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This article appeared originally in War and History, v.1, no.3 (November 1994). It is displayed here with the permission of War in History and its publisher, Edward Arnold. Copyright Edward Arnold, 1994. All rights reserved. Cite as: Christopher Bassford, "John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz," War in History, November 1994, pp.319-336, http:// www.clausewitz.com/mobile/keegandelenda.htm.
Other Discussions of Keegan and Clausewitz
Rather like Cato the Elder, ending every speech with his famous "delenda est Carthago," the British historian cum journalist Basil Liddell Hart (1895-1970) routinely included in his many publications a ringing denunciation of the Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz. He occasionally deviated from this practice, e.g., after some authoritative figure like Spenser Wilkinson had publicly pointed out the many errors, inconsistencies, and blatant contradictions which Liddell Hart's discussion on this subject always contained.*1 After World War II's opening events failed to match his rather strident prognostications, Liddell Hart was even apt to invoke the German philosopher's ideas in defense of his own. As he painfully rebuilt his reputation after the war, however, he returned to his old habits (often word-for-word) even though—as his personal correspondence reveals—his privately held view of Clausewitz was a great deal more complex and positive.
And Liddell Hart's sustained attacks bore fruit. For well over a generation, Clausewitz's reputation in the West was the one that Liddell Hart had conjured up: the "Mahdi of Mass," the "apostle of total war," the "evil genius of military thought," the man whose "gospel" had been "accepted everywhere as true" and was directly responsible for the pointless carnage of the First World War. Reading Liddell Hart's own famous introduction to the subject of limited war (1946),*2 it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that his misrepresentation of Clausewitz was deliberate, since he borrowed the term and the concept from the Prussian but referred to him, yet again, only as a proponent of the total variety.*3
That Liddell Hart's published treatment of Clausewitz was nonsense is not difficult to demonstrate, but his legacy was hard to overcome. Gradually and painfully, beginning in the 1950s with writers like Samuel Huntington and Henry Kissinger,*4 the truth about Clausewitz's ideas and their historical role has been resurrected. In the last two decades, in a process spearheaded by scholars like Sir Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Clausewitz's theories and concepts have come, in one form or another, to permeate Anglo-American military writing, theoretical, doctrinal, and historical.
It has in fact become difficult to find a recent book on any military subject that does not make some, usually positive, reference to the philosopher. "Clausewitzian analyses" of this and that military problem are omnipresent (if not necessarily very Clausewitzian). Clausewitz's concepts underlie the most authoritative discussions of America's "lessons learned" from the Vietnam debacle (Harry Summers's On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War and the Weinberger Doctrine).*5 Indeed, Clausewitz has come to dominate the official American military doctrinal debate: On War*6 was adopted as a key text at the Naval War College in 1976, the Air War College in 1978, and the Army War College in 1981. It has always been central at the U.S. Army's School for Advanced Military Studies at Leavenworth (founded in 1983). The U.S. Marine Corps's brilliant little philosophical field manual, FMFM 1: Warfighting (1989), is essentially a distillation (heavily flavored by Sun Tzu).*7
Now, along comes John Keegan (1934- ), British historian cum journalist, to turn back the clock. Keegan's Clausewitz, heavily discussed in the author's widely reviewed A History of Warfare (1993),*8 is a narrow-minded regimental officer who typifies the Frederician tradition of Cadavergehorsam, unthinking obedience to savage discipline. He is the brutal philosopher of pitiless, aggressive, total war; an "unpromoted" and "unhonoured"*9 but self-seeking sucker-up to authority (and simultaneously a traitorous dog who willfully disobeyed his rightful monarch) whose career was blighted by his own extremism; a saber-rattling Prussian militarist who worshipped Napoleon and understood warfare only through the Napoleonic lens; the intellectual cause of the pan-European disaster of World War I;*10 and a theorist whose ideas are obsolete, irrelevant, and actively dangerous. Clausewitz even seems to have done in the poor Easter Islanders and inspired Shaka Zulu and the Mongols.
