness of the commander’s position in a very specific way. Commanders on the ground have always feared and resented the potential interference of more senior commanders, and ultimately their political masters, in their tactical decision-making. Perversely, as any reader of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels will know, there is a special joy and freedom in being a frigate captain on your own thousands of miles and weeks or months of travel away from higher command. Nowadays, no commander is ever really disconnected from the potential meddling of political authority. Nor, for that matter, are politicians ever completely free of the temptation to stare down as though with Sauron’s fiery eye on the One Ring to the lowest tactical level that the technology allows them.

The problem today, however, goes well beyond tactical interference. It is, rather, as Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff has argued, that the main vector of change is not primarily in military technology but in the technology underlying society more generally. Changes in information technology are causing, he said, the fading of ‘old assumptions… old frontiers and old frontlines’, which are no longer impregnable to ‘global networks of competing cultures’.[xxxiv] The resulting anxiety is particularly acute in what might be called the ‘perceptual realm of conflict’. Essentially, what we are talking about here is the third element of the trinity: the support (or ‘passion’) of the people for the war. Commanders well understand the importance of this because it is well established in theory that big powers lose small wars when their home population becomes convinced that the war is not worth it and makes politicians bring their forces home.[xxxv] Thus we see such figures as H.R. McMaster, one of the most forward thinking and accomplished senior officers in the US Army today, write in the foreword to a recent text on influence and perception in modern warfare that,

Although combat in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to require the defeat of the enemy on physical battlegrounds, US commanders have discovered that lasting success over terrorist and insurgent groups requires winning on the battle ground of perception… Ideas are weapons in the information age…[xxxvi]

Be this as it may, there are at least two especially problematic aspects here that have prevented the nettle being grasped by its head. First, touching as it does upon the thorny issue of propaganda, and particularly of propagandising one’s own people (the proverbial ‘third rail’ for defence establishments in the democracies), the literature on ‘strategic communications’ has generally avoided the full extent of the issue it is putatively meant to address.[xxxvii] Second, in the absence of strong political leadership on the logic and purpose of the wars they are in the responsibility has fallen heavily on theatre commanders to maintain domestic will. A handful of them have been suited by temperament if not training to this role of the modern media general—notably David Petraeus until his recent downfall—but most, not surprisingly, have been fish out of water, mired in domestic politics in a way that is good neither for them nor the polity.[xxxviii] Perception matters in war—Clausewitz would not have disagreed; indeed his point, though he described it in the more elegant and less euphemistic way of his day, was that war is never solely directed against material things but is always aimed at the intelligences (or ‘moral quantities’) that give life to those material forces, and that separating the physical and the perceptual is impossible.

‘The Dude abides.’

The Dude in the Joel and Ethan Coen film, The Big Lebowski (1998)

The late 20th century burgeoning of connectivity is historically unparalleled and the pace of the ‘wiring up’ the world is still sharply increasing. It is long past argument that this is causing us to do all sorts of things differently, whether that is how we engage in commerce and organise our economies, educate and entertain ourselves, maintain our social lives, and even attend to our spiritual affairs. But these are not different things: we still buy and sell, teach and learn, and talk and argue—things that as human beings we have always done. Surely, this distinction applies also to warfare and war. None of this is particularly threatening to Clausewitz’s theory, which presupposes change in the character of the object of study. The trinity is not a device for fixing the meaning of war for all time. On the contrary, the simile of war as a ‘chameleon’ rests upon the essential mutability of these ‘tendencies’ within the trinity, their constant variance in strength and respective influence.

Looking at contemporary warfare through the prism of Clausewitzean theory should not lead us to conclude there is something wrong with it as a conceptual frame. In fact, what it does quite well is illuminate that, to employ a cutting edge Internet meme, ‘You’re doing it wrong.’[xxxix] We have underestimated the tenacious hold of chance on the conduct of war and, entranced by a strategy of gadgets and plasma displays, forgot that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight.[xl] Wisdom, in particular, has eluded the makers of policy. One may speculate, to judge from their speeches, this is because of their preoccupation with and apprehension of time and the sheer interconnectedness of things, in light of which it seems impossible, immoral even, to stop and ponder before leaping to action of one sort or another. This was especially evident in George Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union speech, which fairly neatly encapsulated the enduring spirit of the age when it comes to security:

… time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer.[xli]

We have also not learned how to harness—in both the sense of restraining as well as guiding—the passions of the people who are no longer so well separated from conflicts, even those far abroad, by the gulf of incomprehension caused by distance. Instead, connectivity brings with it a sense of distance-killing immediacy as well as an illusion of presence. These are all challenging problems and not easier to solve by jettisoning a set of concepts that still illuminates them better than any others.

