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Viewing Topic "Everything You Know About Clausewitz Is Wrong"
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Posted by: Amaral A botched translation of Clausewitz has had an enduring impact on our thinking on warfare.

As Mark Twain reputedly quipped, it’s not so much what we know that gets us in trouble; it’s what we know that just ain’t so. How much of what we know about martial ventures is wrong? In the naval sphere, for instance, it’s common knowledge that Alfred Thayer Mahan instructs commanders never to divide the fleet. Except he doesn’t. Once upon a time, it turns out, historians took to quoting other historians quoting Mahan to that effect. Over time the quotation — in reality, someone’s bowdlerized version of his ideas about concentrating naval strength — took on an air of authenticity and authority. “Never divide the fleet” endured as a truism despite its flimsy provenance. And it drowned out Mahan’s real ideas through constant repetition.

This is about more than salvaging a long-dead maritime strategist’s reputation. Faulty or outdated ideas can carry real-world repercussions. Acting on them creates a garbage-in/garbage-out effect that bedevils strategic endeavors. Nor is the problem confined to one apocryphal maxim from Mahan. We all know, don’t we, that strategic grand master Carl von Clausewitz defines war as “the continuation of policy by other means” (italics in original). Except he doesn’t. Read in the original German (insert favorite Hitler joke here), Clausewitz’s masterwork On War proclaims — uniformly — that war is a mere continuation of policy “with other means” (mit anderen Mitteln), or sometimes “with the addition of other means” (mit Einmischung anderer Mitteln). Nowhere in On War or his prefatory notes does the Prussian write “by” other means.

Full article: http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/everything-you-know-about-clausewitz-is-wrong/
Posted on: 15/11/2014 19:51:00

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Posted by: Alex E
Total Posts: 4
Joined Date: Sunday, 16 November 2014
I can't see a vast difference between 'by' and 'with'.

Posted on: 15/11/2014 20:00:00
Posted by: Rebel
Total Posts: 2
Joined Date: Wednesday, 18 January 2017
I wonder if the autor of the article is actually fluent in German or simply "googled" it....It's not just a case of translation but grammar, because when we (the English speacking world) use "by" they (the German speaking world) actually do use "mit" which we translate as "with". As with any translation, the risk is to get the sense of what the author is trying to convey - Mike LOL. Case in point is that many Germans regard English as a hard language to follow because no matter what the occasion, and no matter what the grammatical situation, the answer is always "the" (as opposed to Der, Die, Das, Der, Dem, Den......)
Posted on: 16/11/2014 11:17:00
Posted by: WickedMessenger
Total Posts: 10
Joined Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2013
I'm with Alex. I speak some German and I think I would also have translated "mit"as "with" but I don't think the difference is so big we have to change the entire meaning of the statement.

Posted on: 16/11/2014 11:58:00
Posted by: Württemberger
Total Posts: 1
Joined Date: Wednesday, 2 September 2009
yeah what i am missing here? what's the fundamental difference between "by" and "with"? i think clausewitz is vastly overrated anyways.
Posted on: 16/11/2014 13:30:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
According to the author of the article, the difference is as follows:



Take the misquoted passage first. Declaring that war is a mere continuation of policy “by” other means implies that diplomatic, economic, and ideological interaction between the combatants screeches to a halt when the shooting starts. Statesmen set nonviolent policy implements aside while armies, navies, and air forces batter away at one another. In wartime, then, violent force is the one implement whereby military commanders and their political overseers seek strategic and political aims. Combatants cross a kind of event horizon, passing from routine peacetime politics into a dark realm ruled by violent interaction. A discontinuity separates war from peace.



Such an interpretation turns the concept Clausewitz wants to convey on its head. Now consider the proper translation. Pursuing political objectives “with” other means connotes adding a new implement — namely armed force — to a mix of diplomatic, economic, and informational implements rather than dropping them to pick up the sword. War operates under a distinctive martial grammar, in other words, but the logic of policy remains in charge even after combat is joined. In this Clausewitzian view, strategic competition falls somewhere along a continuum from peacetime diplomacy to high-end armed conflict. The divide between war and peace can get blurry.
Posted on: 17/11/2014 12:44:00
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 359
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013
Thank you for the expansion of the first post, Amaral, I see what you mean now. And yes, it does make considerable difference to the meaning of Clausewitz's thesis.









