The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America

by Christopher Bassford

Oxford University Press, 1994

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Chapter 19. New German Influences: Delbrück and the German Expatriates

The influence on the English-speaking world of German military books continued into the interwar period, with some new additions—most of which had nothing particularly new to say on the subject of Clausewitz.(*1) Arguably the most important German military historian and military critic of the first quarter of the twentieth century, and one with an important new interpretation of Clausewitz's theories, was Hans Delbrück. During World War Two, his work drew serious American attention for the first time. Another source of new German influences on American military thought came from German military intellectuals who fled to the New World after fleeing Hitler's New Order.


Hans Delbrück (1848-1929) was born into a family with both scholarly and administrative pedigrees. He was educated at Heidelberg, Greifswald, and Bonn, receiving a doctorate in history in 1873. He took time out from his studies to serve in the Franco-Prussian War, in which he was felled by typhus. After the war he continued to serve as a reserve officer.

In 1874, Delbrück was appointed as tutor to the son of the Prussian crown prince, Prince Waldemar, and began to study military history seriously. Service in the royal household naturally sensitized him to the interplay between politics and military affairs. He returned to the university in 1879 (when young Waldemar died) and was a professor of history at the University of Berlin from 1896 to 1921. From 1882 to 1885 he was a deputy in the Prussian Landtag and from 1884 to 1890 a member of the Reichstag. He also joined the staff of the prestigious Preussische Jahrbücher in 1883 and was its editor from 1890 to 1919. He served as a member of the German delegation to the Paris Peace Conference after World War One.

Delbrück's chosen specialty as a military historian did not win him any great prestige in German academia. His writings reflect a great bitterness at the superciliousness of colleagues who felt that this was not a proper topic for a serious scholar. When he presented to Theodor Mommsen a copy of the first volume of his History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History, Mommsen thanked him but indicated that he really would not have time to read it.(*2) His radical reinterpretation of military history, and especially of Frederick the Great, did not win him many friends with the German general staff. Neither did his increasingly frantic critiques of German strategy during the war, which centered on Germany's failure to make the political moves that might have permitted her enemies to accept a limited German victory in the West. After the war Delbrück was bitterly critical of Ludendorff.

Delbrück was by no means ignored by Germany's soldiers; in fact, his historical methods were put to use by the general staff. His dissection of the battle of Cannae had an important influence on Field Marshal Count Alfred von Schlieffen,(*3) and thus on subsequent German thinking on envelopment.

Although Wilkinson was aware of his works,(*4) Delbrück remained largely unknown in English until Gordon A. Craig published an important essay on him in Edward Mead Earle's 1943 Makers of Modern Strategy.(*5) None of his major military historical works appeared in English before the 1970s.(*6)

Craig (1913-) was born in Scotland and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1925. He graduated from Princeton in 1936, received a master's degree in 1939, and a doctorate in 1941. He taught first at Yale and then at Princeton from 1941 to 1961. At Princeton he worked closely with Earle; he is listed, along with Felix Gilbert, as a collaborator on Makers of Modern Strategy. Craig also joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1944, eventually retiring as a captain. In 1961 he moved to Stanford, where he remains. He made his first visit to Germany in 1935 and has since become one of the most important American historians of that country. His work best known in military circles is probably The Politics of the Prussian Army (1955), although his Germany, 1866-1945 (1978) and The Germans (1982) also won a number of awards.(*7)

Craig had never heard of Delbrück before being assigned to write on him for Makers of Modern Strategy.(*8) From the standpoint of the Anglo-American understanding of Clausewitz, his discussion of Delbrück has three major points of interest. The first, of course, is Delbrück's dualistic theory of strategic analysis, which was built on Clausewitz's theories. The second is Craig's own evident uncertainty concerning Clausewitz's message. The third is Delbrück's application of Clausewitz's advice on the writing of military history.

Like Herbert Rosinski (discussed later), Delbrück sought to push Clausewitz's theories further along the line that, he presumed, the philosopher had been following just before his untimely demise. Unlike Rosinski's, Delbrück's quest bore tangible fruit in the form of a new, clear, and understandable—if often disputed—basis for strategic analysis. This theory was essentially an extrapolation from Clausewitz's unfinished musings on the difference between Napoleonic and eighteenth century warfare.

Delbrück's idea was based on the concepts of Niederwerfungsstrategie (the "strategy of annihilation") and Ermattungsstrategie (the "strategy of exhaustion or attrition"), which revolved around the two "poles" of military strategy, battle and maneuver. Annihilation strategies rely almost exclusively on the former, whereas attrition strategies are always subject to a tension between the two poles. The analytical usefulness of those concepts was well demonstrated in Craig's explanation of Delbrück's critique of German strategy in the war of 1914-18.(*9)

Delbrück's analysis was controversial in part because he considered Frederick the Great to be a practitioner of an attrition-style warfare while upholding Napoleon as the model annihilation strategist. Just as British proponents of the offensive found Corbett's analyses subversive to the legacy of Nelson, German soldiers found Delbrück's analyses demeaning to the great Fritz.

