University of Illinois Press director Willis G. Regier writes about German-Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, and the influential tome On War, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

With protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American and British readers have found On War to be a touchstone for discussions about tactics, strategy, war aims, and definitions of “victory.” What might Clausewitz help us understand? David H. Petraeus and James F. Amos’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual—the book that framed the change of U.S. strategy in Iraq—quotes Clausewitz: “The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.” “The first, the supreme”: That’s Clausewitz.

 

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