I would think the proof of the pudding has to be the context of the rest of the book. I'm not a Clausewitz scholar, so what stance does the rest of "On War" take? Does it say that war and diplomacy work together? Or that one is a total break from the other? (Or is it such an exercise in abstruse German philosophy that no one can really tell...)
Posted on: 17/11/2014 13:28:00
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013
It is always difficult to "Project" writings from the past onto the present! Clausewitz is no exception (neither is Mahan, or Sun Tsu...)!! They all wrote for an audience of their own time! And were understood (or misunderstood) then!

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I have read "on War" some years ago! I donot have "fond" memories of the book! I remember a difficult read!

But Clausewitz did never, ever anticípate a "total war" with a "total Victory" versus a "total defeat"! He always anticipated, throughout the whole work (as far as i recall at least...) a NEGOCIATED settlement!!



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His argument goes basically, "as we can not come to a decisión on the subject (territorial, political or economic), I will attack you! once my Armed Forces achieve a certain Objective (let's say, a city or a province), and, if everything goes as I plan, I manage to defeat your army in the process, we will negociate Peace on my terms, but, without humiliating you too much"



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Basically, Clausewitz champions Diplomacy over military action, and, in common with Sun Tsu for instance, he advocates to leave the enemy "a way to escape" instead of anhialation!



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the problem, here and now, is that War's have changed a great deal since Clausewitz and all the other great (or at least well known) military theorists!



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Personally, i do not think, Clausewitz "overrated" as my fellow countrymen says, but his teachings are not really applicaple to our times anymore! And you will find this true for most of the classics....
Posted on: 17/11/2014 15:25:00
Posted by: Württemberger
Total Posts: 1
Joined Date: Wednesday, 2 September 2009
the sentence needs to be seen in the context of another famous quote by him: "war is thus an act of violence, to coerce the opponent to fulfill our demands." from this it's clear that war to him is a means to an end, a leverage to enforce political demands, if necessary by violence. i'm still unsure if the 'by' and 'with' really make that much of a difference in the english language.





but yes, i also found it hard to read and put it down after a few pages. we can see today that war still is a means to an end to enforce poltiical or economic goals. yet i never foudn it to be "smart" pointing out the obvious. ressource wars have always existed and continue in our time and in the forseeable future.
Posted on: 17/11/2014 15:40:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
As General Beaufre said ("Introduction to Strategy", 1964) very few people read Clausewitz and even fewer understood him. One of the man who understood Clausewitz was Lenin, the Soviet agent. Whenever the Soviets advised a guerrilla or army, they always stressed that war and politics go together, and the major aim of fighting is not simply killing people, but achieving a political aim (whatever that aim may be).
Posted on: 17/11/2014 17:42:00
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Exactly! Clausewitz saw war a a means to an end! Limited in scope! Good examples are the German Wars of Unification! To pick one, say, the 1864 War against Denmark! Even as the German/Austrian tropos did indeed conquer all of Jutland and the Island of Alsen, the GOAL was never to keep this Territories! They were conquered to forcé Denmark to relinquish Sleswig and Holstein! Once Denmark acceded, those territories were restored to her!



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Now, how do you massure this against the Occupation of Afghanistan during the last 12 Years?? What was the aim? who relinquished what and how and when? The aim of a limited war followed by a negociated settlement is hard to see! The Enemy of a dozend years ago, is still at large and has not ceded anything to anyone!!

You can not really use Clausewitz Maxims to most Modern Wars! It is out of this reason, I see him, and many other classical Mimitary Theorists ouf of their depths due to the changing nature of todays Warfare as compared to their times!
Posted on: 17/11/2014 19:59:00

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