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034 Carl von Clausewitz: On War

A treatise on military strategy exploring the nature of war, its tactics and strategies, and the role of the military in society.

Carl von Clausewitz: On War


On War is considered one of the most influential works on military strategy ever written. It provides a comprehensive analysis of war and its dynamics, from its political and social context to its psychological and physical components. Clausewitz argues that war is a political instrument, that its nature is constantly evolving, and that its outcome depends on a complex interplay of factors, including the military, political, and social elements of a society. The book is not only relevant to military leaders and historians but also to anyone interested in the nature of conflict and power.


Title: On War

Author: Carl von Clausewitz

Publishing year: 2021

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Length in hours: 31 hours and 10 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. War is a political instrument: Clausewitz argues that war is a tool used to achieve political objectives. He contends that the purpose of war is to impose one's will on the enemy and to force them to accept one's own terms.
  2. The trinity of war: Clausewitz's concept of the "trinity of war" consists of three elements: the people, the military, and the government. These three elements interact in a complex way and influence the outcome of a conflict.
  3. The fog of war: Clausewitz recognized that war is inherently uncertain and chaotic. He coined the term "fog of war" to describe the difficulty of making accurate decisions in the midst of battle.
  4. The importance of military genius: Clausewitz believed that military success depended on the quality of military leadership. He argued that great military leaders possessed a combination of innate talent, experience, and a deep understanding of military strategy.
  5. The role of war in society: Clausewitz recognized that war had a profound impact on society. He believed that the relationship between war and society was complex and dynamic and that the outcome of a conflict depended on factors such as the morale of the troops, public opinion, and the economic resources of a nation.
Carl von Clausewitz: On War

5 funny quotes

  1. "The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy."
  2. "One has only to look at the weather, in which no two moments are alike, to realize that our sense of temporal continuity is but a convenient fiction."
  3. "The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which, like the effect of a fog or moonlight, can cause things to appear different from what they really are."
  4. "Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat."
  5. "The side that is compelled to defend one point loses the power of anticipating other possibilities, and is generally beaten."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The best strategy is always to be very strong; first in general, then at the decisive point."
  2. "War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means."
  3. "War is not merely a political act, but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means."
  4. "Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult."
  5. "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

5 dilemmas

  1. The balance between the use of force and diplomacy in warfare.
  2. The decision-making process in warfare, including the role of leaders and the importance of strategy.
  3. The ethical implications of warfare, including the use of weapons and the treatment of prisoners.
  4. The impact of technology on warfare and how it has changed over time.
  5. The role of propaganda in shaping public opinion during wartime.

5 examples

  1. The Napoleonic Wars
  2. The Thirty Years' War
  3. The American Civil War
  4. The Boer War
  5. The Gulf War

Referenced books

  1. "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu
  2. "The Prince" by Niccolò Machiavelli
  3. "The Peloponnesian War" by Thucydides

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"The best strategy is always to be very strong; first in general, then at the decisive point."

Carl von Clausewitz: On War
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