© Trentinness | Dreamstime.com – Swedish military conducting operations in Mazar e Sharif
Despite having been developed nearly two centuries ago, Carl von Clausewitz’s “wondrous” trinity remains popular among modern defense scholars and military practitioners.[i] Many of them, in fact, regard it as the explanatory model of war’s nature. They do so primarily because the trinity consists of three basic elements—hostility, chance, and purpose—thought to be common to any type of war. The dynamic interaction of these elements, moreover, is what makes war a nonlinear system and thus irreducible to simple equations or formulas. To be sure, not all scholars view the trinity in this way. Critics such as Martin van Creveld have long argued Clausewitz’s paradigm merely reflects the major institutions—people, military, and government—traditionally associated with the state.[ii] For that reason, it fails to account for the types of conflicts that became prevalent after the Cold War, namely, the so-called asymmetric or low intensity conflicts in which violent non-state entities, such as terrorist groups and local militias, figure at least as prominently as the state. Defense scholars and military practitioners, however, successfully rebutted this argument by demonstrating the Prussian’s model was less about the institutions as such, and more about the aforementioned fundamental elements or forces.[iii] As a result, the trinity’s elasticity was restored and the model endures today as one of Clausewitz’s most important contributions to the study of war. Closer analysis, however, suggests these restorative interpretations of the trinity have not gone far enough.
In our efforts to prove the elasticity and universality of hostility, chance, and purpose—or as some prefer, irrational, non-rational, and rational factors—we often discount the importance of the populace, the military, and the government.[iv] At best, we regard them as a secondary trinity, or perhaps war’s character, which we then politely set aside to concentrate our full attention on the tendencies, or war’s nature. Yet, Clausewitz clearly sought to connect the former to the latter in the opening chapter of On War. We would do well, therefore, not only to preserve that relationship, but also to consider why he thought it was important. In fact, when we do so, at least one thing becomes clear—Clausewitz believed changes in war’s character can lead to fundamental shifts in its nature, and vice versa.
That is not the understanding today’s policy and military practitioners have of war’s nature. Contrary to Clausewitz, they consider that nature to be immutable and regard only war’s character as changeable. Modern practitioners, of course, are not beholden to Clausewitz’s model of war’s nature. They are fully entitled to disagree with him on any score they choose. Nonetheless, a great many practitioners refer to Clausewitz’s construct as if it accords with their own. A closer look at what he understood by the character and nature of war is, thus, warranted.
War’s Changing Character
Clausewitz penned two chapters that provide a glimpse into his thinking with regard to the character of war and the character of battle.[v] By the term character, he seems to have meant the chief characteristics that shaped war and battle in his day. Understanding the character of modern war was important, he explained, because “the impression we have of modern war exerts a great influence on our designs, especially those pertaining to strategy.”[vi] As an example, he highlighted Napoleon’s willingness to take chances, a tendency that became a salient characteristic of modern war because it upset traditional means and brought about the crushing defeat of several powerful states. Clausewitz also pointed out how the campaigns in Spain demonstrated the merits of waging an insurgency on a large scale. He further noted that the Russian campaign of 1812 illustrated the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of conquering large empires, and how running a tally of “battles, capitals, and provinces” gained or lost does not necessarily mean one side is winning or losing the war. In fact, the closer an offensive approached the heart (Herz) of a nation, the stronger that nation’s resistance was likely to be. Prussia’s 1813 campaign, he went on to say, exemplified not only how rapidly one can increase the size of one’s fighting forces by means of a militia, but also how militias can acquit themselves just as well defensively, at home, as well as offensively, abroad. Their utility, therefore, was not limited merely to defense. His observation, thus, concerned the merits of militias, or peoples’ armies, rather than the specific form of war (attack or defense) that such armies might have to assume.[vii]