This seems rather an odd introduction to the shy, retiring Clausewitz, a man of bourgeois social origins who nonetheless died, young at 51, as a respected general in the Prussian service; who spent his free time going to lectures on art, science, education, and philosophy; who suffered political isolation for advocating the British parliamentary constitutional model in Prussia and for lauding the virtues of citizen soldiers over mindless Prussian discipline; who risked his career by resigning his Prussian commission in principled protest over the aggressive alliance with Napoleon in 1812;*11 who maintained that conquerors like the French emperor would—and should—be defeated by the European balance of power mechanism; whose arguments on limited war and the superior power of the defense were roundly condemned by most European military writers on the eve of the Great War; and whose works, since the debacle in Vietnam, have provided much of the intellectual basis for advanced officer education in America's resurgent military institutions.
One would hope that Keegan's military-intellectual atavism would receive the short shrift it deserves. Unfortunately, the history of Clausewitz's reception over the past century and a half argues otherwise. Although Clausewitz insisted that defense is the stronger form of war, it is the attacker who has the easier job when it comes to assassinating ideas. Most readers (and that includes, unfortunately, many professional writers on military affairs and military history) take their understanding of Clausewitz from secondary and tertiary works like Keegan's. The signs of confusion stemming from Keegan's treatment are already evident. As one example, Keegan's reviewer in The Economist provided its readers with what is probably the first new misinterpretation of Clausewitz in forty years: "Clausewitz defined two kinds of war; those run by states with proper armies under full command, and the murderous pell-mell struggles waged in his day by Cossacks, and nowadays by, say, Serbians."*12 This lame analysis will soon, no doubt, be appearing in the textbooks.*13
Were Keegan's disparagement of Clausewitz merely idle straw-man demolition or absent-minded sniping, as many attacks on Clausewitz are, we could write off his misrepresentations as mere ignorance. The discussion in A History of Warfare, however, is a sustained assault both on Clausewitzian theory and on those who promulgate it, and Keegan has made that assault (quite unnecessarily, I think) a central aspect of his own argument. Presumably, therefore, Keegan has made some effort to understand the ideas he attacks so vociferously. In this, he has clearly failed.
I am intrigued by two questions. The first is: Insofar as Keegan's treatment represents an intellectual failure, what is it, exactly, that he has failed to understand?
Keegan's treatment represents something more, however, than an intellectual failure. More, that is, than a mere inability to comprehend Clausewitz's arguments. Keegan is, after all, a very bright and creative fellow, and an accomplished writer. The three core chapters of his 1976 book, The Face of Battle, constitute one of the glories of English-language military historical literature. And, for those who actually read On War, Clausewitz is not all that difficult to fathom. Three minutes thought is usually sufficient to clarify any one of Clausewitz's many interesting propositions. Unfortunately, as A.E. Housman once said, "thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time." It seems painfully apparent that, at root, Keegan's problem with Clausewitz stems from irrational sources. There is no logical thought process that could account for Keegan's simultaneous arguments that, first, On War's ideas have thoroughly determined the Western way of war and, second, that no real soldiers (at least, none "of the thousands ... I have known")*14 have been able to make any sense or use of its arguments. (This paradox is demonstrably wrong on both counts.) One must ask how, precisely, did Clausewitz's efforts to subordinate war to rational policy teach the world that "those who make war an end in itself are likely to be more successful than those who seek to moderate its character for political purposes"?*15 No, Keegan is less unable than simply unwilling to grasp the ideas of On War. So my second question, inevitably a speculative venture, is Why?
The remainder of this article, therefore, will use Keegan's intellectual errors as a vehicle for exploring the true meaning of Clausewitz's work. It will conclude with some speculations as to why a bright fellow like Keegan might feel driven to make and defend such errors.
