Carl von Clausewitz | VikingLifeBlog

Theory of war

Clausewitz was a professional combat soldier who was involved in numerous military campaigns, but he is famous primarily as a military theorist interested in the examination of war, utilising the campaigns of Frederick the Great and Napoleon as frames of reference for his work. He wrote a careful, systematic, philosophical examination of war in all its aspects. The result was his principal book, On War, a major work on the philosophy of war. It was unfinished when Clausewitz died and contains material written at different stages in his intellectual evolution, producing some significant contradictions between different sections. The sequence and precise character of that evolution is a source of much debate as to the exact meaning behind some seemingly contradictory observations in discussions pertinent to the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, for example (though many of these apparent contradictions are simply the result of his dialectical method). Clausewitz constantly sought to revise the text, particularly between 1827 and his departure on his last field assignments, to include more material on “people’s war” and forms of war other than high-intensity warfare between states, but relatively little of this material was included in the book. Soldiers before this time had written treatises on various military subjects, but none had undertaken a great philosophical examination of war on the scale of those written by Clausewitz and Leo Tolstoy, both of whom were inspired by the events of the Napoleonic Era.