With respect to the character of modern battle, Clausewitz described the main stages that unfolded when combat was joined. Understanding this flow of events was important, he argued, because changes in tactics, or how battles are fought, will affect strategy, or how battles are used. He portrayed modern battle as a struggle that took place in two dimensions: physical and psychological. As each party was worn down physically and psychologically through combat, it replaced its battle lines with fresh formations—a process that continued until one side withdrew from the battle, or until darkness forced the fighting to cease. Each party then assessed the physical and psychological damage it had suffered, and tried to determine how much harm it had inflicted on its opponent. These assessments then formed an overall impression of the battle’s outcome, which in turn served as the basis for planning the next day’s actions. According to Clausewitz, this sequence was roughly the same for all belligerent parties for two basic reasons. First, all parties were generally on par organizationally and in terms of their practice of the art of war (Kriegskunst). Second, the “warlike element” (kriegerische Element), fanned by great popular interests, had broken free from the mannerism of the past and created patterns of combat that took a more natural course.[viii]
Notably, Clausewitz’s discussions underscored the importance of nonmaterial factors in the character of war and of battle; this emphasis served as a corrective to the form-centered, geometric approaches of Adam Heinrich von Bülow and Antoine Jomini, among others.[ix] Examples of such factors include Napoleon’s good fortune (Glück) and audacity (Kühnheit), the attitude or disposition (Gesinnung) of a people, the subjective nature of battlefield assessments and the extent to which such impressions, rather than objective realities, informed each party’s subsequent actions. Even more important, was Clausewitz’s mention of the warlike element, and its liberation within the context of modern war. This element, intangible but certainly real in Clausewitz’s eyes, was nonetheless the essential quality that made modern combat different in character from what it had been in the past. The warlike element, however, did not belong to war’s character but, as part of the essence of war, shaped it instead.
War’s Varying Nature
At least two of Clausewitz’s early documents—the Bekenntnisdenkschrift (Testimonial or Political Declaration) written in the spring of 1812, and his 1813 essay on the merits of a militia—claim the “nature of war” had changed.[x] The Testimonial of 1812 was written to explain why Clausewitz and several of his fellow officers elected to resign their commissions rather than to serve in the auxiliary corps that Prussia was required to provide for Napoleon’s Grande Armée. The 1813 essay, “Essential Considerations in the Organization of a Landsturm and a Militia,” appears to have been written to inform the Prussian Landtag of the steps necessary to form a militia.[xi] Both were consensus documents that Clausewitz, perhaps because of his facility with the quill and his junior rank, had been selected to draft. As such, they represent not just his views, but also those of several of his colleagues, some of whom had served with him on the Military Reorganization Commission that King Frederick William III established to reform the Prussian army after its humiliating defeats in 1806 and 1807. Both documents declare the nature of war had transformed such that the defense was now the stronger form of war. More fundamentally, both essays fix the cause of that transformation on the French Revolution, which raised the level of enmity that animated modern war and brought about the increased use of people’s armies or militias in the conduct of war.
