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I LOOK upon the first six books, of which a fair copy has now been made,
as only a mass which is still in a manner without form, and which has yet
to be again revised. In this revision the two kinds of War will be
everywhere kept more distinctly in view, by which all ideas will acquire a
clearer meaning, a more precise direction, and a closer application. The
two kinds of War are, first, those in which the object is the OVERTHROW OF
THE ENEMY, whether it be that we aim at his destruction, politically, or
merely at disarming him and forcing him to conclude peace on our terms;
and next, those in which our object is MERELY TO MAKE SOME CONQUESTS ON
THE FRONTIERS OF HIS COUNTRY, either for the purpose of retaining them
permanently, or of turning them to account as matter of exchange in the
settlement of a peace. Transition from one kind to the other must
certainly continue to exist, but the completely different nature of the
tendencies of the two must everywhere appear, and must separate from each
other things which are incompatible.
Besides establishing this real difference in Wars, another practically
necessary point of view must at the same time be established, which is,
that WAR IS ONLY A CONTINUATION OF STATE POLICY BY OTHER MEANS. This point
of view being adhered to everywhere, will introduce much more unity into
the consideration of the subject, and things will be more easily
disentangled from each other. Although the chief application of this point
of view does not commence until we get to the eighth book, still it must
be completely developed in the first book, and also lend assistance
throughout the revision of the first six books. Through such a revision
the first six books will get rid of a good deal of dross, many rents and
chasms will be closed up, and much that is of a general nature will be
transformed into distinct conceptions and forms.
The seventh book—on attack—for the different chapters of which
sketches are already made, is to be considered as a reflection of the
sixth, and must be completed at once, according to the above-mentioned
more distinct points of view, so that it will require no fresh revision,
but rather may serve as a model in the revision of the first six books.
For the eighth book—on the Plan of a War, that is, of the
organisation of a whole War in general—several chapters are
designed, but they are not at all to be regarded as real materials, they
are merely a track, roughly cleared, as it were, through the mass, in
order by that means to ascertain the points of most importance. They have
answered this object, and I propose, on finishing the seventh book, to
proceed at once to the working out of the eighth, where the two points of
view above mentioned will be chiefly affirmed, by which everything will be
simplified, and at the same time have a spirit breathed into it. I hope in
this book to iron out many creases in the heads of strategists and
statesmen, and at least to show the object of action, and the real point
to be considered in War.
Now, when I have brought my ideas clearly out by finishing this eighth
book, and have properly established the leading features of War, it will
be easier for me to carry the spirit of these ideas in to the first six
books, and to make these same features show themselves everywhere.
Therefore I shall defer till then the revision of the first six books.
Should the work be interrupted by my death, then what is found can only be
called a mass of conceptions not brought into form; but as these are open
to endless misconceptions, they will doubtless give rise to a number of
crude criticisms: for in these things, every one thinks, when he takes up
his pen, that whatever comes into his head is worth saying and printing,
and quite as incontrovertible as that twice two make four. If such a one
would take the pains, as I have done, to think over the subject, for
years, and to compare his ideas with military history, he would certainly
be a little more guarded in his criticism.
Still, notwithstanding this imperfect form, I believe that an impartial
reader thirsting for truth and conviction will rightly appreciate in the
first six books the fruits of several years' reflection and a diligent
study of War, and that, perhaps, he will find in them some leading ideas
which may bring about a revolution in the theory of War.
Berlin, 10th July, 1827.
Besides this notice, amongst the papers left the following unfinished
memorandum was found, which appears of very recent date:
The manuscript on the conduct of the Grande Guerre, which will be found
after my death, in its present state can only be regarded as a collection
of materials from which it is intended to construct a theory of War. With
the greater part I am not yet satisfied; and the sixth book is to be
looked at as a mere essay: I should have completely remodelled it, and
have tried a different line.
But the ruling principles which pervade these materials I hold to be the
right ones: they are the result of a very varied reflection, keeping
always in view the reality, and always bearing in mind what I have learnt
by experience and by my intercourse with distinguished soldiers.
The seventh book is to contain the attack, the subjects of which are
thrown together in a hasty manner: the eighth, the plan for a War, in
which I would have examined War more especially in its political and human
The first chapter of the first book is the only one which I consider as
completed; it will at least serve to show the manner in which I proposed
to treat the subject throughout.
The theory of the Grande Guerre, or Strategy, as it is called, is beset
with extraordinary difficulties, and we may affirm that very few men have
clear conceptions of the separate subjects, that is, conceptions carried
up to their full logical conclusions. In real action most men are guided
merely by the tact of judgment which hits the object more or less
accurately, according as they possess more or less genius.
This is the way in which all great Generals have acted, and therein partly
lay their greatness and their genius, that they always hit upon what was
right by this tact. Thus also it will always be in action, and so far this
tact is amply sufficient. But when it is a question, not of acting
oneself, but of convincing others in a consultation, then all depends on
clear conceptions and demonstration of the inherent relations, and so
little progress has been made in this respect that most deliberations are
merely a contention of words, resting on no firm basis, and ending either
in every one retaining his own opinion, or in a compromise from mutual
considerations of respect, a middle course really without any value.(*)
(*) Herr Clausewitz evidently had before his mind the
endless consultations at the Headquarters of the Bohemian
Army in the Leipsic Campaign 1813.
Clear ideas on these matters are therefore not wholly useless; besides,
the human mind has a general tendency to clearness, and always wants to be
consistent with the necessary order of things.
Owing to the great difficulties attending a philosophical construction of
the Art of War, and the many attempts at it that have failed, most people
have come to the conclusion that such a theory is impossible, because it
concerns things which no standing law can embrace. We should also join in
this opinion and give up any attempt at a theory, were it not that a great
number of propositions make themselves evident without any difficulty, as,
for instance, that the defensive form, with a negative object, is the
stronger form, the attack, with the positive object, the weaker—that
great results carry the little ones with them—that, therefore,
strategic effects may be referred to certain centres of gravity—that
a demonstration is a weaker application of force than a real attack, that,
therefore, there must be some special reason for resorting to the former—that
victory consists not merely in the conquest on the field of battle, but in
the destruction of armed forces, physically and morally, which can in
general only be effected by a pursuit after the battle is gained—that
successes are always greatest at the point where the victory has been
gained, that, therefore, the change from one line and object to another
can only be regarded as a necessary evil—that a turning movement is
only justified by a superiority of numbers generally or by the advantage
of our lines of communication and retreat over those of the enemy—that
flank positions are only justifiable on similar grounds—that every
attack becomes weaker as it progresses.