* * * *
Keegan's A History of Warfare argues, in essence, that war is a cultural rather than a political activity. Warfare clearly is not a rational pursuit, since it does so much more harm than good even to the victors; it "is wholly unlike politics because it must be fought by men whose values and skills are not those of politicians and diplomats."*16 Instead, most human warfare has been a matter of symbolic ritual—with no political purpose—in which the values of particular cultures are expressed. He draws much of his inspiration for this view from the unique culture and "tribalism" of the British regimental system with which he is so intimately familiar. It was the Europeans, once they had been informed by Clausewitz that war should be "a continuation of policy," who introduced politics into it and thereby did in Western civilization—after first doing in just about everybody else. No pacifist, Keegan argues that the contemporary armies of the developed world have a continuing mission to bring peace and order to the world. Nonetheless, warfare is now on its way out: "Little by little,... recognition of the horror is gaining ground," an argument that could have been written—and was—at a great many points in human history.*17
While there is much of interest in the book, its arguments are fatally self-contradictory. One is forced to agree with Michael Howard that "much of what [Keegan] does say is ... profoundly mistaken."*18 Nonetheless, except insofar as it is interwoven with his assault on Clausewitz and his henchmen, Keegan's general argument is not the focus here. Concerning the narrower topic of Clausewitz, much of Keegan's deviltry is in the details, but this article shall seek out the most fundamental errors.
* * * *
There are essentially two ways to read Clausewitz. The first is to pore through the pages of On War looking for practical hints and military prescriptions. These are certainly present, despite Clausewitz's insistence that fundamental theory must be descriptive, not prescriptive.*19 After all, Clausewitz was a man of his time: He had real-world political and military concerns, a need to provide contemporary illustrations for his theories, and the requirement to refute competing theorists of his own day. Thus, one can read On War and emerge intellectually prepared to fight the wars of Clausewitz's own youth and middle age. Or, understanding the context within which Clausewitz wrote, one can read to understand his underlying theory and analytical methods, seeking their applicability to one's own present-day problems and historical concerns.
Surely the second approach is more sensible in the case of a 160-year old book, and its utility explains why On War remains a living influence when most of its contemporaries are moldering on the shelf. In any case, that is the approach of modern Clausewitzians, and it is necessary to distinguish—as critics like Liddell Hart and Keegan generally have failed to do—between the ideas of the philosopher himself and those of his proponents in any given era.
Keegan takes a variation on the first approach: He has read On War (or some of it) for its 1820s-era prescriptions, then put a great deal of imagination into explaining why Clausewitz might have said such terrible things. Although he cites some of the most sophisticated modern analyses of Clausewitz's life and works (he quotes Paret's insightful books), he has failed to discern much of their meaning. Most of his interpretation derives from older and misleading secondary sources, particularly F.N. Maude's social Darwinist insertions into the 1908 English edition of On War and Liddell Hart's attacks, long since repudiated by other historians—and ineffectually condemned by Keegan himself.*20
Symptomatic of Keegan's misrepresentation of Clausewitz's argument is his treatment of the opening gambit in On War. He ignores or misreads the notorious complexities of Clausewitz's modeling of "absolute" war. Absolute war is an abstraction freed of the constraints of time, space, and human nature, a "logical fantasy" which does not and cannot occur in practice. "Real" war (that is, war as we actually experience it) is quite different. It occurs along a spectrum from the mere threat of force, through wars tightly limited in their scope by constraints of motive or resources, to conflicts which are unlimited in the sense that at least one of the antagonists is unwilling to accept any outcome other than the complete overthrow of his adversary.
Such niceties escape Keegan, who has chosen to fixate exclusively on what he calls Clausewitz's "ideology" of "true war." It is hard to account for the attention he pays to this term, since the phrase "true war" appears only three times in On War's hundreds of pages and only once—arguably twice—in the sense that Keegan uses it.*21 Apparently a vestigial survival from earlier conceptions, the term refers to the more intense spectrum of "real war" but has no noteworthy place in Clausewitz's mature theory. Its use does serve to indicate Clausewitz's care, writing in the 1820s, that the harsh lessons of the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon not be forgotten.*22 To write only of "true war" may be convenient for Keegan's purposes of vilification, but it is a good deal less meaningful even than the opposite tack taken by many modern political scientists, who tend to focus exclusively on the limited war component of Clausewitz's theories.*23 The fact is that Clausewitz described a spectrum of war that accommodates infinite variation. The flexibility of that approach is annoying to those who seek rigid rules and prescriptions, or easy targets, but it constitutes the only approach compatible with our historical experience of war.
Keegan's greatest error, however, lies in his naive and one-dimensional definition of the word politics and in a misconception common among the lay public—but surprising in a professional historian—concerning Clausewitz's most famous phrase, "war is merely the continuation of politics by other means." Keegan condemns Clausewitz's alleged argument that war is entirely a rational tool of rational state policy, an argument with which he is entirely right to disagree.*24 Unfortunately for Keegan and his more credulous readers, this was not Clausewitz's position at all.
