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Image: Clausewitz on the cover of TV Guide

Several videos making reference to Clausewitz are listed below, some of which have actual educational value. Others are merely amusing (or not even that). They are listed in no particular order of importance. There are also several videos on Chaos and/or Complexity on our page "Illustrations of Chaotic Systems," though (other than the ROMP, which Clausewitz used to illustrate his "fascinating trinity") these have nothing specifically to do with Clausewitz.

1. Excerpt from film Crimson Tide (1995). The content is a little bit debatable (but we've never seen anything on Clausewitz that wasn't debatable) in the theoretical argument scene between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. I use it at the National War College as a prelude to seminar and it always sparks things off. You have to watch it closely—we think it's a valid analysis, but there are some tricks in it. For instance, Clausewitz does not argue that the commander who ignores the political issues is the one most likely to win, but he does make an argument in very similar language that the opponent who considers his objectives to be worth a higher price has an advantage—which was obviously the case in, say, Vietnam.

2. There's a commercial film made in 1959, starring Jeff Chandler and Fess Parker: The Jayhawkers, a sort of cloak-and-dagger western about the guerrilla war in "Bleeding" Kansas before the Civil War. It has an amusing breakfast-table scene in which Clausewitz and Jomini are mentioned. That makes a nice filmclip for "Americanizing" the subject, but otherwise it's content-free and the film itself is wildly inaccurate, historically speaking. (We don't have this clip.)
3. Paul Schmelzer reports that he saw/heard a reference to Clausewitz on the '50s Western TV show "Bronco."  The bad guy (a former Union Officer turned bank robber) described Bronco as possessing what Clausewitz called "a genius for War," and tried to hire him for his gang, which robbed banks with military precision. (We don't have this clip.)
4. Gerard Butler's character in the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" makes amusing reference—largely meaningless, but so what?—to Carl von Clausewitz. (Click link or image to view video.)
MMonty Python and the Holy Grail 5. The "Black Knight" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is useful as an illustration of Clausewitz's discussion of limited political and/or military objectives, the military objective of leaving one's opponent "disarmed," and the problem of will versus capacity. Using it also fulfils the mandatory "Monty Python video requirement" for War College lectures. (Click link or image to view video.)
Lays Potato Chips 6. This Lays Potato Chip commercial is a good illustration of the "ends/means" problem in strategy. SecDef Donald Rumsfeld evidently did not see this video prior to the invasion of Iraq. Source/origins unknown. We apologize for the graphic violence. (Click link or image to view video.)
Movie, "Cross of Iron" 7. This short clip from Sam Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" shows troops discussing Clausewitz on the Eastern Front in WWII. (Click link or image to view.) Clausewitz, however, did not say "State policy"—he simply said Politik. (Click link or image to view video.)

8. Interview with University of Maryland History Professor Jon Sumida, about his important book, Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War (University Press of Kansas, 2008). ISBN (hardcover): 9780700616169; (paperback 0700618198). (This interesting video ends rather abruptly.) See also his short article "The Clausewitz Problem," Army History, Fall 2009, pp.17-21. This is a short, well-crafted, and useful précis of Sumida's important, sometimes controversial arguments.

Jon Sumida video screenshot

Cover image9. Donald Stoker | Clausewitz: His Life and Work. (YouTube video) Naval PostGraduate School Professor Donald Stoker, speaking at Google on 17 NOV 2014, on Clausewitz the soldier behind the theorist. Stoker is the author of Clausewitz: His Life and Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), ISBN: 0199357943. (YouTube video.)

Speaker: Donald Stoker (NPS)

10. Dr. Jim Helis, chairman of the Department of National Security and Strategy, the Army War College, discusses Carl von Clausewitz during a lecture at the Army War College. This is pretty good, especially on Clausewitz's professional background. The discussion of Clausewitz's concepts is weakened by Helis's emphasis on unilateral "policy" (vice multilateral "politics"), which in our experience lends itself to a unilateralist, "engineering"-approach misinterpretation of Clausewitzian theory. He correctly identifies the elements of Clausewitz's "trinity"—a big plus. However, he misinterprets Clausewitz's skepticism of the accuracy of your typical tactical intelligence report to mean that "Clausewitz saw no value in intelligence." This is a common if inexplicable conclusion—thoroughly contradicted by Clausewitz's constant demand for careful study of all aspects of one's situation.