In 1889, the American inventor Thomas Edison who was touring Europe showing off to the great and the good his new invention—the phonograph—visited Von Moltke who was then near the end of his long life. It is not unreasonable to say Edison was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the information age. In a recording that still exists Von Moltke remarks that telecommunications really is an astonishing development in human history allowing us to do extraordinary things; but he points out too, rather poetically, that all our artifice cannot force nature to give what it does not wish to give because things in their nature are extraordinarily resistant to change.[xlii] This remains a valid reflection on the unchanging nature of war. Not bad for a man who learned his business in Clausewitz’s classroom.


[i] Well, not exactly half and half. The small faction of Fourth Generation Warfare believers are banished by everyone else to the end of the garden to drink beer with T.X. Hammes. Meanwhile, the Hybrid Wars Gang shuttles after Frank Hoffman between the parties bumming cigarettes and explaining why everyone else is partly right and partly wrong.
[ii] Tony Corn, ‘Clausewitz in Wonderland’, Policy Review, Hoover Institution (1 September 2006).
[iii] Liddell-Hart’s criticisms of Clausewitz featured in much of his writing but were especially pointed in The Ghost of Napoleon (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1934).
[iv] Jon Tetsuro Sumida critically assesses Liddell-Hart’s critique of Clausewitz effectively in Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War (Lawrence, KS: Kansas University Press, 2008), pp. 25-35. The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘In Our Time’ which (17 May 2012) featured an episode on Clausewitz with Profs. Hew Strachan, Saul David, and Beatrice Heuser also touched upon the man and his critics.
[v] ‘Context’ is at the top of the list in Colin Gray’s Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace and Strategy (Dulles, VA: Potomac Press, 2009), pp. 3-6 in which he quotes approvingly and at length the historian Jeremy Black’s point that war ‘in its fundamentals’ changes far less, and less frequently, than is widely supposed. See, Jeremy Black, War and the New Disorder in the Twenty First Century (New York: Continuum, 2004), pp. 163-164.
[vi] Quote is from Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 13.
[vii] The preference for ‘connectivity’ as opposed to, say, the currently very popular prefix ‘cyber’ is that it more accurately reflects the fact that the ‘Information Age’, ‘Post-industrialism’, or ‘Network Society’ (you may take your pick of a range of roughly cognate descriptors) is driven not only by burgeoning digital communications, but also by webs more generally. Post-war mass migration and ease of travel, as well as the liberalisation of trade are equally important parts of the ‘globalisation’ (another buzzword for the same phenomenon) jigsaw. The literature on the subject is vast but the key texts are Peter Drucker, The Age of Discontinuity (New York: Harper and Row, 1969) and, Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1973). A more recent work specifically focused on security is David Betz and Tim Stevens, Cyberspace and the State (London: Routledge for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2011).
[viii] Robert Hassan, The Information Society (Cambridge: Polity, 2008), p. 13.
[ix] William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society Since AD 1000 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982).
[x] The Austrian field marshal, Prince de Ligne, waxed poetic about it: ‘A God, said Vegetius, inspired the legion, but for myself, I find that a God inspired Vegetius’. Quoted in the introduction to De Re Militari [The Military Institutions of the Romans] by Lieutenant John Clarke in Brig. Gen. T.R. Phillips (ed.), The Roots of Strategy, Vol. 1 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1985), p. 67.
[xi] Archer Jones’s magisterial account of The Art of War in the Western World (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001) is illustrative of these points. Chapter 6 on the Napoleonic Wars is centred on the theme of tactical and strategic adaptation, whereas Chapter 7 covering the period from Napoleon’s defeat to the outbreak of the First World War is concerned primarily with technological change.
[xii] Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003), p. 461.
[xiii] James Adams, The Next World War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998), p. 93.
[xiv] See ‘Class, Status, Party’, in Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1948), p.180.
[xv] Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Vol. 1, Second ed. (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), p. 215.
