Clausewitz has been referred to by many as a true visionary in regards to strategy and warfare. One of Clausewitz’s goals was to create some sort of sound theory that would not only be relevant to the current time period, but would also be a source of reference for years to come. Though Clausewitz’s succeeded in providing an overarching concept of warfare and strategy, many feel that his ideas are no longer as relevant in regards to current engagements as they have in the past.
Clausewitz had this idea of the “dual nature of war”. Clausewitz felt the two main elements of war were absolute war and limited war. These two concepts could also be likened to total and real war respectively. Absolute war was considered to be the limitless form of war in which there was no external influence. War was “an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force.” Clausewitz concluded that if there were no limitations ...view middle of the document...
These wars were considered to be limited wars.
To further expound on these limitations, Clausewitz went in depth on how politics played a role in how the military was used. Clausewitz stated that “war is merely the continuation of policy by other means.” This meant that the military was just a tool used by the government to satisfy its political goal. The military did not act independently. There had to be some underlying political reason for the use of military force. All of these limiting elements led Clausewitz to develop his idea of the “trinity”. These were pillars of violence, chance, and politics that formed a triangular model on which war was analyzed. The violence is in reference to the people; the chance is in reference to the military; and the politics is in reference to the government. The people must have a general will to fight, the military must be able to command them, and the government acted as voice of reason. All three must be present and support each other in order for the war to sustained and justifiable. The fog of war was another limiting factor the Clausewitz wrote about. This fog, or friction, referred to “uncertainties, errors, accidents, technical difficulties, the unforeseen and their effect on decisions, morale, and actions…”
To this day the US government has yet to reach the point of absolute war. However, one can argue that during the Cold War the US and Soviet Union did come very close. The nuclear threat was the pinnacle and a simple push of a button could have completely annihilated one or the other thus resulting in absolute war. While Clausewitz’s theories have lasted throughout history, there are many factors that were not present during Clausewitz’s era that drastically affect decisions today. Many wars aren’t fought against a physical enemy. In regards to the war on terror, we weren’t just fighting people. We were fighting an ideology. The same was true with attempting to stop the spread of communism. Clausewitz’s theories should be revised in order to accurately apply them to current models. Clausewitz’s himself stated that “flowers of theory must be pruned and the plant kept close to its proper soil—experience.”