11. Dr. Antulio J. ("Tony") Echevarria II, Director of Research, US Army War College, presents "Clausewitz and Contemporary War," as part of the Perspectives in Military History Lecture Series. Tony is one of the leading American scholars on Clausewitz.

12. COMBAT STUDIES INSTITUTE. "Lesson 4. Clausewitz and Jomini."
This video was designed to help instructors at the US Army Command and General Staff College in the early 1990s (if not earlier) at Fort Leavenworth prepare to instruct their students on these two theorists in a course on the evolution of modern warfare. The discussants are Roger Spiller, Sam Lewis, and George Gawrych. This discussion seems quaint now on many fronts—the treatment of Clausewitz and 'guerrilla' or 'people's war' is particularly weak. (Background info provided by John Kuehn via Jon Sumida.)

CSI video screenshot

13. The Great Courses, "Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers. Lecture 10: Clausewitz's On War." Professor Andrew R. Wilson, formerly of Harvard and now at the U.S. Naval War College. (See course listing.) This is pretty good! We were alerted to this video by a prominent Clausewitz scholar who was critical of several features—especially Wilson's treatment of Clausewitz's trinity. We agree on that point and would quibble with Wilson on several others. Nonetheless, this is probably the best general treatment of Clausewitz on video that we've seen. No longer posted to YouTube—try the "Great Courses" site.

image: Not On YouTube

14. The Great Courses, "Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers. Lecture 11: "Jomini and Clausewitz through the Ages." Professor Andrew R. Wilson, formerly of Harvard and now at the U.S. Naval War College. (See course listing.) No longer posted to YouTube—try the "Great Courses" site.

image: Not On YouTube

15. Professor Alex Danchev looks at Clausewitz as one of the great thinkers in politics. Covers the contents of On War in 60 seconds. Solid but inevitably a bit thin.

16. ROMP (Randomly Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum). The ROMP is a classic example of deterministic chaos. Clausewitz used this bit of science to illustrate his "fascinating trinity": "The task, therefore, is to keep our theory [of war] floating among these three tendencies, as among three points of attraction."

Randomly Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum

17. Christopher Bassford on Clausewitz, excerpts 1-4. This is a series of 4 short talking-head videos done for the US Army War College in July 2001 by Dr. Christopher Bassford. plans to redo and expand this series, which suffers from some doctrine-driven oversimplifications and from Bassford's now rather unfashionable glasses. (Click link or image to view video.)

photo of Bassford

a. "Clausewitz's Dialectical Method." (3:29) This video focuses on Clausewitz's rather formal dialectical discussion of the nature of war, rather than on the much more casual dialectical method that pervades the rest of his book On War.

photo of Bassford

b. "Categories of War." (6:29) This video discusses the terms "Absolute (or Ideal) War," "Real War," "Limited War," and "Unlimited War." The term "unlimited war" was chosen for convenience and to avoid excessive "hair-splitting" in a pretty basic course. In retrospect, this was an error. Better terms (still not exactly Clausewitz's own phrasing) would be "war of limited objectives" and "war with the aim of rendering our opponent militarily helpless," but keep in mind that these phrases describe only one side's objectives in a war. The opponent's objectives may be quite different.

Photo of Bassford

c. "From the Dialectic to the Trinity." (7:19) This video describes how Clausewitz's thesis (War is nothing but an act of force....) and his antithesis (War is merely an expression of politics....) feed into his synthesis: War "is ... a fascinating trinity—composed of [1] primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; [2] the play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and [3] its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason." (Note that our translation varies—for good reasons—from the standard Howard/Paret version.)

Hand playing with ROMP

d. "Demonstration of Clausewitz's Trinity Imagery." (Randomly Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum). (2:32) Video #11 (above) gives a better view of the Romp in action but has no voice overlay describing what you're looking at. For a deeper explanation, see Christopher Bassford, "Tiptoe Through the Trinity, or, The Strange Persistance of Trinitarian Warfare." If you really want to go deep, read Alan D. Beyerchen's brilliant "Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War," International Security, 17:3 (Winter, 1992), pp. 59-90.