Writing in German, Clausewitz used the word Politik, and his most famous phrase has been variously translated as "War is a continuation of `policy'"—or of `politics'—"with an admixture of other means." For the purpose of argument, he assumed that state policy would be rational, that is, aimed at improving the situation of the society it represented.*25 He also believed, along with most Westerners of his era, that war was a legitimate means for a state's advancement of its interests, particularly survival. This is often taken to mean that war is somehow a "rational" phenomenon, and Clausewitz is convicted—as Keegan convicts him—of advocating the resort to war as a routine extension of unilateral state policy.
In fact, the choice of translation for Politik—"policy" or "politics"—indicates differing emphases on the part of the translator, for the two concepts are quite different. "Policy" may be defined as rational action, undertaken by an individual or group which already has power, in order to use, maintain, and extend that power. Politics, in contrast, is simply the process—comprising an inchoate mix of rational, irrational, and non-rational elements like chance and "friction"—by which power is distributed within a given society.*26 It occurs both within the state and between states (i.e., diplomacy).*27 Thus, in calling war a "continuation" of politics, Clausewitz was advocating nothing. In accordance with his belief that theory must be descriptive rather than prescriptive, he was merely recognizing an existing reality. War is an expression of both policy and politics, but "politics" is the interplay of conflicting forces, not the rational execution of one-sided policy initiatives.*28
The word "continuation" is also a source of some confusion. The actual word Clausewitz used in his formulation is Fortsetzung, literally a "setting forth." War is an expression of—not a substitute for—politics. Translating this word as "continuation," while technically correct, evidently implies to many that politics changes its essential nature when it metamorphoses into war.*29 This impression is contrary to Clausewitz's argument. War remains politics in all its complexity, with the added element of violence. The non-rational and completely irrational forces that affect and often drive politics have the same impact on war. Violence is not just another ingredient in the political stew, however. Like a powerful spice, it affects the flavor of every other component.
Keegan, in contrast, uses the words "policy" and "politics" interchangeably and repeatedly connects them both with the concept of rationality. Therefore the present Balkan wars are, in Keegan's view, "apolitical," for "they are fed by passions and rancours that do not yield to rational measures of persuasion or control." "How could war be an extension of politics, when the ultimate object of rational politics is to further the well-being of political entities?"*30
Anyone who has ever witnessed a political campaign should know better, and modern democratic politics is no more purely rational than the Byzantine intrigues that characterized the Roman republic, the absolutist states of early modern Europe, or the chaos of the Cultural Revolution in China. Keegan's larger discussion demonstrates an underlying appreciation of this reality; it is also inherent in his arguments concerning culture. Nonetheless, he denies any such understanding to Clausewitz, even though it is a central pillar of On War's argument.
On the side of rationality, it is true that Clausewitz advised that anyone resorting to war should do so with a clear idea as to what he means to accomplish and how he intends to proceed toward that goal. He should also be aware, however, of the sharp limits on the role of rational calculation in a phenomenon equally dominated by chance and blind emotion.
The rational side of Clausewitz's argument is not unimportant: If war is to be an extension of policy, that is, a tool of policy, then military leaders must be subordinate to political leaders and strategy must be subordinate to policy. This poses practical organizational problems. Like many of Clausewitz's teachings, his solution was not a simple prescription but a dualism: The military instrument must be subordinated to the political leadership, but political leaders must understand its nature and limitations. Politicians must not attempt to use the instrument of war to achieve purposes for which it is unsuited. This is the principle, often abused, upon which modern American civil-military relations are based.