The Testimonial of 1812 offers additional specifics regarding the change in war’s nature. It describes the transformation not only in terms of the trinity’s tendencies but also its institutions; it portrays the armed conflicts that occurred before the French Revolution as much less hostile in attitude than those that followed. Before the Revolution, the populace participated in armed conflict only to the extent it was pressed into service. Wars during that period were “petty” in temperament, fought as “two duelists” might settle a personal affront, that is, with “moderation and caution” and constrained by longstanding “conventions.” In such conflicts, war’s spirit scarcely rose above the “aim of a military point d’honneur” and the political objective usually amounted to little more than a “diplomatic whim.” In contrast, the wars of the present were more violent and more warlike in nature. The French Revolution (1789) had unleashed warlike passions and the government’s ensuing policy of levée en masse (1793) had placed the entire citizenry at the disposal of the state.[xii] The ranks of Napoleon’s army were thus populated with citizen-soldiers who fought with a new enthusiasm, which in turn revitalized war’s essence, liberating it from the artificial constraints that had previously held it in check. Furthermore, Napoleon’s newly enthused army enabled him to take greater risks operationally; he could aim to annihilate his opponents’ armies rather than merely maneuvering them into embarrassing positions. This army also enabled him to raise the stakes politically; he could pursue policy objectives that came closer to conquest than to mere bargaining. War had transformed from a game of kings into a struggle of nations, a contest of “all against all,” wherein king, army, and people acted, and fought, as one.[xiii]
Years later, as Clausewitz drafted several of the later chapters of On War and revised others, he still held this view. In fact, in On War’s second chapter, “Purpose and Means in War,” which he revised between 1828 and 1830, Clausewitz described the nature of war as “composite” (zusammengesetzte) and variable (veränderliche).”[xiv] If the nature of war is composite and variable, then by definition it cannot be immutable. Other chapters in On War convey similar thoughts. For instance, “On the Magnitude of the Military Purpose and Effort” (VIII/3B), amplifies what Clausewitz wrote in 1812 and 1813.[xv] This chapter is more than a sweeping historical survey of war, and it is more than evidence of Clausewitz’s growing sense of historicism, as some interpreters have suggested.[xvi] Instead, it is a purposeful examination of how much more warlike some wars are than others. Put differently, it explores the relationship between military aims and the element of enmity, which he assumed would rise with the participation of the populace in war. Whenever that participation was not substantial, which Clausewitz admitted was generally the case, armed conflict took on a “half-hearted” quality in which even war’s atmosphere—consisting of such elements as danger, physical exertion, and friction—thinned to insignificance. In the eighteenth century, especially, he believed armed conflict shifted away from employing the populace and became more the “business of the government.” During this period, the forces of “hatred and enmity” did not animate war, but instead were affectations adopted by governments while in the process of parlaying. Nor were the “extremes of energy (Energie) and effort (Anstrengung)” ever approached—which, as readers will recall, is the third of the three reciprocal relationships (Wechselwirkungen) referenced in On War’s first chapter. Even the atmospheric quality of “danger” (Gefahr), he believed, had largely faded from the battlefield during this period. War’s entire “nature” (Natur), not just its character, had changed and it did so in a manner contrary to its true nature.[xvii]
Clausewitz certainly judged eighteenth-century wars too harshly; nor did he specify which conflicts he meant. As modern scholarship tells us, many of eighteenth-century wars, the Seven Years’ War in particular, were not especially limited in scope or destruction.[xviii] The Seven Years’ War, after all, was a global, if not a world war, stretching from North America to eastern Europe and from the West Indies to Bengal. The casualties, financial costs, and physical damage caused by the conflict were ruinous by most accounts. Reliable numbers, as always, are difficult to come by and historical estimates often vary widely. But Frederick the Great’s history of the conflict, published in the 1780s and thus available to Clausewitz, reports some 853,000 battle deaths Europe-wide, including 33,000 civilian deaths in Prussia alone (or 6 percent of its population).[xix] Certainly, as these numbers reveal, the element of danger was significant for soldiers and civilians who found themselves within proximity of the fighting. Furthermore, as additional analysis shows, by 1762, virtually every major combatant state had been bankrupted by the costs of the war.[xx]
Nonetheless, Clausewitz’s dismissive treatment of eighteenth-century wars reveals the extent to which he saw, or wanted to see, the conflicts of the French Revolution and of Napoleon as qualitatively superior, and why. Most of the societies he examined in chapter 3B, book VIII, of On War were not structured to allow, or to require, the populace to participate substantively in war. Such conflicts, he admitted, posed more problems for his theory than the types of wars fought according to the Napoleonic model. The lack of violence meant fewer, if any, battles or engagements. By implication, strategy, as the use of battles for war’s purposes, had to give way to something else; perhaps, as he eventually suggested, one’s guides would have to be prudence and common sense. The societies of the Roman empire and the Tartars, however, were the exceptions. Their ways of war paralleled that of Napoleonic France; their institutions were harmonized and the warlike element was uninhibited.[xxi] Indeed, when that is the case, he said, wars can attain an “unconditional degree of energy, which we have observed as the natural law of the [warlike] element. This degree is thus possible, and since it is possible, it is necessary.”[xxii] Thus, some wars create a synergy that demands a response in kind.
