Final response to Fleming (re: Bruce Fleming, "Can Reading Clausewitz Save Us from Future Mistakes?" Parameters, Spring 2004, pp. 62-76.

I had intended to respond to Fleming's rebuttal in some detail, but upon analysis I find that most of it is just outraged spluttering with no discernible meaning—typical literary deconstructionism. There's not much I can do with this. There is one point worth noting, however. As Fleming points out, David Rohr's comment is a bit misleading, but it is not inaccurate. While the version of the "continuation of policy" line Fleming used does come from Clausewitz and is the version most often quoted, Clausewitz made his famous statement three times, with some important variations. Fleming's version occurs in a context in which Clausewitz is obviously proposing it as a strawman to be demolished in his dialectical examination of the problem. The version to which Rohr wisely refers reflects Clausewitz's actual conclusion or synthesis, i.e., the emotional, interactive, competitive furball that is "politics," rather than the rational and unilateral "policy."

I'm sorry that Fleming feels so abused by the reponses from Tony Echevarria, David Rohr, and myself. I always find it odd how folks like Fleming and John Keegan feel free to describe "the Clausewitzians" in condescending and insulting terms, to sloppily ascribe to us beliefs few if any of us hold, and to suggest we've never read (or assigned) another book—and then express wounded bewilderment when they experience return fire. If he wants to ignore Clausewitz, fine. If he wants to seriously challenge Clausewitzian theory, he might well achieve something if he works harder. But if he simply wants to flip off people who find Clausewitz interesting and useful, he needs to drive a faster car.

Chris Bassford
National War College