So much for the rational control of war. On the other hand, Clausewitz grew up during the transition from the Enlightenment (and the rather different German Aufklärung)—which stressed a rational approach to human problems—to the age of Romanticism. The start of the Romantic era coincided roughly with the disasters of the French Revolution. Keegan recognizes the intellectual chasm between the Enlightenment and the age of Romanticism, but he unaccountably treats Clausewitz as exclusively a product of the former: "but in his lifetime, the Enlightenment ruled."*31 No one familiar with Azar Gat's excellent assessment of Clausewitz's place in the evolution of European military thought—or, for that matter, with the general intellectual history of the era—would put forth such an argument.*32 The newer movement stressed the irrational, emotional aspects of man's make-up, including nationalism. Clausewitz's world view reflected elements of each. Clausewitz's vision of war thus falls also very much into the domain of the non-rational and even the irrational, "in which strictly logical reasoning often plays no part at all and is always apt to be a most unsuitable and awkward intellectual tool." "[I]t would be an obvious fallacy to imagine war between civilized peoples as resulting merely from a rational act on the part of their governments...."*33 States are not, in truth, unitary rational actors, and a sizeable portion of what Clausewitz called "friction" many writers today would subsume under the heading "bureaucratic irrationality." Such friction was only one of several factors which, in Clausewitz's view, made the course of events in war inherently unpredictable.
One of the most important requirements of strategy in Clausewitz's view is that the leadership correctly "estimate the character of the war." This is often misunderstood to mean that leaders should rationally decide the kind of war that will be undertaken. In fact, although intelligent policy may modify the participants' behavior somewhat, the nature of any given war is beyond rational control: It is inherent in the situation and in the "spirit of the age" (a concept which encompasses much of Keegan's cultural argument). Good leaders, avoiding error and self-deception, can at best merely comprehend the real implications of a resort to violence and act accordingly.
It is clear, therefore, that Clausewitz's war is—despite all that intellect and reason can do to modify it—a game of chance outside the bounds of rational control.
Would Prussia in 1792 have dared to invade France with 70,000 men if she had had an inkling that the repercussions in case of failure would be strong enough to overthrow the old European balance of power? Would she, in 1806, have risked war with France with 100,000 men, if she had suspected that the first shot would set off a mine that was to blow her to the skies?*34
Thus Clausewitz was hardly one to urge that the resort to war be taken lightly or routinely, nor to claim that its result would necessarily further the rational, unilateral policy goals of the party who launched it.
A clear implication of Keegan's narrowly cultural argument would seem to be that, since war is a traditional behavior pursued by identifiable cultural groups, the way to eliminate war is to eliminate its traditional practitioners. Clausewitz, on the other hand, sees war as simply what happens when the process of politics, by which power is distributed in any society, assumes an emotional intensity that leads to organized violence. The power being contested may be social, as in the endemic personal competitions in feudal societies or during the European "Age of Kings"; economic, as with control of gold for the mercantilists, human flesh for the cannibal or slave-trader, or food for the ecological disaster victims on Easter Island; religious, as in the early stages of the Thirty Years' War or, in a rather different sense, Aztec Mexico; ideological; or anything else. Regardless of the motivation, the contest is for power and is therefore political. War is thus liable to eternal reinvention, as is well illustrated by the speed with which long-suppressed national groups in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have fielded armies. Clausewitz's analysis is far more consistent with the events on Easter Island than anything Keegan offers, for there the cultural tradition of war was, by Keegan's own description, absent.
Keegan has not only an unworkable definition of politics, but also too exclusive an understanding of Clausewitz's analytical scheme. On War's theory does not constrain war within the confines of mere "politics," much less Keegan's at least equally confining "culture," but within the much broader realm of human nature. Although the Prussian writer occasionally likened it to commerce and litigation, and more usually to politics, war is essentially a "part of man's social existence."*35 He contrasted this social analysis not with a cultural approach but with two more traditional analogies: Clausewitz's war (as opposed to strategy or tactics) is neither an art nor a science, but those two terms often mark the parameters of theoretical debate on the subject.
Clausewitz's most ardent critics (e.g., Jomini, the early J.F.C. Fuller) have tended to be those who treated war as a science. Clausewitz argued that the object of science is knowledge and certainty, while the object of art is creative ability. Of course, all art involves some science (the mathematical sources of harmony, for example) and good science always involves creativity. Clausewitz saw tactics as more scientific in character and strategy as something of an art. If pressed, Clausewitz would have placed war-making closer to the domain of the arts, but neither definition was satisfactory. The view of war as a social phenomenon accounts better not merely for war's origins but for its essential character as well. The distinction is crucial: In both art and science, the actor is working on inanimate matter (and, in art, the passive and yielding emotions of the audience), whereas in social phenomena like business, politics, and war, the actor's will is directed at an animate object that not only reacts but takes independent actions of its own.
