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War Plans To be understood, On War really has to be approached as a whole, but the intelligent reader needs to keep in mind that various sections reflect different stages in Clausewitz's intellectual and theoretical evolution. Books One, Two, and Eight are generally considered the most important and the most nearly "finished" especially Book Onewhile older parts sometimes fail to connect with Clausewitz's most mature ideas.
Some sections are often left out of abridged versions, especially Books Five, Six, and Seven, allegedly because they are tactical in nature and thus obsolete. This sometimes leads to serious misunderstandings of Clausewitz's arguments, for it is precisely in these books that he works out the practical implications of his ideas.
For those who prefer to paint Clausewitz as the "apostle of the offensive," it is especially convenient to leave out Book Six, "Defense"—by far the largest, which demonstrated Clausewitz's controversial conviction that defense is inherently the stronger form of war.
One of the main sources of confusion about Clausewitz's approach lies in his dialectical method of presentation. For example, Clausewitz's famous line that "War is merely a continuation of Politik," while accurate as far as it goes, was Condense dissertation for publication intended as a statement of fact.
It is the antithesis in a dialectical argument whose thesis is the point—made earlier in the analysis—that "war is nothing but a duel [or wrestling match, a better translation of the German Zweikampf] on a larger scale.
This synthesis resolves the deficiencies of the two earlier bald statements, indicating that war is neither "nothing but" an act of brute force nor "merely" a rational act of politics or policy.
Rather, it is a dynamic, inherently unstable interaction of the forces of violent emotion, chance, and rational calculation on all sides. Identifying precisely who was to benefit from reading On War, and precisely how, are perplexing questions. Clausewitz's practical purpose in writing included providing "military analysts" with a clear conceptual scheme for understanding war, in hopes of improving both its actual conduct and the literature discussing it.
He hoped that such an understanding would improve the judgement of military commanders, but he also believed that "military genius" was more a matter of character, personality, and temperament than of intellect.
Perhaps because of his awareness of his own character, he felt that intellectuals generally made poor commanders. Only a self-conscious intellectual, however, was likely to wrestle with a book like On War.
One of the deepest explorations of Clausewitz's intentions is provided by historian Jon Sumida in his Decoding Clausewitz: University Press of Kansas, Sumida's interpretation is discussed below under the heading "Clausewitz on History and Military History.
Sumida asks whether it was Clausewitz's goal to provide a phenomenology of war—that is to say, a description of the essential nature of armed conflict—or to suggest some other route to understanding the problem.
These are important distinctions; Sumida emphasizes the latter. But Clausewitz was an eclectic thinker who sought to integrate many diverse aspects of the problem, and it is difficult in practice to separate the two goals.
On War certainly was not intended to provide a practical "cookbook" for commanders in the field. That approach is common in military doctrinal writing, and Clausewitz the practical soldier had himself written and taught doctrine during the Napoleonic Wars.
But it was alien to Clausewitz's concept of military theory. It is meant to assist the student in his efforts at self-education and to help him develop his own judgement, "just as a wise teacher guides and stimulates a young man's intellectual development, but is careful not to lead him by the hand for the rest of his life.
Knowledge, he knew, was not ability, and abstract education must always be accompanied by practical experience. No theory, no general, should have anything to do with psychological and philosophical sophistries. Actual experience always took precedence over the kind of abstract "truth" that can be transmitted by mere writing.
Theory must never conflict with reality, and thus must be essentially descriptive of war, never prescriptive of action.Preface. In regard to literature pertaining to the Biblical doctrine of Heaven, it is strange that the latter part of the nineteenth century saw a flood of books on various aspects of this subject while the twentieth century has witnessed comparatively few.
Critical thinking is simply reasoning out whether a claim is true, partly true, sometimes true, or false. Logic is applied by the critical thinker to understand character, motivation, point of view and expression.
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