Although the 1943 and 1986 versions of Craig's essay on Delbrück are largely identical, there are some noteworthy differences in Craig's discussion of Clausewitz. These reflect uncertainties in Craig's initial understanding of the Prussian philosopher and evidently the influence of Liddell Hart's presentation. For example, in 1943 Craig wrote that Delbrück's

study of the military institutions of the past had shown him, in every age, the intimate relationship of war and politics, and had taught him that military and political strategy must go hand in hand. Clausewitz had already asserted that truth in his statement that "war admittedly has its own grammar but not its own logic" and in his insistence that war is "the continuation of state policy by other means." But the Clausewitz dictum was too often forgotten by men who remembered that Clausewitz had also argued for the freedom of military leadership from political restrictions.(*10)

In the 1986 version, the line italicized here was changed to "But Clausewitz's dictum was too often forgotten by men who misinterpreted Clausewitz as having argued for the freedom of military leadership from political restrictions."(*11) This change reflects a closer understanding of Clausewitz's own argument, but it is still a variation on the Liddell Hart view. Similarly, in 1943 Craig wrote that "under the influence of Clausewitz's book On War, the great majority of military thinkers in Delbrück's day believed that the aim of war is the complete destruction of the enemy's forces and that, consequently, the battle which accomplishes this is the end of all strategy."(*12) In 1986, this section read: "The great majority of military thinkers in Delbrück's day believed the aim of war to be the annihilation of the enemy's forces and that, consequently, the battle that accomplishes this is the end of all strategy. Often they selectively cited Clausewitz to support their claim."(*13)

As for the writing of history, Craig explained Delbrück's approach to research and the writing of military history as the execution of Clausewitz's "critical analysis" and Leopold von Ranke's historiographical ideals. Delbrück called his method for reconstructing battles (and thus understanding tactical systems, their social bases and implications, and their interplay), "sachkritic." This essentially involved a severely critical evaluation of the written sources in the light gained through an examination of the actual terain; a consideration of the actual capabilities of weapons, equipment, and logistical means; and a comparison of suspicious accounts with more reliable records from similar battles.

It is Delbrück's scientific approach to military history within the framework of political history that marks his greatness as a military historian. Craig used Delbrück's examination of the battle of Marathon as a model.(*14) Delbrück's ideas, especially those of sachkritic, are directly reflected in the approaches of such later historians as Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred H. Burne and John Keegan. Burne developed what he called the principle of "inherent military probability," meaning that many obscurities could be solved by estimating what a trained soldier would have done given the circumstances.(*15) Keegan, whose book The Face of Battle ranks among the finest works of modern military historical scholarship, called Delbrück "the figure who bestrides the military historian's landscape."(*16)

Judging by the frequency with which Craig's discussion of Delbrück has been cited by subsequent writers, his essay has had a significant impact on the writing of military history in the United States since World War Two, either in and of itself or by stimulating an interest in Delbrück and clarifying his debt to Clausewitz. Delbrück's particular approach to strategic analysis, however, is not often used by modern American military commentators.

The German Expatriates

Delbrück remained at home in Germany where, despite the controversies over his views, he enjoyed considerable prestige and security. Exercising a much more direct influence on the Anglo-American view of Clausewitz were a number of important German expatriate writers on military affairs who published in English during the later interwar years and World War Two. The most important of these from our point of view were Hans Gatzke, Alfred Vagts, Hans Rothfels, and Herbert Rosinski. The latter two had done significant research and writing on Clausewitz in Germany before being driven out by National Socialism. Another expatriate German who figures significantly in Clausewitz studies in this period was O.J. Matthijs Jolles, who provided the translation for the 1943 "American" edition of On War. None of these writers had been German military professionals, and their approach to Clausewitz was that of scholars, not soldiers.

Hans Wilhelm Gatzke (1915-87) was born of Protestant parents in Germany. He first came to the United States when he was eighteen, attending Williams College as an exchange student. He then returned to Germany but emigrated to America in 1937. He graduated from Williams College in 1938 and got his master's degree from Harvard the following year. He then taught at Harvard, ultimately receiving his doctorate there in 1947. From 1944 to 1946, however, he was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving with Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe (SHAEF). He taught at Johns Hopkins from 1947 to 1964 and then moved to Yale.

Gatzke was essentially a historian of Germany and of European diplomacy. His translation of Clausewitz's Principles of War appears to have been his only contribution to Clausewitz studies;(*17) his other works make no mention of him. His brief introduction to Principles raises some doubt that Gatzke was really familiar with Clausewitz's more mature conceptions as expressed in On War, although he discussed the latter work at some length, primarily in terms of its emphasis on "moral forces." Gatzke's introduction stressed "Clausewitz' unlimited war of annihilation, his absolute war," without mentioning the other possibilities. He called Moltke and Schlieffen "great admirer[s] and disciple[s]" of Clausewitz, who had "recognized that certain adjustments had to be made in the application" of his theories. The dustjacket was even more misleading: It showed an armor-clad hand wielding geometric instruments to produce military blueprints. Gatzke's translation was not nearly so complete as the Graham version, the existence of which Gatzke does not appear to have been aware. Like the 1936 German edition from which it was derived, Gatke's version put into italics large sections of the work held to be obsolete. Nonetheless, Gatzke praised the book of Principles, saying "Like nothing else,... it may serve as an introduction to his theories on the nature and conduct of war."

