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New Post at Clausewitz Roundtable

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I have a new post up at the closing Clausewitz Roundtable at Chicago Boyz.

Clausewitz, “On War” Book VI: The Shadow of the East

….One of the anomalies of the crusade of Napoleon’s Grande Armee into the Russia of Tsar Alexander is that the Russians began in a position of numerical inferiority, something that had not happened at any other time except during the Mongol Yoke. Even Hitler’s massive onslaught of 150 Wehrmacht divisions hurled into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 did not enjoy the advantage in numbers held by Napoleon in 1812. Napoleon’s host had an almost mythic quality, reminiscent of the army of Great King Xerxes in The Persian Wars. Historian Alan Schom writes:

“Napoleon’s mighty force was phenomenal in size and strength as it continued its advance. They were marching by the thousands, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands. It was incredible, it was fascinating, it was aew inspiring, but above all, it was terrifying. All Europe was trembling at the very thought of this massive Gallic-led horde, the likes of which had not been seen since the eighth century invasion of Europe by the Arabs and Berbers, and before that by Attila the Hun. Bavarians, Wurttemburgers, troops from Berg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Nassau-Aremberg, Isenburg, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Wurzberg, Saxony, Anhalt-Berburg, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Schaumburg-Lippe, Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, occupied Denmark, occupied Prussia, occupied Spain and Portugal, occupied Holland, occupied Switzerland, northern Italy, the occupied Papal States, Danzig and Illyria, tiny San Marino and the miniature principality of Liechtenstein….the marched hundreds of miles, some ultimately two thousand miles, because once more Napoleon Bonaparte had refused peace, because – obsessed beyond any rational thought – he demanded war and further conquest”[1]

Tsar Alexander responded to the “Gallic horde” by trading space for time, evacuating Vitebsk and famously, Moscow, which was set to the torch. Alexander made use of the terrain, Russia’s vast and unforgiving span of earth to decimate the invaders whose lines of supply stretched vaporously thin.

Read the rest here.

The roundtable has been of superb quality and I will do a final aggregation post of the final third of the contributions once everyone has posted their concluding remarks.

Round-up from The Clausewitz Roundtable

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Thought I would catch-up to the excellent work of my fellow participants at The Clausewitz Roundtable at Chicago BoyzFirst though, I’d like to say “thank you” to Ron Coleman for linking to my most recent post at the roundtable at Dean’s World and at his own blog, Likelihood of Success. Much appreciated!

The Roundtable continues….

Book III

Sam LilesClausewitz, On War Book 3: A consideration of cyber strategy

Matthew BortonClausewitz, On War, Book 3: The Shape of a Strategic Force.

seydlitz89 Carl von Clausewitz, Book III, General Comments

josephfoucheClausewitz, On War, Book III: Painting by Numbers

Shane DeichmanClausewitz, On War, Book III: The Substance of Strategy

Lexington GreenClausewitz, On War, Book III: Factors to Be Considered in Making and Executing Strategy

Cheryl RoferClausewitz, On War: Book 3: Boldness

Kotare Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 3: the Prussian as prophet

ZenpunditCarl von Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Calculation

Book IV.

Matthew Borton – Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

seydlitz89 – Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book IV (and VI): Contingency  and Carl von Clausewitz: Book IV, Some Comments

Lexington GreenClausewitz, On War, Book IV: The Rise and Fall of Battle

Shane DeichmanClausewitz, On War, Book IV: Attrition Writ Large

KotareClausewitz, “On War”, Book 4: keep it simple stupid

Book V.

Shane Deichman – Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Jointness à la Carl

josephfouche Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Freedom is Worth the Mass

Lexington GreenClausewitz, Book V: Military Forces (Circa 1830)

Book VI.

Shane DeichmanClausewitz, On War, Book VI: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

New Post at The Clausewitz Roundtable

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Sadly, I am still on Book III. I will have a full round up of the work of the advanced kids later tonight. : )

Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Calculation

Clausewitz devoted Book III of On War to matters of general strategy and he has an important section on the nature of calculation ” Possible Engagements are to be Regarded as Real Ones because of Their Consequences“:

“In both cases results have been produced by the mere possibility of an engagement: the possibility has acquired reality….Even if the whole enterprise leaves us worse off than before, we cannot say that no effects resulted from using troops in this way, by producing the possibility of an engagement; the effects were similar to a lost engagement.

This shows that the destruction of the enemy’s forces and the overthrow of the enemy’s power can be accomplished only as the result of an engagement, no matter whether it really took place or was merely offered but not accepted”A passage rich in implications.

Clausewitz assumes here that opponents would have rough knowledge of each other’s actions and maneuvers. A position held entirely in secret by one side cannot become part of his enemy’s assessment and calculation. This is entirely logical given the small geographic context of the Western-Central European battlefield in the 18th and 19th centuries when field commanders had a shared understanding of warfare and armies had been raised on precision drill since the days of Gustavus Adolphus. It is also logical for the “higher” level of supreme command, the soldier-statesmen like Frederick the Great or Dwight Eisenhower who had to read situations in warfare like geopolitical, multidimensional, chess many moves ahead of their next, actual, move.

Read the rest here.

Clausewitz Roundtable – War as Social Interaction

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

My belated contribution to The Clausewitz Roundtable on Book II.

Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: War is an Act of Human Intercourse

Nation-states are superorganisms and warfare constitutes a form of collective bargaining, a market of blood. Lyndon Johnson in the basement of the White House, pouring over maps of North Vietnam, picking out bombing targets was attempting to bargain with Hanoi through the martial gestures of escalation. Even amidst the total war of WWII, the belligerents made calculated gestures in the intransigence of Stalingrad, the reckless dash for Cairo or through the Ardennes, in the step by step horror that was Okinawa, to signal to the enemy “the price” for continuing the war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki cleared the table of all but the most dangerous of gamblers

Read the rest here.

Book II Posts at The Clausewitz Roundtable at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009


Last week’s Book I. commentary was so extensive that our Book II. of On War discussion is just beginning to heat up at the links below:

Lexington Green – courtesy of Curzon of Coming Anarchy “U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clausewitz”

Lexington Green – Adam Elkus posts on “Clausewitz, The Rage of the People, and Strategies of Positive Ends”

Lexington GreenClausewitz, On War, Book 2: The “theory” of war is purely a means of professional formation.

KotareClausewitz, “On War”, Book 2: the fog of war

Cheryl RoferClausewitz, On War, Book 2: Clausewitz’s Science

[UPDATE] Capt. Nathaniel T. LauterbachClausewitz, On War, Book II: The Intellectual Style of the Military Genius

I had left Nate’s post off accidentally earlier today because there are some Book I. posts in between his and Cheryl’s at CB and I was posting in a hurry. Sorry Nate!

The Clausewitz Roundtable Archive

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