H106 Notes, Clausewitz

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  • Topic: War, Carl von Clausewitz, Violence
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H106 Notes Essay material

Clausewitz proposed that "war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means (On War, p. 87).” The aim of war is to overcome or disarm the enemy and “there is no logical limit to the application of that force (On War, p. 77).” War is “a clash of forces freely operating and obedient to no law but their own (On War, p. 77).”

When whole communities go to war—whole peoples, and especially civilized peoples—the reason always lies in some political situation, and the occasion is always due to some political object. War, therefore, is an act of policy (On War, pp. 86 – 87).  Force—that is, physical force, for moral force has no existence save as expressed in the state and the law—is thus the means of war; to impose our will on the enemy is its object. To secure that object we must render the enemy powerless; and that, in theory, is the true aim of warfare (On War, p. 75).

Maximum Use of Force
Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst. The maximum use of force is in no way incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect…. War is an act of force, there is no logical limit to the application of force [bold added].

Ideal Conditions for the Absolute War
1. War is a wholly isolated act, occurring suddenly and not produced by previous events in the political world; 2. War is a single decisive act or a set of simultaneous ones; and 3. The decision achieved is complete and perfect in itself, uninfluenced by any previous estimate of the political situation it would bring about.

According to Clausewitz, wars between civilized nations are far less...
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