In any case, this particular work has rarely aroused any enthusiasm among Clausewitz's more theoretically oriented students, since it too fails to reflect many of the most important of its author's later and deeper insights. This may account for the distinctly restrained reception accorded the new translation in Alfred Vagts's review,(*18) but most of the American-born reviewers were enthusiastic and saw Principles of War as simply a shorter, more readable version of On War. It was particularly well received by uniformed American writers, one of whom observed that "Clausewitz wrote it ... condensing all of the principles and maxims that he subsequently expanded in ... On War." The same reviewer called it "the blueprint from which Nazi Germany has developed the present total war."(*19) On the other hand, another reviewer noted that Clausewitz's Principles, along with those of Saxe, Frederick II, and Napoleon,(*20) were of academic interest only: "Everything of value can be reduced to half-a-dozen principles which will be found set forth, albeit somewhat clumsily, in our training manuals." Nevertheless, he continued, "The Clausewitz pamphlet, of which ... Vom Kriege was an expansion,... is the most valuable section."(*21)

Alfred Hermann Friedrich Vagts (1892-1986) left the University of Munich in 1914 to serve—despite being a committed socialist—as a company commander in the German army from 1914 to 1918. He earned the Iron Cross first and second classes. Evidently not greatly impressed with the German military leadership, he said of Clausewitz (noting the questionable noble status and the possibility of some distant Polish origins of his family) that "only a Prussian officer who was not fully a Prussian could have been as great a thinker as Clausewitz was."(*22) Vagts was active in the Social Democratic Party after the war, serving in the military wing.(*23) He visited the United States in 1924 as an exchange student from Hamburg University to Yale and married a daughter of the American historian Charles Beard in 1927. In 1932, alarmed by the rising power of the National Socialists, he emigrated to Britain. He had no trouble obtaining an immigrant's visa to the United States in 1933 and almost immediately became a citizen. He was a visiting professor at Harvard, 1938/39, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton from 1939 to 1942.

Vagts is best known for his 1938 A History of Militarism, Civilian and Military, which drew an important distinction between "the military way" and "militarism." The former term described a reasonable, rational approach to waging war with the purpose of accomplishing the objectives of state policy, a manner "limited in scope, confined to one function, and scientific in its essential qualities." The latter involved a "vast array of customs, interests, prestige, actions and thought ... transcending true military purposes ... so constituted that it may hamper and defeat the purposes of the military way.... Militarism displays the qualities of caste and cult, authority and belief." Vagts also distinguished between militarism as practiced by professional soldiers and by civilians, often regarding the latter as the worst offenders.(*24)

Vagts was not a major commentator on Clausewitz, although he frequently referred to him and had a sophisticated grasp of his theories. Vagts was unusual among the expatriate German military writers, however, in being essentially critical of the philosopher.(*25) In large part, Vagts's critique was similar to Liddell Hart's in that he saw much of the negative impact of On War as being due to his disciples' misapprehension of the concept of "absolute war." Vagts argued that this was a misapprehension for which Clausewitz's method of expression was only partly to blame; the laziness and stupidity of his readers played as great a role. More fundamentally, Vagts argued that Clausewitz himself had not properly conceived the relationship between the army and the state:

That Clausewitz wrote as he did and was read as he was read was largely the outcome of the completed process of bureaucratization in the armies. His teachings, as they were apprehended, were embraced where and when this process was completed. The dates of the translation of his work into French, 1849, and English, 1873, are indicative of this fact.(*26) One feature of that bureaucratization was the separation of armies from the generality of interests in their states. Home politics to Clausewitz, when measured by considerations of foreign policy and outside defense, constituted merely faux frais.(*27) He ranks the military profession supreme over all; among the intellectually determined activities of man, the "warlike genius" takes the highest rank.... Clausewitz becomes the apparent promoter of that militarism which thinks solely of war and does not, as the Prince de Ligne recommended to soldiers, think of peace on the first days of war and of war on the first days of peace, but dreams only of war and disregards its economy. In that case, with "violence pushed to its utmost bounds" and after the maximum of exertion, war may not leave much that is worthwhile even to the victorious nation. At all events it was for the unconditioned and absolute war that the military in France and Germany finally prepared in the light of Clausewitz's teaching.(*28)

On the other hand, Vagts dismissed the notion that the German army's approach to war was rooted in Clausewitz's work. The contemporary generation of German military leaders was too thoroughly dominated by "non-philosophical nihilists and military technicians."(*29)

Like Vagts, Otto Jolle Matthijs Jolles (1911-68) was not a major commentator on Clausewitz, but he performed a major service to Clausewitz studies in the United States by providing the first American translation of On War. Jolles's translation is generally considered to convey more of Clausewitz's subtleties than Graham's does and is certainly clearer on some points, although it is not always a great deal more readable. It was based on an 1880 German edition, and thus reflects, as does Graham's, the textual corruptions introduced by Clausewitz's German editors.

Oddly, Jolles's translation did not catch on, and the Graham translation continued to serve as the basis for most subsequent condensations. This development was most likely a result of financial considerations rather than of the qualities of the respective versions, since the Jolles translation remained under copyright whereas the Graham copyright had lapsed.

Jolles himself is a bit obscure to students of military affairs, largely because his translation of On War was his only published effort in that field. Even his nationality has been misidentified.(*30) In the field of German literature, however, he is quite well known, especially for his work on Friedrich Schiller. Most of his published work is in German.

