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On War (Volume Two and Three)

By: Carl von Clausewitz

Vom Kriege written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife Marie von Brühl in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War. On War is an unfinished work. Clausewitz had set about revising his accumulated manuscripts in 1827, but did not live to finish the task. His wife edited his collected works and published them between 1832 and 1835.

Clausewitz analyzed the conflicts of his time along the line of the categories Purpose, Goal and Means. He reasoned that the Purpose of war is one's will to be enforced, which is determined by politics. The Goal of the conflict is therefore to defeat the opponent in order to exact the Purpose. The Goal is pursued with the help of a strategy, that might be brought about by various Means such as by the defeat or the elimination of opposing armed forces or by non-military Means (such as propaganda, economic sanctions and political isolation). Thus, any resource of the human body and mind and all the moral and physical powers of a state might serve as Means to achieve the set goal.


One of Clausewitz's best-known quotes summarizes that idea: "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means."


That quote in itself allows for the interpretation that the military will take over from politics as soon as war has begun, as, for example, the German General Staff did during World War I. However, Clausewitz had postulated the primacy of politics and in this context elaborated: "[...], we claim that war is nothing more than a continuation of the political process by applying other means. By applying other means we simultaneously assert that the political process does not end with the conclusion of the war or is being transformed into something entirely different, but that it continues to exist and proceed in its essence, regardless of the means, it might make use of."

Books in 'On War' series
  1. On War (Volume One) by Carl von Clausewitz
  2. On War (Volume Two and Three) by Carl von Clausewitz

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Carl von Clausewitz

Kingdom of Prussia

Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (meaning, in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was...

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