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Talking Strategy

Aug 16, 2022

Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz created a new way of thinking about war in the West: a study of the phenomenon and its complex social nature, where previous authors had produced prescriptive manuals or homed in on ethics or the laws of war. Thus, Clausewitz is challenging to engage with and richer and rewarding in the insights he provides.

Clausewitz can be considered the father of Strategic Studies as a discipline. Occasionally, somebody comes along and pronounces Clausewitz obsolete – to the tremendous relief of students who think that obviates reading the big fat book he left us - On War. But those who have done so have read him narrowly or to have been proved wrong by subsequent evolutions of warfare. The good news for students is that, ironically, On War is easier to read in the modern English translation than in its original obsolescent German, although scholars will argue endlessly over nuance of meaning.

Clausewitz’s approach has brought him loyal and prominent followers such as Bernard Brodie and Colin S. Gray in the US, Corbett and Sir Michael Howard in the UK, Svechin in Russia, and Mao in China. In this episode, Beatrice Heuser discusses Clausewitz and his intellectual legacy with Paul O’Neill, Director, Military Sciences, RUSI, homing in on the long-term legacy of this most famous of the “dead Prussians”.