Born in Berlin of a Dutch father and German mother, Jolles was brought up as a German and educated at the Universities of Leipzig, Hamburg, and Heidelberg. He received his doctorate in the philosophy of literature from Heidelberg in 1933. He then served one year as a volunteer in the horse artillery. Although he was not Jewish, his anti-Nazi politics got him into trouble. In 1934 he emigrated to France, where he studied at the Sorbonne. The following year he emigrated to Wales, where he taught German. Offered a teaching position at the University of Chicago, he entered the United States with his new British wife in 1938. He became a professor of German language and literature, obtaining American citizenship in 1945. Leaving Chicago in 1962, he spent the remainder of his life at Cornell.

Even before the United States entered the war, the University of Chicago had begun casting about for ways to assist the war effort. These efforts grew out of both patriotism and self-interest: The university's leaders were concerned that unless they established Chicago as a center of military learning and research, the university's considerable assets (particularly in cartography and linguistics) might be hauled off in army trucks, "to be returned torn and soiled, if at all."(*31) Courses in preinduction military training began as early as September 1940. A formal Institute of Military Studies was created in April 1941.

On War was high on university president Robert Hutchins's list of priorities. Having examined the texts available for basic instruction, including those used by the armed forces, he had found most of them useless and none satisfactory.(*32) By February 1941 the institute's volunteer instructors had already found it necessary to "retranslate and mimeograph those sections of [Clausewitz's work] which we regard as indispensable reading." In June 1942, Hutchins cited the ongoing translation of Vom Kriege as a prominent reason that the university should be regarded as a "key defense industry," exempt from conscription.(*33)

The army and navy, however, had little use for university-based, unofficial military training programs.

The 1943 translation of Vom Kriege thus grew out of the local efforts of the military institute. There seems to have been no connection between Jolles and Earle's circle at Princeton. Since Jolles taught military German and German military organization, and On War was considered to be a key to German military behavior, he seemed to be the natural man for the job even though he was not familiar with Clausewitz when he set out. His British father-in-law (a retired professor of classics) provided assistance with the English, although he too had little military background and was new to Clausewitz.

Jolles quickly developed a good appreciation of On War's significance. His short but penetrating introduction stressed Clausewitz's fundamentally conservative, balance-of-power view of international affairs, finding its most important expression in Clausewitz's argument concerning the power of the defense.

Clausewitz's aim was not merely to prove the strategic superiority of Napoleon's lightning attacks as so many writers and strategists—British and American, unfortunately, as well as German—seem to believe. This is but one part of his theory and not the most important one, for he goes on to show why Napoleon, greatest of all aggressors up to that time, was necessarily in the end completely defeated. More than one third of his work On War is devoted to Book VI, on "Defense."(*34)

Jolles's purpose was to argue that what Clausewitz had to say was much more relevant to the Western Allies than to Germany and that the Germans' one-sidedly offensive interpretation of On War would prove to be, for them, a fatal error.

Yet another German expatriate was Hans Rothfels (1891-1976). Rothfels was born of Jewish parents in Kassel, but he himself converted from Judaism in 1910. On the eve of World War One he was studying history and philosophy at Heidelberg. He served in the German army as a junior officer in 1914, losing a leg on the Marne. He received the Iron Cross second class and remained in a military hospital until 1917. Returning to academics at Heidelberg, he received his doctorate in 1918 for the dissertation "Carl von Clausewitz: Politik und Krieg." This work was published in 1920 by Dümmlers Verlag, Berlin, Clausewitz's own publisher. Two years later, Rothfels edited and published a collection of Clausewitz's letters.(*35)

From 1926 to 1934, Rothfels was a professor of modern history at Königsberg, but he lost this position because of his Jewish descent. Denied access to libraries and archives, he felt forced to emigrate in 1939. After a short stay in England (teaching at St. John's College, Oxford) and a short internment, he moved to the United States. During the war, he taught at Brown University, and afterward at Chicago. In 1951, he returned to Germany to a professorship at Tübingen.

The greater part of Rothfels's published work concerned Otto von Bismarck, whose letters he edited. He is also remembered for his work on the German opposition to Hitler, which made a significant contribution to postwar West German nationalism. For our purposes, of course, his most important works were those on Clausewitz.

Rothfels's two books on Clausewitz were written in German and have never been translated. He published only one notable piece on Clausewitz in English, but that essay appeared—along with Craig's essay on Delbrück—in a very prominent forum, Edward Mead Earle's 1943 Makers of Modern Strategy.(*36) As Michael Howard later recalled, that essay was "the first serious study of Clausewitz that many of us ever saw." In it, Rothfels criticized Liddell Hart, Hoffman Nickerson (Fuller's American disciple), and, by implication, Fuller, for their "Mahdi of Mass" approach to the military philosopher.(*37) He argued that even though the tactical portions of On War were obsolete, "it is nevertheless the first study of war that truly grapples with the fundamentals of its subject, and the first to evolve a pattern of thought adaptable to every stage of military history and practice."