Clausewitz’s discussion in this chapter is further evidence that his overriding theory was not that the defense is the stronger form of war, since the validity of that proposition would be reinforced rather than challenged by half-hearted wars.[xxiii] That is not to say that he did not push the concept of defense further than von Bülow and others, or that he did not refine it substantially; the evidence suggests, in fact, that he did. But the trends in his thinking, as far back as his 1809 letter to Johann Gottlieb Fichte, clearly value spirit over form.[xiv] His core theory is, instead, about Geist or nonmaterial factors and how they, with the “warlike element” as the principal one, have shaped modern war; the term kriegerische Element runs prominently throughout On War, but it has been rendered variously as hatred, enmity, hostility, or the element of pure violence, and its thematic consistency has been largely invisible English-speaking readers as a result.[xxv] In the socio-cultural dimension, the warlike element corresponds to the enmity or warlike passions of the populace and how extensively the populace itself participated directly in war, as in a peoples’ or national army, for instance. The greater the element of enmity or hostility, the greater the physical and psychological exertion (Anstrengung) the populace should be willing to make in support of the war. In the military dimension, the warlike element concerns the courage and skill of commanders and their troops; high levels of courage and skill suggest the military can execute a high-risk, high-payoff style of Kriegskunst (art of war), even while immersed in the debilitating atmosphere of war. In the political dimension, the warlike element corresponds to a desire to conquer rather than to bargain, though obviously some portion of the latter is often required in order to realize the former. In effect, terms like hatred, enmity, hostility, and pure violence essentially flow together and can be seen as interchangeable.
As we know, Clausewitz ultimately concluded war had its own grammar, but not its own logic. As his celebrated first chapter of On War argues, war itself has no inherent logic or imperative forcing it to escalate to the extreme. Instead, for most wars the opposite was true; they were characterized by long periods of inactivity. Accordingly, it would be wasteful to adopt extreme measures in such cases. The revised chapter 2 of book I, “Purpose and Means in War,” conveys this sense of costs-versus-benefits, or gauging one’s effort according to how much one is willing to pay for what one wants. Instead of allowing the law of extremes to dictate war’s logic, policy decisions do so; this idea in turn united the two categories of Napoleonic-style wars and half-hearted ones. War’s hostile element does not escalate or deescalate of its own accord. Rather, such actions result from Politik.[xxvi] Policymakers, by virtue of their broader perspective, have every right to set the aims of war. But those aims must be in accord with the nature of the war at hand—which as the final section of On War’s book I, chapter 1, says, we may assess in terms of the dimensions of the trinity.
Even though elsewhere in On War Clausewitz plainly admitted armed conflict can assume any number of forms and can serve any number of purposes, he never abandoned his belief that some wars differ qualitatively, or are markedly superior in their warlike essence, over others. We find recurring evidence of his opinion in his metaphorical contrast between a “sharp sword” and an “ornamental rapier,” which appears more than once in On War.[xxvii] The same can be said for his warning that “The first, the highest and most decisive act of judgment the statesman and commander make is to understand correctly the kind of war they are undertaking and not to take it for, nor wish it to be, something that, by the nature of the circumstances, it cannot be.”[xxviii] In other words, while in most cases only war’s character varies, every now and then its entire nature changes.[xxix] It is thus vitally important for military theory to understand this qualitative difference. Indeed, it was precisely this difference that Prussia’s political and military leaders failed to appreciate in 1806.[xxx]
Fortunately for Prussia, the spirit of its public had changed by the spring and summer of 1813 (though by how much is unclear), and the state was able to field and sustain an army of more than 260,000 troops, including regiments of reserves and Landwehr.[xxxi] By then, Napoleon’s debacle in Russia had made it plain that he and his army could be defeated, even routed. Moreover, this time the king supported the reorganization of the army and the general call-up of the public, though many of them went into the regular army rather than the reserves or Landwehr. The result was an institutional realignment that gave the public a more direct role in the fighting. Prussia’s reforms did not rise quite to the level of the French model of a nation in arms under the levée en masse, but they approximated it well enough to achieve victory in 1813-14 and 1815. Prussia’s political, social, and military institutions, in other words, had finally aligned with the changed nature of war.
