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Finally – My Clausewitz Post on Book I.

Friday, January 16th, 2009

After numerous small difficulties, I finally pulled it together:

Clausewitz, On War, Book I.: A Man of His Time or for All Times?

….It is is difficult not to be impressed with the brilliance of Clausewitz’s insights as I read Book I. His disciplined yet speculative mind was not constrained by the Newtonian paradigm that governed the 19th century’s increasingly deterministic understanding of nature; nor did he become intoxicated by the mythic Romanticism that pervaded European elite culture and abandon the rigor that can be found on every page of On War. There is ample evidence to be found in Book I. of Clausewitz surpassing his times to grasp concepts and truths that do not emerge in other fields for decades or more than a century.

Yet there are also passages that show the rootedness of the worldview of a European military officer who survived the cataclysm of the Napoleonic wars. I finished Book I. firmly convinced of Clausewitz’s genuine greatness as a philosopher but remain unconvinced that that he has discovered the eternal nature of war in all it’s varied manifestations – I am also deeply skeptical that such a thing could even be possible

Read the rest here.

The quality of the posts at The Clausewitz Roundtable has been outstanding, as have the comments.  Every participant has taught me something, some more than once or posed questions that stretched my mind. Here are the recent editions and their authors:

josephfouche Clausewitz, On War, Book I: War is a Buffet. Eat Up. and Clausewitz, On War, Book I: Defense

Jay ManifoldClausewitz, On War, Book 1: War as a Single Short Blow

Sam LilesClausewitz, On War, Book 1: Into a cavern to find the darkness of cyber space

Tim StevensClausewitz, On War, Book 1, Chapter 1: the Paradoxical Trinity

Lexington GreenClausewitz, On War, Book 1, Chapter 3: Response to Capt. Lauterbach on Clausewitz on Military Genius and Clausewitz, On War, Introductory Matter: Empiricism, Clarity of Expression, Patterns not Systems, Utility

seydlitz89Clausewitz, On War, Book 1 – My introduction, and comments on Chapter 1 and Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: Dialectic, but which dialectic?

Cheryl RoferClausewitz, On War, Book 1: Clausewitz and Herman Kahn and Clausewitz, On War, Introductory Material: Cordesman Asks the Question

Nathaniel T. LauterbachClausewitz, On War, Book 1: Clausewitz on Military Genius

Younghusband –  Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: On Wrestling and Clausewitz, On War, Book I: Solving for War

KotareClausewitz “On War”, Book 1: such a dangerous business and Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 1: it all seems so simple

Shane DeichmanClausewitz, On War, Book I: Art with Science

Critt Jarvis – Clausewitz, On War, Introductory Matter: “Hello World!” and Clausewitz, On War, Book I: What Is War?

JonathanA Note to Readers and Participants in the Clausewitz Roundtable

The Clausewitz Roundtable: Lexington Green’s Introduction

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

The Roundtable has begun.

Lexington Green  – Clausewitz, On War, Introductory Matter: Empiricism, Clarity of Expression, Patterns not Systems, Utility

….And as we look around for some organizing framework, some intellectual bins and buckets, at least, to sort all this material out, we look for a reliable guide, a respected instructor. And we keep seeing the same name come up: Clausewitz.

Many writers refer to him, and many current ones seem determined to rebut or claim to have surpassed Clausewitz. But it is always Clausewitz who is “the guy to beat”. His sole challenger is Sun Tzu, at least in the last generation or so. But despite the current vogue for the Chinese sage, which I cannot vouch for, but will assume to be merited, Sun Tzu has not been so woven into the military mind and thought of the Western world nearly so deeply or for so long, as Clausewitz has. In a century, it may be different, but for now, the foremost military thinker of our civilization is and remains Clausewitz.

This predominance is recognized, if sometimes resented, but is balanced by the claim that everyone talks about him, and many quote from him, but few actually ever read Clausewitz. Hence, the “Clausewitz” who is spoken of by his proponents as well as his detractors may only be a cardboard cutout, a bullet-point power point slide of sound bites, at best a Cliff Notes version of the man and his book.

This blog was founded by people who went to college at the University of Chicago. Part of the ethos at the U of C was to read original documents, in translation if necessary, but to get as close to the historical sources as you could, to take these old books seriously, to accept as a rebuttable presumption that they became classics because they had some enduring insight to convey, to see for yourself what these people said, and what they claimed they were doing, and what they professed to believe. Hence, ChicagoBoyz is a good forum for a group of people who are doing just that with the “classic”, On War. We are letting Clausewitz speak for himself.

