Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clausewitz- A book review in at least two parts...

OK, through book one and now for some actual review-y type things.

First off, this guy really seems to know his stuff.  The version that I purchased was compiled by several historians (although none of them particularly military) and they included, in the introduction, a timeline of his life. The man served in at least 3 different armies, fought both alongside and against Napoleon Bonaparte, and was an officer for most of his 53 years. He joined the army of Prussia at the age of 12. So, yeah, experience is a big 'check.'

In point of fact, I am also not a military man. There was a time when I strongly considered service, but in the end, I went a different direction. Many of my friends and family members, however, have undertaken military service, so I do have their experience to draw from.That being said, most of the military people I know are/were enlisted men, not officers and certainly not commanders, so much of the wisdom Clausewitz imparts I have little context for. This is not to say it is not valuable information, and indeed his wisdom has given me a curiously different insight on the current prosecution of our various wars.

I have finished Book One, which was the most thoroughly reviewed and edited book the author was able to produce. It is clear from the various introductions, and from the author's notes, that he intended to continue to revise the later works, as well, but his life and career were ended by illness at what we could consider (even for the time) a rather young age. Book One explores the Idea of War; that is to say Why we go to war, What its use and purpose is, and What it means to fight a war. He begins to lay out his theories regarding the major purposes of war and of what traits make a good, or even great, commander. His comments regarding the 'Friction' of war were of particular interest to me, as he makes it quite clear that it would be folly to disregard the individuals that make up your command. This struck me as distinct, especially given the propensity for historians to regard wars as games of chess, or statistical features.

Cross-application- This one can be a little hazy, but I believe many of the concepts he espouses, although he prefaces them as features of war and combat, can also apply to business and personal life. The portions regarding the relationship between both allies and enemies is particularly of interest in the business world. While a large part of the book thus far deals with features found in war that are not found elsewhere, there remain many worthwhile concepts here to explore.

In Conclusion, Carl von Clausewitz begins to lay out the foundations of his epic work- Why and how war is prosecuted and what it takes to win one.

So far, going very well- stylewise, this is not a fast read, as many of the comments and ideas require one to stop and ruminate. Take extra time to read it.

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