Rothfels's greatest contributions to Clausewitz studies in English were historical in nature. He sought to place Clausewitz securely in the context of his times and to direct attention to the man himself, his personality, education, and experiences, and the manner in which these contributed to his theories. His work is still heavily cited, particularly by Peter Paret, who has carried on in that tradition. Paret—despite a number of differences in interpretation—has acknowledged a great debt to him.(*38) These differences usually involve matters of Clausewitz's personality, philosophy, and general outlook rather than specifics of the theory contained in On War.

In particular, Paret has questioned Rothfels's view of Clausewitz as a tortured soul, a psychological "outsider" whose personal and career difficulties stemmed from the non-noble origins of his family. Rothfels's interpretation is flawed, in Paret's view, by a romantic nationalism and, perhaps more serious in an academic historian, a tendency to rely on a "mystical causality." Certainly, it is difficult to understand how Clausewitz's social status could have "caused his assignment to that part of the Prussian army in 1815 that was not present at the battle of Waterloo."(*39) Such disputes over Clausewitz's personality and psychology would continue, with Paret and Bernard Brodie later discussing the issue at great length both in print and in their personal correspondence.(*40)

Based on his role in stimulating American scholars to study Clausewitz, one of the most important of all the German expatriates active in this period may have been Herbert Rosinski (1903-62). Although Rosinski published relatively little, he was an energetic proselytizer of the gospel of Clausewitzian theory. While he recognized the unfinished nature of On War, he was worshipful in his praise of it. It was his ambition to carry on where Clausewitz had left off, but although his understanding of the philosopher's work was sophisticated and his explications often enlightening, it would be hard to argue that Rosinski made any great original contribution of his own to military theory.

Rosinski was born of well-to-do Protestant parents in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).(*41) Too young to serve in World War One, he became something of a professional student, spending the years from 1921 to 1930 in diverse studies at the Universities of Tübingen, Königsberg, Halle, and Berlin. He received his doctorate from Berlin in 1930. Forced by a change in his family's economic situation to seek work, Rosinski served as a civilian lecturer on military and naval theory at the German Naval Academy in Kiel, where he was evidently privy to a great deal of German war planning.

In 1936, however, the Nazis forced his dismissal because of a single Jewish grandparent. Bewildered, he emigrated that same year to England and became a lecturer on military history at Oxford. After a brief internment, he emigrated to the United States in 1940. There, Rosinski struggled unsuccessfully to find a secure academic or national security-related position and never achieved anything approaching financial security. At first he also had great difficulties in securing his wife's entry; later he found it difficult to support her. Eventually she divorced him and married his best friend. He remained a member of the household, however.

A sometimes brilliant but very erratic intellectual, Rosinski grew increasingly unable to complete a project, frequently pursuing the implications of an idea until the project expanded beyond a human capacity to cope and ultimately losing the thread of his argument. He died a thwarted and unhappy man in 1962.

Rosinski's 1935 article on the philosopher, which appeared in Germany and the Netherlands, has frequently been cited by Clausewitz scholars.(*42) It aimed at reconstructing the various stages in the development of the philosopher's theory, based on the notes of 1816, 1818, 1827, and 1830.(*43) (The dating of this last note is a matter of controversy.)(*44) In fact, Rosinski's attempt to determine the steps by which Clausewitz arrived at his mature theories is probably his greatest contribution to Clausewitz studies.

Rosinski is best remembered for his book The German Army. First published in England in 1939, in the United States in 1940, revised in 1944 and again in 1966 (with a laudatory introduction by Gordon Craig), and translated into German in 1970, it is still considered a classic. The book is, of course, written from a "Clausewitzian" point of view, although Rosinski was characteristically scathing in his conclusion that the German general staff had never understood On War. He also commented on Delbrück, evidently accepting his ideas on Frederick the Great and Napoleon, and thus his theory of the "poles" of annihilation and attrition in strategy. Typically, he went on to make the rather remarkable statement that "Unfortunately Delbrück's own interpretation of Clausewitz was so unsystematic and inaccurate that he completely failed to grasp the real importance of his discovery and did almost as much to confuse the issue again as he had helped to clarify it."(*45) Of Bernard Brodie and Corbett, Rosinski observed, "Brodie is inclined to follow [Corbett] too closely because his scheme of naval strategy is the most convenient we possess to this day. Unfortunately, however, its distinctions are often more academic than practical."(*46)

Later, in his review of Cyril Falls's The Nature of Modern Warfare, Rosinski was also very skeptical, though more polite, in stating his views on the reception of Clausewitz and military theory in general in the Anglo-Saxon world. He agreed with Falls that British strategic thought fell halfway between the French and the German:

Its common sense has always kept it from falling victim to the extremes of French rationalism and has made the principles of warfare in England something markedly more tough and concrete than in France. Yet its instinctive aversion to systematic thought has prevented it from deriving as much benefit from the German side as it might otherwise have done.(*47)

Rosinski and Rothfels drew on similar sources and made similar arguments concerning Clausewitz and his writings. Whereas Rothfels was interested in the historical context and personality of Clausewitz himself, Rosinski concentrated on the actual military theoretical aspects and implications of Clausewitz's work. His works on naval strategy derive largely from Clausewitz, Corbett, and the French naval thinker Admiral Raoul Castex, and he gave considerable lip service to Mahan. It was his ambition to develop those theories further into a more comprehensive understanding of war.