Read the rest here.

The Clausewitz Roundtable: Our Participants

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

 Sunday begins The Clausewitz Roundtable hosted at Chicago Boyz, starting with commentary on “Book I.” from On War (Oxford World’s Classics) by Carl von Clausewitz. We have a distinguished list of participants and I am going to crib from the latest post of our host, Lexington Green:


Mathew Borton is a Graduate student of technology at Purdue University Calumet, studying rules of engagement and law of war as they pertain to cyber-warfare. He served with 3d Marines in the late 90s before returning to the civilian world and a variety of technical consulting jobs. Mathew has a strong interest in all things geek as well as a mild addiction to military history and science.

Shane Deichman has spent nearly two decades in the national security field as both a scientist and a manager. He is a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, where he was first introduced to “On War”. He spent four years in the Fleet Marine Force as a science and technology advisor. He founded his own company in 2008 (EMC2 LLC, a consulting company focused on emergency management and disaster preparedness). He blogs at Wizards of Oz, Dreaming 5GW, Antilibrary and ChicagoBoyz.

“Fester” is a paper-thin pseudonym. He graduated with a masters in public policy with a strong focus on urban economics and policy analysis. He is interested and fascinating by boundary condition problems and non-traditional analytical approaches, although he worries about the ‘gnossis’ effect of this approach on my thought process. “Counter-insurgency can often be conceptualized as decentralized neighborhood development” is a great beer bash discussion starter. Fester blogs at Newshoggers.

“josephfouche” is a software engineer and system administrator slaving away for a technology startup somewhere in flyover country. He’s been reading military history since age nine and talking about it since his fourth grade teacher, asking a pro forma question, inquired if any student in the class knew anything about the Crimean War. (She got more than she bargained for.) He blogs at The Committee of Public Safety, a group blog dedicated to understanding the subtle interplay of human nature, culture, war, and power.

“Lexington Green” is a lawyer in Chicago. Lex blogs at ChicagoBoyz and Antilibrary. Lex graduated with an overall GPA of 2.9 from the University of Chicago. He has been reading military history his entire life.

“Historyguy99? is a historian, and U.S. Army veteran of the war in Vietnam. After having a 30 year career in global logistics, he earned an advanced degree in history and began to teach. Currently he is an adjunct history professor with the University of Phoenix and Axia College. He blogs as historyguy99 and hosts HG’s World, a blog devoted to history, connectivity, and commentary. He is a co-author of soon to be published, Activist Women of the American West and contributing author to The John Boyd Roundtable.

Critt Jarvis is a former U.S. Army medic (91B), airborne, Korean/Russian linguist (98G), with tactical and strategic assignments in Korea (Det L) and the former East Germany (Field Station Berlin.) Today, a social media platform and communications expert, he is best known publicly for helping NYTimes best-selling author Thomas PM Barnett establish his personal brand as an international thought leader in the field of national security. Now 59, founder of Conversation Base LLC, he works quietly in the background, reducing cost opportunity and general friction for innovative entrepreneurs. Critt blogs at crittjarvis.com, scans Twitter, and has a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. His personal goal for 2009 is to establish a physical presence in Basra, Iraq, and initiate a conversation that might “educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives.”

“Kotare” is a New Zealander with interests in global affairs, outdoor pursuits, reading, and single malt whisky. As a government official he has worked in the national security and nation-building fields. He blogs at The Strategist and is a contributor to Antilibrary.

Nathaniel T. Lauterbach is a Captain of Marines. He fought in Afghanistan in 2004, and in Iraq in 2005-6, each time deploying with the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit. While on deployment he was responsible for air support operations. He has led three platoons, filled several staff assignments, and served as a detachment commander. In 2006 he was selected by the Field Accession Board to transfer from a ground officer’s MOS to aviation. After completing Naval Flight Training he was designated a Naval Aviator, and is currently flying the UH-1Y Huey. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is an avid reader of all things military. Nathaniel is married and lives in southern California.

Samuel Liles is a tenured associate professor at Purdue University Calumet, and he is currently attending Purdue University (West Lafayette) as a PhD student. Samuel started his career in the Army National Guard, was inter-service transferred to the Marine Corps, and has worked in two different sheriff department correction divisions. In 1993 he left law enforcement and embarked on a consulting career in information technology and started up the ladder of academia. Samuel is interested in the spectrum of information operations and how cyber warfare realistically impacts the broader scope of conflict. Samuel blogs at Selil blog.