In the final analysis, the error committed by van Creveld lies in assuming the trinity is about form rather than spirit; those who claim On War is simply an argument that the defense is the stronger form of war err in a similar manner. That idea, in fact, was not original to Clausewitz, as he well knew; von Bülow, for one, had advanced it earlier in his Spirit of the Modern System of War. Like On War in general, the trinity is about linking spirit and form or, more precisely, giving concrete expression to the former via the latter. Hence, when we separate the trinity’s tendencies from its institutions, or war’s nature from its character, we commit an error that is precisely the dialectical opposite of van Creveld’s. Indeed, in so doing, we run the risk of making Clausewitz’s thinking too abstract: we divorce it from the practical concerns and debates of his day, or—to borrow his own words—we neglect to prune the “leaves and flowers” of theory before they grow too far from the soil.[xxxii]
To be sure, the trinity’s forces help to explain why constructing a realistic theory of war is difficult.[xxxiii] But when we pair those tendencies with their respective institutions, we see the trinity also represents the potential alignment of warlike attitudes and feelings across the socio-cultural, military, and political dimensions of armed conflict.[xxxiv] These feelings, of course, remain variable rather than fixed. But their correlation with institutions is purposeful rather than coincidental. Moreover, this perspective restores, at least partially, the military and political contexts within which Clausewitz’s thinking took place, namely, the debates over how to think about Napoleonic war and how to make the Prussian army more effective in such wars.
“Theory’s task,” as Clausewitz reminds us, “is to maintain itself floating (schwebend erhalten) between [the trinity’s] three tendencies as between three centers of attraction.”[xxxv] It should not, in other words, allow itself to be drawn too far in the direction of one or the other, that is, toward theories that explain armed conflict primarily in socio-cultural terms, or mainly in military terms, or predominantly in political terms, or in any two of these dimensions. Doing so, will lead to a distorted understanding of the nature of war. It may also cause us to embrace theories about the conduct of war that are simply inappropriate for the nature of the war at hand. Unfortunately, too many modern American theories of war commit this error. The irony of US strategic thinking from the Cold War onward is its embarrassing richness. It is profusely equipped with unidimensional theories—whether these pertain to the socio-cultural, military, or political dimensions of war—that address only war’s character.
Clausewitz’s effort to bring together nonmaterial and material factors into a realistic theory of war is essentially what distinguishes his work from the narrow and brittle theories of his contemporaries. Enlightenment military thinkers preferred to put their faith in the observable, the verifiable, the quantifiable, and the constant—which is why Clausewitz found most of their theories inadequate for the dynamic, reciprocal, uncertain, and multidimensional activity that is war. His desire to correct their mistakes is why nonmaterial factors are indispensable to his theory. Remove them and On War quickly becomes shallow and unremarkable. Detach war’s primary institutions from his analysis, on the other hand, and his work swiftly becomes metaphysical and naïve. Obviously, bringing together nonmaterial and material factors is difficult, and the extent to which Clausewitz succeeded in doing so is perhaps debatable. In any case, one thing is clear—representing the trinity as hostility, chance, and purpose does not go nearly far enough.