At one point during the war, Rosinski actually contracted with Oxford University Press to put together a collection of Clausewitz's translated writings. This work would total "about 175,000 words, consisting of some 350 typewritten pages of text and 250 pages of editorial matter."(*48) But like many of Rosinski's grander projects, this fell through. Indeed, a great deal of the work published under his name was actually the product of extensive posthumous editing of his papers by other writers.(*49)

Rosinski hinted constantly in his writings and lectures that he had discovered the "real" key to military theory, but he never said just what it was. In his later years, Rosinski grew increasingly paranoid and delusional about his great insight:

What I have accomplished can be fairly ranked with the achievements of people like Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche.... Of course, I am not so penetrating as they were, but I have a really astounding ability to hit upon the right answers intuitively, long before their correctness has been demonstrated. Very systematic, too.... The truth must be told, because if it is not openly proclaimed—and acted upon—then the world will irretrievably go to the devil.... You see, it's a really frightful dilemma. If I say what I know, I make myself impossible in every camp. If I don't say it, I would have to reproach myself with being a coward and, for the sake of my own security, of having endangered the existence of the world. And, if one has once been granted such profound insights, one has the corresponding sense of responsibility.(*50)

Rosinski's limited publication record prevented him from reaching a wide audience with his deeper thought on Clausewitz, although The German Army had much that was positive to say about the military philosopher. Moreover, Rosinski's talents as a teacher are open to some doubt. He was very skeptical of the intellectual capacities of soldiers, and his attitude could be very patronizing.(*51) His great faith in military theory is in fact rather odd, given his conviction that soldiers could never understand it. As in his writing, he had great difficulty imposing realistic limits on his lectures. In a 1953 lecture at the Naval War College, Rosinski observed that "it is an extremely difficult task ... to try to go into the whole of [Clausewitz's] thoughts and then to link them up in the very narrow span of about a single hour." Nonetheless, he proceeded to make just such an attempt, with the help of a set of graphs, charts, and slides that must have left his audience absolutely baffled.(*52)

Despite the energetic support of his friend Admiral Henry Eccles, Rosinski's lectures at Newport were discontinued in 1957. The same year saw his last lectures at the Army War College. In 1959, a new general at Carlisle wrote to Eccles:

It is true that he was not well received by the students, and probably just as true that the students were not then prepared to discuss the problems at his level. However, this is beginning to be one of the great obligations of the advanced thinkers of our day—that they must learn to communicate with more than just the specialized members of their own backgrounds and disciplines.(*53)

On the other hand, Rosinski was extremely gregarious, and he traveled extensively, frequently lecturing on Clausewitz. It was through these lectures and even more through his personal contacts that he most effectively spread the gospel of Clausewitz studies. In Germany, in the early 1930s, he introduced Raymond Aron to the German military philosopher.(*54) In England from 1936 to 1940, he lectured on Vom Kriege at Oxford.(*55) In the United States after 1940, Rosinski discussed Clausewitz before both the American Military Institute and the American Historical Association. In Edward Mead Earle's seminars at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1940, he had a great deal to do with stimulating the discussion of Clausewitz.(*56)

Rosinski was also close to Joe Greene and played an important role in feeding his interest in On War. He wrote regularly for Greene's Infantry Journal, almost invariably mentioning Clausewitz. He had a profound influence on Henry Eccles, who attempted to carry forward Rosinski's quest for a grand military theory.(*57) He corresponded with J.M. Palmer from 1941 to 1946, and his praise of Cyril Falls's work encouraged that British author to press on with his attempts to apply Clausewitz's ideas to practical military problems.

Despite his many contacts and undeniable influence, Rosinski has a decidedly mixed reputation. His disorganization and preoccupation with his own problems tended to alienate potentially valuable contacts like Earle. His self-conscious sophistication and sometimes messianic behavior irritated Bernard Brodie, whose references to Rosinski are generally sarcastic.(*58) (Rosinski reciprocated.)(*59) Except for The German Army and his 1935 article on the development of Clausewitz's theories, Rosinski's work is not as widely cited as one might expect given his many connections to other writers.(*60)

In sum, he represents at once the best and the worst of the German expatriate influence on the Anglo-American understanding of Clausewitz.


The influence of the German expatriates on the Anglo-American understanding of military theory was in most respects positive. They unquestionably contributed to its sophistication. On the other hand, they have tended to dominate the field of Clausewitz studies to such an extent that the thread of a genuine Anglo-Saxon appreciation of Clausewitz—as represented by sophisticated writers like Wilkinson, Corbett, and Meyers—has been lost. The tendency of European expatriate writers has been to take a rather condescending tone toward British and American military attitudes and institutions and to what Rosinski called the Anglo-Saxons' "instinctive aversion to systematic thought." Such biases, though hardly groundless, have led to a fixation on the continental military model at the expense of the very different British and American military situations and experience. After all, Anglo-Saxon strategic successes are not grounded entirely in accidental factors like demographics and geography, and the Anglo-Saxon powers won their wars against Clausewitz's countrymen.

To be fair, of course, such distortions have a native origin as well, as is demonstrated in the writings of Fuller and Liddell Hart. A tendency to sneer at their own achievements and to turn defeated enemies (the southern Confederacy, the Wehrmacht) into models seems to be another Anglo-Saxon peculiarity.