Jay Manifold attended the University of Chicago as a physics major in the late ’70s and became a co-blogger at ChicagoBoyz after attending a blogbash in November of ‘03. His relevant interests are complex adaptive systems, organizational behavior, and risk management; his irrelevant but often predominant interest is amateur astronomy. He is a board member-at-large of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City and a keyholder at Powell Observatory; an alarmingly active member of Covenant Chapel Evangelical Presbyterian Church; and an alarmingly inactive member of the Project Management Institute. He feigns productivity as an IT project manager at an unnamed but easily guessed telecommunications company and resides in Kansas City, Missouri. Jay blogs at A Voyage to Arcturus and ChicagoBoyz.

“Carl Ortona” received his BA from the University of Chicago (still a point of pride) and his PhD from the University of Toronto (including a year in Germany at LMU in Munich). Both degrees were in political science with an emphasis on political philosophy. He has since taught at several universities in Canada as well as in Louisiana. Much to his chagrin and surprise as a stern, joyless Midwesterner, he has found living in the ‘Deep South’ to be pleasant and enjoyable. He is excited about the prospect of re-acquainting himself with (to quote Mark Twain) “the awful German language” and Clausewitz.

William F. Owen is a former British Army. Middle East Editor for the Shepard Group, and military theorist. He is a Clausewitz adherent, and a Liddel-Hart, Sun-Tzu, Boyd, MW and EBO sceptic. He posts on Small War Council.

Jay Parker is a project coordinator who lives in and works from Vermont. His interests include foreign policy, politics, history and generally theorizing about the state of global affairs. He blogs at Soob, Dreaming 5GW and Antilibrary.

“PurpleSlog” lives in the Milwaukee area. He has interests in pop culture, economics, Information technology, information security, national security issues and US public policy (though he does not blog about them all equally). Purpleslog says: “To put it the Ann Althouse way, I am an IT guy and sometimes I blog about IT.” He blogs at PurpleSlog and Dreaming 5GW.

Chris Rasmussen is a social software knowledge manager and trainer within the US Intelligence Community (IC). Chris says “I may be a ‘tech guy’ during the day now, but my educational background is History and National Security Studies. I want to balance social science back into my life.” See this and this about Chris.

Cheryl Rofer’s career has moved from the hard sciences to the social sciences, the hard sciences informing her analysis of international relations. With an A.B. from Ripon College and an M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley, both in chemistry, she has worked on the nuclear fuel cycle, fossil fuels, lasers, technologies for destruction of hazardous wastes and decommissioning of nuclear weapons, and management of environmental cleanups from New Mexico to Estonia and Kazakhstan. Her travels have taken her to both countries, and she is learning Estonian. She blogs at WhirledView

Mark Safranski, holds an MA in diplomatic history and is a teacher, educational consultant and an adviser to a privately held internet platform company, Conversationbase, LLC. He was the editor of The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War, published by Nimble Books as well as having been a contributor to Nimble’s soon to be released, Threats in the Age of Obama. Mark blogs at Zenpundit. Mark can also be found at several well-regarded group blogs including, ChicagoBoyz, Progressive Historians and at a U.K. academic site, The Complex Terrain Laboratory. Mark is a free-lance contributor to Pajamas Media.

“Seydlitz89” is an American male over 50. He is a former Marine Corps officer and US Army intelligence officer who served in a civilian capacity in Berlin during the last decade of the Cold War. He was involved as both an intelligence operations specialist and an operations officer in strategic overt humint collection. This experience sparked his serious interest in strategic theory. He is now involved in education. He has published two papers on Clausewitzian strategic theory, both at the DNI website. He is also involved in the theoretical application and case studying of Clausewitzian strategic theory and Max Weber’s social action theory to education. He will be presenting at a conference in Cardiff Wales, UK in March of 2009. He is interested in the many connetions between not only Clausewitz and Weber, but also between Clausewitz and Svechin. He attended the Clausewitz conference at Oxford in 2005.

Tim Stevens is a postgraduate student in War Studies at King’s College London, researching strategic aspects of information environments. Aside from studying, and his day job at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation & Political Violence, he helps run the Insurgency Research Group, is managing editor at the Complex Terrain Laboratory, and writes his own moderately unsuccessful blog, Ubiwar. He’s old enough to know better but young enough to still say “yes”.