[xvi] One might imagine, for example, that he would have found fascinating David Lande’s The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969).
[xvii] Carl Von Clausewitz, (Michael Howard and Peter Paret, trans. and eds.), On War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman’s Library, 1993), p. 718.
[xviii] Joshua Davis, ‘If we run out of batteries this war is screwed’, Wired, Iss. 11.06 (June 2003).
[xix] Clausewitz, p. 117.
[xx] See David J. Betz, ‘The More You Know, The Less You Understand: The Problem with Information Warfare’, Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2006), pp. 505-533.
[xxi] Franks is particularly singled out by Thomas Ricks in Fiasco: the Americam Military Adventure in Iraq (London: Penguin, 2006).
[xxii] Tommy Franks, American Soldier (New York, Regan Books, 2004), p. 169.
[xxiii] The matter has been explored in detail by Robert Leonhard, among others, in a series of books Robert Leonhard: The Art of Manoeuvre: Manoeuvre Warfare Theory and AirLand Battle (Novato, CA: Presidio, 1991); Fighting By Minutes: Time and the Art War (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994); and The Principles of War for the Information Age (Novato, CA: Presidio, 1998).
[xxiv] Sun Tzu, The Art of War in Thomas Cleary (trans.), Classics of Strategy and Counsel (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2000), p. 85.
[xxv] Quoted in Appendix B of Loch Johnson, Strategic Intelligence (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), p. 214.
[xxvi] Possibly apocryphal, see: The Quote Investigator (5 November 2011),
[xxvii] The model is found in Arthur K. Cebrowski and John J. Garstka’s seminal article ‘Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future, US Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 124, No. 1 (January 1998).
[xxviii] James Russell, ‘America’s Leadership Decapitation Policy is Prescription for Endless War’, Guardian: Comment is Free (12 February 2013).
[xxix] On this point, observers are wont to refer to Clausewitz’s observation that war has its own ‘grammar’ (i.e., manner of conduct) but not its own ‘logic’ (i.e., purpose of that conduct). The meaning of this remark of Clausewitz’s and its particular relevance to today is discussed by Antulio Echevarria, ‘Reconsidering War’s Logic and Grammar’, Infinity Journal, Iss. 2 (Spring 2011) and also by David Martin Jones and M.L.R. Smith, ‘Grammar but No Logic: Technique is Not Enough—A Response to Nagl and Burton,’ Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (June 2010): 437-446.
[xxx] Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (London: Allen Lane, 2005), p. 292.
[xxxi] Whatever the failings of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan as a strategy for defeating terrorism the major armies of the Western world have gotten quite good at finding and killing insurgents.
[xxxii] David Betz and Anthony Cormack, ‘Iraq, Afghanistan, and British Strategy’, Orbis, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Spring 2009), p. 327.
[xxxiii] Daniel J. Hughes (ed. and trans.), Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (Novato, CA: Presidio, 1996).
[xxxiv] General Sir David Richards, ‘Future Conflict and Its Prevention: People and the Information Age’, speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (18 January 2010)
[xxxv] The basic idea is Andrew Mack’s ‘Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars’ in Klaus Knorr (ed.), Power Strategy and Security: A World Politics Reader (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), pp. 126–51. It has been further developed by Ivan Arreguin-Toft, How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) and by Gil Merom, How Democracies Lose Small Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
[xxxvi] H.R. McMaster, ‘Foreword’ in G.J. David Jr. and T.R. McKeldin III, Ideas as Weapons: Influence and Perception in Modern Warfare (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2009).
[xxxvii] An exception being David Betz, ‘The Virtual Dimension of Contemporary Insurgency and Counterinsurgency’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 19, No. 4 (2009), pp. 513–543.
[xxxviii] For further discussion see David Betz, ‘Communication Breakdown: Strategic Communications and Defeat in Afghanistan’, Orbis, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2011), pp. 613-630.
[xxxix] ‘You’re doing it wrong’, Know Your Meme,
[xl] Paraphrasing a widely quoted line of Arthur C. Clarke. See Information Age Education Newsletter, Iss. 60 (February 2011),
[xli] President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address (Washington, DC: United States Congress, 29 January 2002).
[xlii] See David Betz, ‘Helmuth Von Moltke’s iPod’, Kings of War (12 February 2013),