[i] Carl von Clausewitz, Hinterlasseneswerk Vom Kriege, Ed. Werner Hahlweg, 19th Ed., (Frankfurt: Ferdinand, 1980), Book I, Chap. 1, p. 213 [Hereafter, cited as VK I/1, 213]; Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 89 [Hereafter, OW]. Howard and Paret translate “wunderliche” as “paradoxical” in the 1976 edition of their translation of On War and as “remarkable” in the 1991 printing. The literal sense is retained here.
[ii] Martin van Creveld, Transformation of War (New York: Free Press, 1991), 194ff; and “The Transformation of War Revisited,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 13, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 3-15. For other rejections of Clausewitz’s trinitarian model see John Keegan, History of Warfare (New York: Knopf, 1993), 24, 46; and Mary Kaldor, New & Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 25-27.
[iii] Christopher Bassford and Edward J. Villacres, “Reclaiming the Clausewitzian Trinity,” Parameters (Autumn 1995): 9-19, available on Clausewitz.com. Thomas Waldman, War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity (London: Routledge, 2016); Isabelle Duyvesteyn, Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia (London: Routledge, 2004); Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Jan Angstrom, eds. Rethinking the Nature of War (London: Frank Cass, 2005) is one of the better explorations of the topic.
[iv] For an example of the first representation, see Hugh Smith, On Clausewitz (New York: Palgrave, 2005), 116; on the second, see Christopher Bassford, Clausewitz in English (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 23. Still another approach is to consider the elements and the institutions as objective and subjective components of war’s nature, respectively. Antulio J. Echevarria II, Clausewitz and Contemporary War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
[v] “Über den Charakter der heutigen Kriege,” VK III/17, 412-13; “Charakter der heutigen Schlacht,” VK IV/2, 420-21.
[vi] VK III/17, 412.
[vii] Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to light troops, especially given how important they had become in modern war, a fact Clausewitz and many of his colleagues had recognized. Light troops might only produce a marginal effect in terms of physical harm. But their psychological impact could prove unnerving for a line soldier who might have to endure their harassing fire for prolonged periods.
[viii] VK IV/2, 421. For a discussion of the significance of the warlike element in Clausewitz’s thinking, see Anders Palmgren, Visions of Strategy: Following Clausewitz’s Train of Thought, Doctoral Dissertation, National Defence University, Helsinki, 2014.
[ix] See Adam Heinrich Dietrich von Bülow, whose Spirit of the New System of War (Geist des neuern Kriegssystems), which first appeared in 1799, argued the spirit of modern war rested on geometric principles and mass. Clausewitz instead saw a living force, enmity or hostility, as the true spirit of modern war, though he also considered material factors such as numerical superiority to be important.
[x] Carl von Clausewitz, “Bekenntnisdenkschrift 1812,” in Werner Hahlweg, ed., Carl von Clausewitz: Schriften, Aufsätze, Studien, Briefe, 2 vols. (Göttigen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960-90), vol. 1, 682-750; and Hans Rothfels, Carl von Clausewitz. Politik und Krieg. Eine ideengeschichtliche Studie (Berlin: Dümmler, 1920); regrettably, Rothfels saw fit to remove key portions of the text. English translations are available as “Testimonial” in Christopher Daase and James Davis, Clausewitz on Small War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 169-216; and “Political Declaration (1812),” in Peter Paret and Daniel Moran trans., Carl von Clausewitz: Historical and Political Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 285-303, but which does not include all sections.
[xi] On the 1813 essay, see “Das Wesentlichste in der Organisation eines Landsturms und einer Militiz. 1813,” in Hahlweg, ed., Verstreute kleine Schriften, 177-84. For Clausewitz’s other views on peoples’ armies and the nation in arms, see Hahlweg, ed., Verstreute kleine Schriften (1980), 799-806; and (1966-90), vol. 2, part 1, 367-72; VK VI/26; and Paret and Moran, Historical and Political Writings, 313-28, 329-34; and Daase and Davis, Small Wars, 217-20, 221-26.