18. Interview avec Raymond Aron sur Clausewitz—illustrations guerres (in French). IT1 NUIT - 16/02/1976 - 06min38s. Original URL.
Interview avec RAYMOND ARON a propos du livre qu'il vient d'écrire sur Cclausewitz. Trace portrait de Clausewitz. Souligne l'actualité de ses idées sur la guerre. "Toute guerre est un caméléon." Suite int. De l'historien voix off sur images de guerre: conflit au Sahara occidental: Chars patrouillant dans Le Désert. [zoom arrière] canon de char. Soldat manoeuvrant char. Guerre en Angola: blesse transporte sur dos de soldat. Diff. Blesses avec pansements. Traversée d'une rivière. R. ARON parle des conflits. Actuels. images guerre en Israel. [gros plan] poste frontière. Soldats israéliens patrouillant sur camion militaire le long de la frontière. Combats vus a distance dans montagne. Guerre au Liban soldats patrouillant dans rue de Beyrouth. Soldat tirant depuis fenêtré immeubles incendies. Suite int. R. ARON sur les armes de dissuasion: "les batailles se livrent a un niveau sub nucléaire. Tout acte militaire est un acte politique. La guerre est toujours possible, mais est elle nécessaire? Je préférerais d'autres moyens pour résoudre les problèmes entre les états, mais on ne les a pas encore trouvés jusqu'à présent."

Raymond Aron

19. Achever Clausewitz Roundtable 1. This is the first of a series of videos of a roundtable discussion (conducted in English) of René Girard's book Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010). [Original title: Achever Clausewitz, Paris: Carnets Nord, 2007.] The discussants include Girard himself. Girard (b.1923) is a famous French anthropological philosopher and literary critic who is incorporating an interpretation of Clausewitz into his own conceptual schemes. While this may be a serious exploration of the philosophical implications of Clausewitz's work, it will appear bizarre to many in the 'strategic studies' arena.

20. BBC Radio 4, "In Our Time," Thursday 17 May 2012 (21:30). Radio-host Melvyn Bragg and his guests Saul David (Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham), Hew Strachan (Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford), and Beatrice Heuser (Professor of International Relations at the University of Reading), discuss On War, a treatise on the theory and practice of warfare written by the Prussian soldier and intellectual Carl von Clausewitz. First published in 1832, Clausewitz's magnum opus is commonly regarded as the most important book about military theory ever written. Informed by its author's experience of fighting against the mighty armies of Napoleon, the work looks not just at the practicalities of warfare, but offers a subtle philosophical analysis of the nature of war and its relationship with politics. Notions such as the Clausewitzian Trinity have had an enormous effect on later military leaders. But its influence is felt today not just on the battlefield but also in politics and business.

BBC Radio 4 Ad

21. Hew Strachan: "Clausewitz and the First World War," Parts 1 through 5. (These videos are daisy-chained together, so you can watch them in sequence. Unfortunately, the link to Part 6 is broken and we cannot locate it.) Scottish professor Hew Strachan is one of the strongest voices in the modern debate over Clausewitz—and largely positive in his views. This is the 2010 George C. Marshall Lecture in Military History. The History News Network recorded this video of Strachan (Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University) speaking at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians on April 9, 2010 in Washington, D.C. See also the written article: Hew Strachan, "Clausewitz and the First World War," Journal of Military History, Vol.75, Issue 2 (April 2011), pp.367-391. That article is posted to The Clausewitz Homepage with the permission of The Journal of Military History.

22. Albert Comments on Jomini and Clausewitz. Computer animation of Albert Einstein commenting on military theory and theorists. Slick and nicely done but simplistic, with factual errors, omissions, and a mispronounciation of "Clausewitz" (as "Clausewitch") throughout. Possibly aimed at elementary through junior high school students. We have no idea, however, why people bother to make stuff like this.

23. Lastly, there's a business-oriented video on Clausewitz made by Edward de Bono, part of his "The Greatest Thinkers" series, but it is atrocious—Bono evidently once heard the name 'Clausewitz' mentioned in a military context, possibly on the subway. Don't waste your time with it.


Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz. (4:01) (In German.) From HISTOCLIPS. Free version no longer accessible, for commercial reasons. This video appears to be based on the made-for-TV documentary, "Clausewitz—Lebensbild eines preußischen Generals," made in the DDR (East Germany) in 1980.



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