Carl von Clausewitz
Mobile Compatible • Presented by The Clausewitz Homepage
NOTE: This version of Carl von Clausewitz's On War is the long-obsolete J.J. Graham translation of Clausewitz's Vom Kriege (1832) published in London in 1873. The 1976/84 Howard/Paret version is the standard translation today; for the most accurate text one should always consult the 1943 Jolles translation. Consider the more modern versions and other relevant books shown below.
On Waterloo: Clausewitz, Wellington, and the Campaign of 1815. Ed./trans. Christopher Bassford, Daniel Moran, and Gregory W. Pedlow (ClausewitzStudies.org, 2010). ISBN: 1453701508. This book is built around a new and complete translation of Clausewitz's study of the Waterloo campaign [Berlin: 1835], a strategic analysis of the entire campaign (not just the Battle of Waterloo), and the Duke of Wellington's detailed 1842 response to it. Clausewitz's Der Felzug von 1815 was written late in his life and its findings were never incorporated into On War, so most readers will find it new material.
Buy the best translation—recommended for serious readers. The Book of War (The Modern Library, February 2000). ISBN: 0375754776. Clausewitz's On War and Sun Tzu's Art of War in one volume. The translation of Clausewitz's On War is the 1943 version done by German literary scholar O.J. Matthijs Jolles at the University of Chicago during World War II—not today's standard translation, but certainly the most accurate.
Buy the standard English translation of Clausewitz's On War, by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton University Press, 1976/84). ISBN: 0691018545 (paperback). Kindle edition. This quite readable translation appeared at the close of the Vietnam War and—principally for marketing and copyright reasons—has become the modern standard.
Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War (University Press of Kansas, 2008). By Jon Tetsuro Sumida. ISBN: 9780700616169. *This is perhaps the most important recent book for anyone seeking to understand Clausewitz's thinking. Sumida contends that Clausewitz's central value lies in his method of reenacting the psychological difficulties of high command in order to promote the powers of intuition that he believed were essential to effective strategic decision-making. Sumida also correctly notes Clausewitz's argument that the defense is a stronger form of war, and goes on to explore the implications of that fact.
BOOK 3 • CHAPTER 4
The Chief Moral Powers
THEY are The Talents of the Commander; The Military Virtue of the Army; Its National feeling. Which of these is the most important no one can tell in a general way, for it is very difficult to say anything in general of their strength, and still more difficult to compare the strength of one with that of another. The best plan is not to undervalue any of them, a fault which human judgment is prone to sometimes on one side, sometimes on another, in its whimsical oscillations. It is better to satisfy ourselves of the undeniable efficacy of these three things by sufficient evidence from history.
It is true, however, that in modern times the armies of European states have got very much to a par as regards discipline and fitness for service, and that the conduct of war has—as philosophers would say—so naturally developed itself, thereby become a method, common as it were to all armies, that even from commanders there is nothing further to be expected in the way of application of special means of art, in the limited sense (such as Frederick the Second's oblique order). Consequently it cannot be denied that, as matters now stand, there is so much the greater scope afforded for the influence of National spirit and habituation of an army to war. A long peace may alter again all this.
The national spirit of an army (enthusiasm, fanatical zeal, faith, opinion,) displays itself most in mountain warfare, where every one down to the common soldier is left to himself. On this account, a mountainous country is the best campaigning ground for a people in arms.
Expertness of an army through training, and that well tempered courage which holds the ranks together as if they had been cast in a mould, show their superiority in an open country.
The talent of a general has most room to display itself in a closely intersected, undulating country. In mountains he has too little command over the separate parts, and the direction of all is beyond his powers; in open plains it is simple and does not exceed those powers.
According to these undeniable elective affinities, plans should be regulated.
Return to the top of this page
Visit The Clausewitz Homepage
US • UK • France • Germany