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Fabius Maximus on Sumida on Clausewitz

Fabius Maximus has a nice round-up on an important book – Decoding Clausewitz by Jon Sumida  

Is Clausewitz Still Relevant? 

1)  Review from the Marine Corps Gazette

Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War
by Jon Tetsuro Sumida (2008)

Reviewed by J. Alex Vohr. Originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette, March 2009. Republished here with their generous permission.


While primarily a naval historian, Dr. Sumidas decade-long foray into Clausewitz has resulted in a book uncovering issues significant to those whose professional interests involve either the formulation of our national military strategy or the professional education and development of military officers. Current prevailing wisdom holds that Clausewitz was concerned only with nation-state warfare, and modern military theorists like General Sir Rupert Smith, in his book, The Utility of Force (Vintage, 2008, reviewed in the August 2007 Gazette), have asserted that the Western world has seen the end of these types of conflicts. 

Professor Sumida is on my “to be read” list but I have not gotten to it yet. Readers who have are cordially invited to sound off in the comments.


3 Responses to “Fabius Maximus on Sumida on Clausewitz”

  1. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi Zen, 
    This book is my current main read. After reading Sumida’s Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command (which was excellent—a review is forthcoming), I turned to Hew Strachan’s bio of On War, with an eye toward using his book as a “mentor” to work my way through Clausewitz. Based on the first couple of chapters of Sumida’s book, I’m guessing Strachan’s book won’t be the only “mentor.” More to come. 

  2. seydlitz89 Says:


    Dr. Sumida is “primarily a naval historian”.  

    Operational level.  So, what does he say about Clausewitz’s General Theory of war?

    Might be a good first question.  

    Then consider the title of FM’s post . . .  

    To a Clausewitzian such a question is an absurdity.  If you wish to understand Clausewitz you need to perceive that perspective, regardless of whether you become a “Clausewitzian” or not.  


  3. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi Seydlitz,
    While Sumida is primarily a naval historian, the last chapter of his book on Mahan’s work makes the connection between Mahan and Clausewitz. He goes so far as to refer to Mahan as Clausewitzian. Based on this final chapter of the Mahan book, and Strachan’s book referenced above, I tend to agree—as common themes seem present. 

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