War is thus permeated by "intelligent forces." War is also "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will," but it is never unilateral. It is a contest between independent wills, in which skill and creativity are no more important than personality, chance, emotion, and the various dynamics that characterize any human interaction. When Clausewitz wrote that war may have a grammar of its own, but not its own logic, he meant that the logic of war, like politics, is nothing unique.*36 It is merely the logic of social intercourse, and not that of art or science.
Social interaction is continuous; one can no more achieve final victory than one can "win" history. Clausewitz's argument that no strategic development is final*37 is inherent in his social analysis and completely contradictory of Keegan's misleading phrase, "Clausewitzian victory."*38 This corresponds well to our actual experience. Which of the following provides a better metaphor for the outcome of the recent  war with Iraq?
1. Finishing a long, grueling, dangerous engineering project.*39
2. Completing a great painting or symphony.
3. Leaving the theater after a cultural event, say, a kabuki performance.
4. "Winning" an argument with one's spouse.*40
Soldiers and military analysts who fail to grasp the implications of this argument—this reality—are doomed to a life of frustration and disappointment.
This approach proved irritating to critics long before Keegan came upon it. J.F.C. Fuller (1878-1966), was an advocate of the scientific view of war. He originally argued, as Keegan does now, that Clausewitz's theory was obsolete because it originated in a premodern society.*41 Fuller initially portrayed Clausewitz as irrelevant, a "general of the agricultural period of war," dismissing On War as "little more than a mass of notes, a cloud of flame and smoke."*42 Fuller's attempt to create a scientific theory of war was fundamentally alien to the social message of On War. He called Clausewitz's comment on the absurdity of the term "science of war" a "preposterous assertion."*43
Fuller, however, unlike Liddell Hart, was a flexible thinker who continually struggled with the implications of his own ideas. Towards the end, in 1961, Fuller caved in:
In my opinion, Clausewitz's level is on that of Copernicus, Newton, [and] Darwin—all were cosmic geniuses who upset the world. They could not help doing so, and the same may be said of Gautama, Christ [and] Mahomet. If my [book, the Conduct of War] follows suit, it will not be because of what I have written, but because my study of Clausewitz has compelled me to write it.*44
Showing a remarkable capacity for evolution, Fuller also finally surrendered on the issue of war as art or science: Clausewitz "was the first, and remains one of the few, who grasped that war `belongs to the province of social life.'"*45
An explanation for much of the cultural element that Keegan discusses can be found in a section of On War that Keegan attacks on other grounds. Dealing with "absolute" war in the abstract, Clausewitz had pointed out that to "introduce the principle of moderation into the theory of war itself would always lead to logical absurdity." This argument has much to do with Clausewitz's bloodthirsty reputation. In fact, Clausewitz did not mean that moderation was absurd in practice, because the social conditions within states and the relationships between them often made moderation an element of policy. The theoretical point is a good one, but the language in which it was expressed is harsh.
Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst. The maximum use of force is in no way incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect.*46
Clausewitz's position is easier to understand if we consider the military transition Europe was forced to undergo at the end of the eighteenth century. Clausewitz argued that human societies often tend to ritualize war into a mere game, presumably for reasons of social order, humanitarianism, aesthetics, or economy. This is what happened in the case of Keegan's Mamelukes and samurai, and to a great extent it happened again in western Europe under the ancien regime. To accept such a conventionalization of war was in Clausewitz's view to fall into a trap. "The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone [i.e., some revolutionary or alien invader] will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms."*47 The conventional-ization of war in pre-Revolutionary Europe had created the ideal situation for a Napoleon to exploit, just as the petrification of Mameluke military methods exposed them to the Ottomans (and later to Napoleon himself). Samurai technological retrenchment, undertaken for reasons of domestic class politics that Keegan reads narrowly as "culture," exposed them to Perry's gunships. Ritualization of the pacific Zulus' warfare exposed them to the psychotic innovations of Shaka, who was, in Keegan's view, "a perfect Clausewitzian."*48
This accusation demonstrates Keegan's profound confusion regarding Clausewitz's historical role and position, a misunderstanding apparently derived from Liddell Hart's image of Clausewitz as the "high priest of Napoleon." Clausewitz represents the ideas not of Napoleon but of his most capable military and ideological opponents. That has immense implications for the meaning of Clausewitz's work: He was not a proponent of conquest, but rather a supporter of the European balance of power among free and independent states.