German expatriates would continue to dominate this field. Henry Kissinger would be among the most prominent "Clausewitzians" to wield power or influence in postwar American military policy, although whether he deserves that sobriquet is unclear. Peter Paret, born in Berlin in 1924, remains unquestionably the dean of American Clausewitz scholars.

NOTES to Chapter 19

1. See esp. General Ritter von Leeb [1876-1956], a highly Clausewitzian tract on defense: trans. Dr. Stefan T. Possony and Daniel Vilfroy, Defense (Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing Company, 1943).

2. Recounted in Delbrück's Preface to volume IV, History of the Art of War.

3. As Wallach points out (Dogma, 42-44), Schlieffen's understanding of Delbrück's analysis was incomplete, and the basis for his strategic concept had been laid before he read of Cannae.

4. Spenser Wilkinson—writing to Colonel (US) Marius Scammell, 4 March 1928—was ambivalent: "Have you read Delbrück on numbers at Marathon? Worth reading though I think not trustworthy. Delbrück has written a history of war which [you] should perhaps look at." Wilkinson Papers 13/68.

5. Gordon A. Craig, "Delbrück: The Military Historian," Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy; Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy, 1986. Fuller's knowledge of Delbrück came from Craig's discussion. Fuller, Second World War, 32-33.

6. Little of Delbrück's work appeared in English. Some of his more inflammatory nationalist comments appeared in British and American Great War propaganda. An extended comment from the Preussiche Jahrbücher concerning Germany's colonial ambitions was reproduced in the London Times of 25 July 1917; it also appeared in Committee on Public Information, Conquest and Kultur: Aims of the Germans in their Own Words (Washington, D.C.: Committee on Public Information, January 1918) and was quoted elsewhere. Delbrück's "The German Military System" appeared in Various German Writers, trans. William Wallace Whitelock, Modern Germany in Relation to the Great War (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1916; originally Deutschland und der Weltkrieg, 1915), 169-183. Delbrück's magnum opus, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte (4 vols., 1900-1920; a further 3 vols. in the series were completed by other writers by 1936), did not begin to appear in English until 1975: Hans Delbrück, trans. [Brigadier General, USA] Walter J. Renfroe, Jr., History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History, 4 vols. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975-1985). The only writers I know to have used Delbrück's concept of "two poles" of war were classicists. See for example Adcock, Roman Art of War Under the Republic (1939), 77-78.

7. Gordon A. Craig, The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955).

8. Letter, Craig to Bassford, 10 September 1990.

9. These ideas are discussed throughout Delbrück's History of the Art of War. See esp. Renfroe, trans., v.4, chapter IV, "Strategy," 293-318. Delbrück discussed the controversy over Frederick the Great on pp439-444.

10. Craig, "Delbrück" (1943), 261. Emphasis added.

11. Craig, "Delbrück" (1986), 327.

12. Craig, "Delbrück" (1943), 272.

13. Craig, "Delbrück" (1986), 341.

14. Delbrück's 1913 Numbers in History contained the Marathon study (without the supporting documentation in Art of War, v.1, 72-90), but it does not appear to have been widely read during the period under discussion.

15. See Burne's The Agincourt War (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1956), 12; Strategy, as Exemplified in the Second World War (Cambridge: the University Press, 1946), 14.

16. Keegan, Face of Battle, 34-35, 54. Keegan has expressed distinct hostility to Clausewitz (and to things German in general): See, John Keegan, "Peace by Other Means?: War, popular opinion and the politically incorrect Clausewitz," Times Literary Supplement, 11 December 1992: 3-4. In The Face of Battle, however, he said that Delbrück "had almost always talked sense." He then went on to argue, unaccountably, that nuclear strategists like Herman Kahn were nothing but "Hans Delbrück writ large."

17. Gatzke's translation was based on the 1936 German edition edited by Luftwaffe General Friedrich von Cochenhausen.

18. Alfred Vagts, New Republic, review of Clausewitz's Principles of War (trans. Gatzke), 9 November 1942, 616.

19. Cavalry Journal, September-October 1942, 94. Emphasis in the original.

20. As revealed in Phillips, ed., Roots of Strategy (1943).

21. Clive Garsia, "The War and Strategy," International Affairs, v.19 (1943), 676-677.

22. Vagts, review of Gatzke, trans., Principles.

23. Conversation with Detlev Vagts (his son), 12 October 1991.

24. Alfred Vagts, A History of Militarism: Civilian and Military, revised ed. (New York: Free Press, 1959), 13.

25. One frankly hostile treatment by an expatriate German was Lauterbach's "Roots and Implications of the German Idea of Military Society." Lauterbach (1904-?), an Austrian Jew and political economist who emigrated to the United States in 1938, saw Clausewitz's concept of "absolute war" as "clearly a forerunner of totalitarian warfare." Clausewitz saw "annihilation of the enemy as the real purpose of warfare (and therefore implicitly of politics!)." He denied any connection between the approaches to war of Clausewitz and Frederick the Great because, "although [the latter's] ruthlessness and cynicism could hardly be exceeded, there is little reason to believe that he thought of totalitarian wars or annihilation strategy in their present-day meaning." Ludendorff's ideas were "just new formulas for the same way of thinking," and Hitler was a Clausewitzian.

