Clausewitz on War and Politics Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1282 Words
Date:  2022-12-06

Numerous historical changes challenge our comprehension of the current existing socio-political approaches and concepts in general. For instance, Crimea Russian occupation and the revelation of Stuxnet were significant events that lead to challenging the understanding of socio-political theories (Dimitriu, 2018). However, strategic studies have been under fervent crisis as a result of the previously discussed events and tectonic security changes that followed them which include the war on terror globally, cold war's end, among other changes. The theory of war interpretation has been changed by major scholars who have since advocated for Fourth Warfare Generation (Waldman, 2010). One prominent scholar who has ensured the revolution of the affairs of the military, post-Clausewitzian war, and non-Trinitarian war, is Carl von Clausewitz. However, a majority of modern wars have been classified to differ from the wars of the past and can no longer be classified by the Classic dictum of Clausewitz, as it will be seen on this report. The main of this paper is to critically review the three readings discussing on Clausewitz perspectives on war and politics.

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War can be classified as a theoretical exploration that was written by Carl von Clausewitz. The book is very crucial on strategic thinking, and it can be described as a treatise on military-political strategy and analysis. According to Carl's thoughts and concepts in the book, three key ideas did stand out. Firstly, Carl; discusses that war can be described as an instrument of 'Politik' and never can it be seen as holding any logic within itself. The German word 'Politik' in the context of the book is used to refer to politics and policy (Howard & Paret, 2008). Clausewitz defines war in the book as not only an act of politics but as a real political instrument, and a political commerce continuation. Secondly, the book addresses the military objectives which are often found in war and seem to support the political objectives of an individual. The military objectives established in war are classified into two; achievement of limited aims and the objective of disarming the enemy. The objectives are aimed at rendering the opponent military opponent and helpless. Thirdly, the book discusses the party of war that will be favored in case all other conditions are held content. The party that will be favored in war provided all other factors are held constant, is the party with political and stronger emotional motivations (Bassford, 1996). These ideas generally apply to modern wars as stronger political motivated countries usually are the most-fierce when it comes to modern wars.

The second book discusses the insights that Clausewitz possesses regarding war. These ideas discussed include; politics, reason, and policy. According to Thomas Waldman, war is an instrument of policy and contains the element of subordination (2010). Due to the latter, war can be classified to be only subjected to reason, an idea prominent in the book as previously mentioned. Military force is the political object used in fuelling war. The latter is also discussed have rational utility, and it's a tool which ensures the application of policy towards the achievement of its objectives and aims. The character and nature of war are described usually by the military force, or rather the political object applied in the war. However, not many scholars understand this and Clausewitz positions has certainly been refuted in the past. In light of this, the political web can be described as one of the implications of the idea that war is caused as a result of politics. The web of politics that war is usually confided in determines the nature of the policies that would be applied in the war, actions initiated and decisions made. Therefore, Carl is right about his ide of war as an instrument of policy. It is evident that modern wars are also fuelled by political motives and the political web around the war influences greatly the policies adopted in the war (Dimitriu, 2018). Therefore, Carl's approach to war is still useful even in modern days despite the critics his work has been shown, even being rendered the vice that led to the rise of the world wars, that occurred in the twentieth century.

According to Daniel Moran, war has an instrumental nature, and as a result, political objectives and aims have a significant guide on operations that involve militaries, which in turn have a fervent influence on war (2007). Despite the other field and dictums that have lost meaning in war, this field has not lost its saliency in modern environments considering war. Some violence forms can be described to be greatly amenable to the analysis of instrumental approach than the rest. Comprehension of the objectives and aims of the military is very crucial as it mainly leads to clarity in strategy (Moran, 2007). In addition, the complete mystery is not afforded over the reality of war that is a multifaceted and strategic success is not guaranteed.

Carl Vons's ideas on wars are very crucial and have indeed influenced many war decisions from the past and present. However, new scholars have often criticized the work of Carl declaring it void and inapplicable to today's wars. Old wars were classified using the classic Clausewitz dictum of 'mere continuation of policy' (Dimitriu, 2018). On the contrary, modern wars are usually described by modern factors which include politics identity, economic motives, and culture. The previously mentioned three have created intense situations between nations or communities, and hence they are the main approaches that can be used in defining war, unlike Clausewitz's approach of policy and politics. The remarkable trinity which was applied by Carl consisted of three main elements; hatred, primordial violence and enmity, probability and play of chance, and thirdly, subordination to policy. Modern scholars have structured the remarkable trinity differently due to the social factors that have been discussed previously to lead to war (Bassford & Villacres, 2011). The modern trinity is defined by the government, the military, and the people. There exists a serious discrepancy between modern scholars and Carl, even though the latter is crucial as he led to a major understanding of war by laying the core concepts that fuel wars, especially politics, and the web of the war.


It's evident that wars are fuelled by politics and the military force applied. The politics which surround a war that is the web of politics are crucial in determining the types of policies, strategies, and decisions made in a war. The later discussed concept is crucial even in modern days' wars despite the critics that Clausewitz ideas have faced from modern scholars. The remarkable trinity has been changed over the years and today's modern trinity is made up of social factors which seem to influence any war. It is indeed true that the motives which usually lead to wars on recent times have changed, but still, Clausewitz ideas on wars and politics usually have laid the basic foundation on the comprehension of wars. Clausewitz dictum is no longer applicable in modern times but helps us understand what might have caused the famous world wars one and two.


Bassford, C., 1996. Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Berlin, 1832). [Online] Available at:[Accessed March 2019].

Bassford, C. & Villacres, E., 2011. RECLAIMING THE CLAUSEWITZIAN TRINITY. [Online] Available at:[Accessed March 2019].

Dimitriu, G., 2018. Clausewitz and the politics of war: A contemporary theory. [Online] Available at:[Accessed March 2019].

Howard, M. & Paret, P., 2008. Carl von Clausewitz, On War. Vol. 40, No. 3 ed. New York: Everyman's Library.

Moran, D., 2007. The Instrument: Clausewitz on Aims and Objectives in War. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Waldman, T., 2010. Politics and War: Clausewitz's Paradoxical Equation. Parameters Journal, 30(3), p. 13.

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