Aled Roberts Tien is a graduate of the University of Chicago in economics. He has been working and living in Asia (HK, China and Singapore) for the past 14 years in the high technology sector. He has always been interested in the history and politics of war.

“Sir Francis Younghusband” is a contributor to the current affairs group blog ComingAnarchy.com. Since accepting that assignment in 2004, he has gotten altitude sickness in the Pamir Plateau, suffered through gastrointestinitis in the Tonle Sap basin, been subjected to “exploding” chicken in Chinese Turkestan, wandered lost and moneyless through Shiraz, and most recently obtained a master’s degree in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. Younghusband currently lives in Japan and is preparing diligently for his next adventure

Join us at Chicago Boyz tomorrow!

The Clausewitz Roundtable Cometh….

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Lexington Green released yesterday the list of participants in the January Clausewitz Roundtable at Chicago Boyz, along with their bios. It is a very strong group of scholars, practitioners, theorists and bloggers ( I will add the appropriate site links to contributors on Wednesday – the hour is late):

Clausewitz Roundtable: List of Contributors

Shane Deichman


“Lexington Green”


Critt Jarvis


Capt. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach, USMC

Samuel Liles

Jay Manifold

“Carl Ortona”

William F. Owen


Chris Rasmussen



Tim Stevens

Aled Roberts Tien


Mathew Borton

The rules and schedule of the roundtable as set down by Lex are as follows:

Clausewitz Roundtable: Schedule and Marching Orders

Book I, week of January 11, 2009.
Book II, week of January 18, 2009.
Book III, week of January 25, 2009.
Book IV, week of February 1, 2009.
Book V, week of February 8, 2009.
Book VI, week of February 15, 2009.
Book VII, week of February 22, 2009.
Book VIII, week of March 1, 2009.
Concluding comments and analysis, week of March 8, 2009.

Each “Book” above refers to one of the eight “Books” into which On War is divided.

I gave the roundtable participants, who were announced yesterday, their marching orders today. They are reproduced below the fold.


Purpose of the roundtable: The overall goal is for each participant to read On War and to learn something from it, and to convey what he has learned in an interesting and engaging and informative way to the other participants and to our readers. Everything else is to flow from that goal and to be consistent with that goal.

1. Each participant shall read the book.

2. Each participant shall post his thoughts, comments, analysis, and impressions of the book, including its relevance and application today and in the future. The general thrust is to engage the text of the book, to “meet Clausewitz” and then for each participant to communicate what he has learned in that meeting. Application of Clausewitz’s views, as conveyed in On War, to current and future issues of strategy, warfare, politics or any other pertinent subject, is encouraged.

3. There is no absolute prohibition on discussing context, other writers’ views, the history of Clausewitz’s influence, etc. However, the focus should be the text. Each participant shall use his discretion in this regard.

4. The schedule for the roundtable is as stated above. There is no ironclad requirement that each person post each and every week. Nor is there a requirement that each participant only post once per week. However, one post, per week, on the Book which is scheduled for that week, is the guideline. Again, each participant shall exercise discretion in this regard.

I will put up an announcement a few days prior to January 11, 2009. Then from midnight on that date, everyone is free to post per the above schedule.

If other personal or professional commitments come up, that is understood and excused in advance.

If a participant wants to put up some short post pertaining to the roundtable, prior to the formal beginning date, I leave that to each person’s discretion, but request that no one “jump the gun” with any substantive post prior to the first week.

5. Each participant should feel free to respond to issues raised by other participants in their posts, leave comments on posts, crosspost on their own blogs, or otherwise engage in “lateral” dialogue about the book. Such lateral engagement is encouraged. Disagreement and argument of a civil and productive nature is also encouraged.

6. Mechanics. Each post shall have a title “Clausewitz, On War, Book __:” then the title the participant is using for the specific post, after the colon. This will help everyone keep track of where each participant is in the book. Each post shall be labelled with the category “Clausewitz Roundtable”.

Those are your marching orders.

I believe these instructions give everyone scope for creativity, within a consistent framework.

The Coming of the Clausewitz Roundtable

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

At Chicago Boyz.

I am pleased to announce that in January, 2009 Chicagoboyz will begin hosting a roundtable discussion of the classic work of military theory, On War by Carl von Clausewitz.

I will be participating, as will a robust group of bloggers, scholars and military practitioners.

Join us.

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