26. It has been my own suggestion that Graham's translation of On War in 1873 was little connected to events and had virtually no short-term impact in Britain, an argument which would negate this particular theory. However, the post-South African War fashion for Clausewitz in Britain coincides well in time with the professionalization of the British army via the Haldane reforms.

27. Vagts credited this argument to Hans Rothfels, Clausewitz, Politik und Krieg, 191.

28. Vagts, History of Militarism, 183-85.

29. Vagts's review of Gatzke, Principles.

30. Jolles has been identified as Hungarian, Czech, and Dutch. Luvaas, "Clausewitz and the American Experience," quoted an unidentified Israeli professor as saying "whereas the first English translation was by an Englishman who did not know German, the 1943 American translation was by a Hungarian who did not know English." There is little in the Jolles translation to warrant such a comment.

31. Letter, Professor A.L.H. Rubin to (university president) Robert Hutchins, 17 November 1941. President's Papers, U. Chicago, 1925-1945, 92/8.

32. Robert M. Hutchins, "Military Education and Research," 28 February 1941. President's Papers, U. Chicago, 1925-1945, 92/10, 14-16.

33. Hutchins to Harvey H. Bundy (special assistant to the Secretary of War), 10 June 1942. President's Papers, U. Chicago, 1925-1945, 93/1.

34. Jolles, "Introduction" to On War, xxvi. His math is suspect; Book Six represents only one quarter of On War by page count.

35. Hans Rothfels, Carl von Clausewitz; Politik und Krieg: Eine ideengeschichtliche Studie (Berlin: F. Dümmler, 1920, reprinted 1980); Karl von Clausewitz, ed. Hans Rothfels, Politische Schriften und Briefe (München: Drei masken verlag, 1922).

36. Hans Rothfels, "Clausewitz," 93-113. Letter, Howard to Bassford, 26 September 1990.

37. He was also critical of R.M. Johnston, F.B. Maurice, and the Graham translation.

38. Paret, Clausewitz and the State, 129 (fn15); 134, 135 (fn32), 163 (fn31), 169 (fn1), 302-303, 432-35, 443.

39. Paret, Clausewitz and the State, 433, citing Rothfels, Politik und Krieg, 70.

40. See Barry H. Steiner, "On Strategy and Strategists," in Steiner, Bernard Brodie and the Foundations of American Nuclear Strategy (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1991).

41. Richard P. Stebbins, The Career of Herbert Rosinski: An Intellectual Pilgrimage (New York: Peter Lang, 1989).

42. Herbert Rosinski, "Die Entwicklung von Clausewitz Werk "Vom Kriege" im Licht seiner `Vorreden' und `Nachrichten'," Historische Zeitschrift, CLI (1935), 278-93.

43. An earlier paper, "Clausewitz als Lebensphilosoph," had appeared in Der Volkswirt, v.31 (1932), 56. An unpublished typescript exists in Rosinski's papers (7/1), "Ueber die Theorie des Kriegs," but this may date from much later (1953?).

44. Gat's Origins of Military Thought (1989) contains an argumentative but convincing appendix discussing this issue.

45. Rosinski, The German Army, 112.

46. Rosinski to Princeton University Press (Smith), 12 June 1942. Rosinski Papers, Series II, Box 3, Folder 7.

47. Herbert Rosinski, review "IMS: Captain Falls on Modern Warfare" of Cyril Falls, Nature of Modern Warfare, in Infantry Journal, v.L, no.1 (January 1942). Falls himself made much the same point, without the implied criticism, in his 1961 Art of War, 6-7.

48. Rosinski Papers Series II, 3/4. The project is also discussed in Stebbins, Rosinski, 61-62.

49. Herbert Rosinski, Power and Human Destiny (New York: Praeger, 1965); ed. B. Mitchell Simpson III, The Development of Naval Thought (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1977).

50. Rosinski to his ex-wife, Maria-Luise Stebbins, c.1961, quoted in Stebbins, Rosinski, 165-166.

51. See Rosinski Papers, Series IV, 6/3, "The Role of Civilian Scholars in the Study of War."

52. Rosinski Papers, Series IV, 6/18, "Clausewitz," a lecture delivered at the Naval War College on 17 November 1953.

53. Cited in Stebbins, Rosinski, 149.

54. Raymond Aron (1905-1983), trans. Christine Booker and Norman Stone, Clausewitz: Philosopher of War (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), vii.

55. Lectures on Clausewitz given at Oxford exist in several versions in Rosinski Papers Series IV, 5/27.

56. Letter, Gilbert to Bassford, 25 July 1990.

57. See Henry E. Eccles (Admiral, USN), Military Concepts and Philosophy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1965).

58. See references to Rosinski in Brodie, "Clausewitz: a Passion for War."

59. See Stebbins, Rosinski, 155-156, and Rosinski's critique of Brodie's work in Rosinski Papers, Series II, 3/7, esp. his letter of 15 May 1942.

60. Paret rarely mentions him. Perhaps most curious is Jehuda Wallach's failure in Dogma to cite Rosinski's draft "Clausewitz and Schlieffen" [Rosinski Papers Series V, Box 7, Folder 2] or his published "Scharnhorst to Schlieffen: The Rise and Decline of German Military Thought," United States Naval War College Review 29 (Summer 1976), 83-103. Wallach does discuss The German Army.

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