In actuality, then, Shaka, like Napoleon, was exactly what Clausewitz was warning us against, just as Keegan warns us against "ethnic bigots, regional warlords, ideological intransigents, common pillagers and organized international criminals." Unfortunately, Keegan then goes on to tell us that "there is a wisdom in ... symbolic ritual that needs to be rediscovered."*49 Perhaps he has forgotten the elaborate diplomatic dances that preceded the Gulf War and surround the problem in Bosnia. The danger in Keegan's suggestion, as Clausewitz pointed out, is that one side will substitute ritual for action while the other side acts decisively. Or does Keegan think his criminals will join in the ritual and submit to its restraints?*50
The differences between Keegan and Clausewitz on this issue point to a rather interesting contradiction in Keegan's approach. Although Keegan tries to paint Clausewitz as a narrow-minded product of regimental culture, it is in fact Keegan who is the real militarist, in the sense developed by Alfred Vagts.*51 Clausewitz had no use for armies, for war, or for military ritual for their own sake, whereas Keegan is quite taken with the ritual and apparently desires to perpetuate it. While Keegan seems to think that this would be a step in a positive direction, I'm afraid that most of us, when push comes to shove, will have to disagree. Killing and dying over issues of ideology or political power are certainly objectionable, but far less so than killing or dying for the sake of mere ritual—and, in any case, any ritual that involves life and death has a political significance of its own.
Culture clearly plays a tremendous role in both war and politics. It often serves, as Keegan very rightly points out, to overwhelm any attempt at rational calculation. One does not have to seek far, however, to discover examples of the opposite effect. The reforms of Prussia's army and society initiated by Clausewitz's mentor Scharnhorst, for example, ran utterly contrary to Prussia's military and political culture. They nevertheless constituted a rational and effective response to the mortal peril in which the state found itself. The same is true of the samurai-led Meiji Revolution of 1868. Thus Clausewitz's analysis of war as a social phenomenon can easily incorporate the phenomena described in Keegan's cultural thesis, but, because it is much more flexible and comprehensive, Clausewitzian theory can also incorporate the many contrary examples with which historical experience has provided us.
Such a conclusion, however, reflects precisely the sort of Clausewitzian smugness that infuriates Keegan. He feels hemmed in by omnipresent—though very seldom identified—Clausewitzian scholars taking credit for every idea that works and denying responsibility for every one that fails. "Clausewitz—the Clausewitzians believe—arrived at a vision of war so eclectic, and an analysis of war so exact, that all its phenomena—glimpsed by the groundlings through a microscope, by the sage from an earth-girdling surveillance satellite—take their proper place, rank and relationship in his theory of how soldiers ought to act." "What [Clausewitzians] wrongly say is that those who succeed as strategists by what they regard as the light of their own judgment are Clausewitzians nonetheless, while those who fail, though consciously applying Clausewitzian principles, have misunderstood or misused them. What they ascribe to Clausewitz, then, is a possession of absolute truths—which would make strategy unique among the social sciences."*52
There is a grain of truth in what Keegan says here. Overtly Clausewitzian thinkers are indeed annoyingly apt to restate others' observations in Clausewitzian terms, the better to integrate what is new and useful in an argument into an existing and immensely flexible conceptual framework. Keegan's other accusations, however, are blows into the air, for they assail positions that Clausewitz does not occupy. Clausewitz explicitly denied that either war or the much narrower field of strategy were "sciences" at all. The exactitude Keegan decries is not to be found in the Clausewitzian universe, dominated as it is by chance and friction. As for Clausewitz's alleged restraints on the individuality of military leaders (and, we may safely imply, military historians), it is an irreducible fundamental of Clausewitzian theory that "given the nature of the subject ... it is simply not possible to construct a model for the art of war that can serve as a scaffolding on which the commander can rely for support at any time." Since theory cannot be a guide to action, it must be a guide to study; it is meant to assist the student in his efforts at self-education and to help him develop his own judgment, "just as a wise teacher guides and stimulates a young man's intellectual development, but is careful not to lead him by the hand for the rest of his life."*53 It is true that Clausewitz urged leaders contemplating war to think through its implications rationally, but he by no means predicted that they would actually do so. Nor must the modern analyst expect this to be the case. Clausewitzian theory thus is not the intellectual strait-jacket Keegan claims it to be. It predicts neither "how soldiers ought to act" nor how historians ought to interpret their actions. Clausewitz's suggestion that war is an expression of politics is no more a claim to "absolute truth" than Keegan's argument that it is an expression of culture. The difference is that Clausewitz's flexible analytical framework can easily incorporate Keegan's insights, whereas Keegan's claims are stridently exclusive.
