Introduction: Surviving Clausewitz

Colin S. Gray

in The Strategy Bridge

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579662
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594458 | DOI:
Introduction: Surviving Clausewitz

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Carl von Clausewitz dominates our theories of strategy and war. His thinking is unsurpassed in depth and subtlety, but he is so influential that many of our contemporary theorists do not even attempt to move on with him, let alone from him. It is important to understand what Clausewitz meant, in the context of his life and times, but it is yet more important to understand what we mean, for our times. Even a worthy icon can be so iconic that he stifles fresh thought. Strategy is a universal and eternal function, unavoidable in the human social condition: we have to identify ends/purposes and then choose ways that should enable us to use the available means in order to achieve them. This enduring reality of the human situation is reflected in a very small canon of classic writings on strategic theory. The authors of these texts number no more than ten, and their writings date from ca. 490 BCE to the present. Clausewitz's On War is the greatest among them. Strategy is the bridge that connects political purpose to its (e.g. military) instruments and their behaviour. The instrumental purpose of strategy is to secure some control over the enemy. Strategy is both a function and has a general theory, and unique plans which are implemented by command performance for strategic effect.

Keywords: Clausewitz; strategy; strategy bridge; military instrument; plans

Chapter.  6247 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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