[xii] The levée en masse made every French citizen an instrument of the state for purposes of national defense. Alan Forest, “La patrie en danger: The French Revolution and the First levée en masse,” in Daniel Moran and Arthur Waldron, eds., The People in Arms: Military Myth and National Mobilization since the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 8-32.
[xiii] “Bekenntnisdenkschrift,” 748-50, or “Testimonial,” 215-16.
[xiv] “Zweck und Mittel im Kriege,” VK, I/2, 214; OW, 90.
[xv] “Von der Größe des kriegerischen Zweckes und der Anstrengung,” VK VIII/3B, 960-974; OW, 585-94.
[xvi] In brief, historicism is the idea that the institutions and activities of any given period must be, indeed can only be, understood on their own terms and according to the prevailing conditions of the time.
[xvii] VK, VIII/3B, 962-64; OW, 586-87.
[xviii] Dennis E. Showalter, The Wars of Frederick the Great (New York: Longman, 1996), 1-14, describes the character of eighteenth-century warfare; see also Hew Strachan, European Armies and the Conduct of War (London: Routledge, 1983).
[xix] Modern research suggests the number of battle deaths may be too high; the figure for civilian deaths does not include people driven from Prussia by the violence and who never returned. Mark H. Danley and Patrick J. Speelman, eds., The Seven Years’ War: Global Views (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012), 524-25.
[xx] Danley and Speelman, Seven Years’ War, 526-27.
[xxi] VK, VIII/3B, 962; OW, 586.
[xxii] “Űber den Stillstand im kriegerischen Akt,” VK III/16, 407; “The Suspension of Action in War,” OW, 217. There are also obvious parallels with Machiavelli’s concept of virtú.
[xxiii] For the argument that Clausewitz’s core theory is the defense is the stronger form of war, see Jon Sumida, Decoding Clausewitz (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011); Scheipers, Most Beautiful of Wars.
[xxiv] Clausewitz to Fichte, 11 Jan. 1809, in Hahlweg, Schriften, 161-62; Paret and Moran, “Letter to Fichte (1809),” in Carl von Clausewitz: Historical and Political Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 282. He originally began to conceive of On War as a parallel to Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, a reference we have every reason to take literally in terms of form and content.
[xxv] Echevarria, Clausewitz and Contemporary War, employs hostility rather than “warlike element” because the latter term comes close to creating a tautology.
[xxvi] Politik is, as we know, multivalent, meaning a form of intercourse, political conditions such as the French Revolution, and can even refer to individual policies.
[xxvii] See OW, 99.
[xxviii] VK I/1, 212; OW, 88.
[xxix] This meaning accords with section 27, “Resultat für die Theorie,” (Consequences for Theory) in On War’s opening chapter, in which war is described as not only a true chameleon that changes somewhat in each case, but also as a wondrous trinity made up of three variable elements. VK I/1, 212-13; OW, 89.
[xxx] The German text, “Nachrichten über Preußen in seiner großen Katastrophe,” appears in Werner Hahlweg, ed., Carl von Clausewitz: Verstreute kleine Schriften (Osnabrück: Biblio Verlag, 1979), 301-490; “Observations on Prussia in Her Great Catastrophe,” in Carl von Clausewitz: Historical and Political Writings, trans. and ed. by Peter Paret and Daniel Moran (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 30-84, is the best English translation.
[xxxi] C. J. Esdaile, Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803-1815 (London: Allen Lane, 2007).
[xxxii] “Vorrede des Verfassers (Author’s Preface),” VK, 184; OW, 61.
[xxxiii] As Clausewitz scholars would hasten to add, and rightly so, the terms hostility, chance, purpose (or any variant of them) are but an inadequate shorthand; http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/Bassford/Trinity/TrinityTeachingNote.htm.
[xxxiv] Enmity or hostility, as Clausewitz indicated, applies “more” (mehr) to the populace; chance pertains “more” (mehr) to the military; and purpose falls “more” (mehr) to the government. VK I/1, 213; OW, 89.
[xxxv] VK I/1, 213; OW, 89.