Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War

Overview

This first paperback edition of Jon Sumida's innovative study includes a new preface that resolves an apparent contradiction in Clausewitz's approach to theory and a new appendix that addresses the concept of "absolute war."

For nearly two centuries, On War, by Carl Phillip Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831), has been the bible for statesmen and military professionals, strategists, theorists, and historians concerned about armed conflict. The source of the famous aphorism that...

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Overview

This first paperback edition of Jon Sumida's innovative study includes a new preface that resolves an apparent contradiction in Clausewitz's approach to theory and a new appendix that addresses the concept of "absolute war."

For nearly two centuries, On War, by Carl Phillip Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831), has been the bible for statesmen and military professionals, strategists, theorists, and historians concerned about armed conflict. The source of the famous aphorism that "war is an extension of politics by other means," it has been widely read and debated. But, as Jon Sumida shows in this daring new look at Clausewitz's magnum opus, its full meaning has eluded most readers—until now.

Approaching Clausewitz's classic as if it were an encoded text, Sumida deciphers this cryptic masterwork and offers a more productive way of looking at the sources and evolution of its author's thought. Sumida argues that On War should be viewed as far more complete and coherent than has been supposed. Moreover, he challenges the notion that On War is an attempt to explain the nature of armed conflict through the formulation of abstract theories.

Clausewitz's primary concern, Sumida contends, was practical instruction of the military and political leadership of his country. To achieve this end, Clausewitz invented a method of reenacting the psychological difficulties of high command in order to promote the powers of intuition that he believed were essential to effective strategic decision-making. In addition, Sumida argues that Clausewitz's primary strategic proposition is that the defense is a stronger form of war than the offense. This concept, Sumida maintains, must be understood in order to make sense of Clausewitz's positions on absolute and real war, guerrilla warfare, and the relationship of war and policy/politics.

Sumida's pathbreaking critique is supported by examination of the Prussian officer's experience during the Napoleonic Wars, previous major theoretical and historical scholarship on Clausewitz and his writing, and modern philosophical and scientific works that have much in common with Clausewitz's creative guide to the consideration of strategic practice.

A major study of intellectual and military history, Sumida's book provides a provocative and above all readily comprehensible treatment of a previously inaccessible classic. It will surely become essential reading for all military professionals and serious students of military thought. This book is part of the Modern War Studies series.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
An insightful and practical book—both for Clausewitz veterans and those who have not yet discovered On War's hidden treasures.
Journal of Modern History
This book demands a wide readership, for it exhibits the intellectual adventurousness that is the hallmark of Sumida's scholarship.
Marine Corps Gazette
A new must-read for national strategists and anyone who strives to be a serious student of war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618194
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 8/3/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 942,497
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Tetsuro Sumida is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland and author of Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered and In Defense of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914. He served as chair of the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee from 2003 to 2006, and as Major General Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University from 2004 to 2006.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Theorists 9

Dismissal: Antoine Henri Jomini 10

Advocacy: Julian Corbett 17

Repudiation: Basil Liddell Hart 25

2 Scholars 36

Text: Raymond Aron 37

Context: Peter Paret 50

Method: W. B. Gallie 64

3 Antecedents and Anticipations 78

Historical Analysis 80

Philosophical Invention 94

Scientific Perspective 112

4 Imagining High Command and Defining Strategic Choice 121

Absolute War and Genius 121

History and Theory 135

Defense and Attack 153

Conclusions 176

Appendix 1 A Pictorial Representation of Critical Analysis 195

Appendix 2 Bach's St. Matthew Passion as a Model for Critical Analysis 197

Notes 199

Bibliography 213

Index Jon Tetsuro Sumida is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland 225

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