On War - title image

Carl von Clausewitz

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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.

cover image Vom Kriege, by Carl von Clausewitz, ed. Werner Hahlweg.
From Gebundene Ausgabe - Dümmler, Bonn. Erscheinungsdatum: 1991, 19. Auflage, Nachdruck.fl.
ISBN: 342782019X.

This is the 19th German edition published by Dümmlers, Clausewitz's original publisher. It was edited by the esteemed German scholar Werner Hahlweg and is considered the standard and most accurate edition.

Jolles translation, book coverBuy 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.

On War, Princeton ed.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.

Book coverVanya Eftimova Bellinger, Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War (Oxford University Press, 2015), ISBN: 0190225432. A rich biography of Countess Marie von Clausewitz that also sheds enormous light on the life, ideas, influences upon, and character of the great military thinker himself.


Destruction of the Enemy's Armies


THE destruction of the enemy's armed forces is the means to the end—What is meant by this—The price it costs—Different points of view which are possible in respect to the subject.

1, only to destroy as many as the object of the attack requires.

2, or as many on the whole as is possible.

3, the sparing of our own forces as the principal point of view.

4, this may again be carried so far, that the assailant does nothing towards the destruction of the enemy's force except when a favourable opportunity offers, which may also be the case with regard to the object of the attack, as already mentioned in the third chapter.

The only means of destroying the enemy's armed force is by combat, but this may be done in two ways: 1, directly, 2, indirectly, through a combination of combats.—If, therefore, the battle is the chief means, still it is not the only means. The capture of a fortress or of a portion of territory, is in itself really a destruction of the enemy's force, and it may also lead to a still greater destruction, and therefore, also, be an indirect means.

The occupation of an undefended strip of territory, therefore, in addition to the value which it has as a direct fulfilment of the end, may also reckon as a destruction of the enemy's force as well. The manœuvring, so as to draw an enemy out of a district of country which he has occupied, is somewhat similar, and must, therefore, only be looked at from the same point of view, and not as a success of arms, properly speaking—These means are generally estimated at more than they are worth—they have seldom the value of a battle; besides which it is always to be feared that the disadvantageous position to which they lead, will be overlooked; they are seductive through the low price which they cost.

We must always consider means of this description as small investments, from which only small profits are to be expected; as means suited only to very limited State relations and weak motives. Then they are certainly better than battles without a purpose—than victories, the results of which cannot be realised to the full.


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