* * * *
That brings us to the issue of motivations, and, in a roundup of all the usual suspects, we find that Keegan has been dallying with all of them. For example, like many post-1914 Anglo-Saxon propagandists, Keegan shows an exaggerated resentment of all things Teutonic.*54 He also finds reading Clausewitz tough going (surely a humanizing trait).
The latter point was, in fact, Liddell Hart's fundamental complaint about Clausewitz. Liddell Hart actually respected Clausewitz's achievement—his private correspondence demonstrates that fact conclusively. He simply felt that other readers, who were inevitably less perspicacious than himself, would necessarily misunderstand On War's insights because of the complexity of its style.
Some of Keegan's bitterness can be attributed to mere quirks of personality, for the profoundly civilian Keegan clearly is a moonstruck romantic about soldiers—or, even more dangerous, a disillusioned romantic. These beings, he says, "are not as other men—that is the lesson I have learned from a life cast among warriors."*55 The rational side of Clausewitzian theory, which ruthlessly subordinates these unique creatures to the drabness of government policy, must be repugnant.
There is also an ideological element to Keegan's attack. He is determined to convince us (despite the enormous amount of evidence he provides to the contrary) that "war ... may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents." He assures us that "this is not mere idealism," and indeed it is not. Personally, I am inclined to view Keegan's belief in a new sociable man as a symptom of that malady lately common among professional military historians: a melancholy longing for acceptance among that other unique tribe, the politically correct academicians. As Keegan has said, "Let us deem Clausewitz, with Nietzsche, politically incorrect."*56 In this pursuit Keegan is wasting his time. Both military theorists and military historians are, almost by definition, politically incorrect.
Taking a somewhat different tack, it has been suggested by some that Keegan's critique is less than candid. As Richard Swain puts it, Keegan's description of Clausewitz "is so perversely bad ... that one can only suspect it to be a deliberate distortion for the sake of creative effect, a dramatic ploy to emphasize his own argument that war is as much a cultural as a political phenomenon, a point few would dispute, Clausewitz notwithstanding."*57 Alas, this credits Keegan's intellect at the cost of his integrity. In truth, Keegan's perversity appears to be sincere.
None of the above misunderstandings and motivations can fully account for the fury with which Keegan attacks Clausewitz, nor the petulant resentment he displays towards the unnamed "Clausewitzians" he claims to see lurking under every bush. The explanation which most forcefully presents itself on that score is that Keegan's problem with Clausewitz is essentially a matter of Keegan's own self-image. I recently tried to suggest to Keegan, not only that he was using the word "Clausewitzian" to refer to ideas which did not originate with Clausewitz and were, in many cases, flatly contradictory to the theories of On War, but that a great many of his own ideas were in no way inimical to those theories. He responded bitterly that "Bassford ... insists that I am an unwitting Clausewitzian.... You can't win."*58 In other words, what truly gets Keegan's dander up is the suggestion that his own vivid insights are anything less than totally original.*59
It is a simple if unpalatable fact that no modern military thinker, unless he operates in a complete intellectual vacuum, can avoid some contamination by Clausewitzian ideas. What the Clausewitzians are saying to Keegan, however, is not that he stole his ideas from Clausewitz, nor even that he has been unconsciously subverted, but simply that much of his idiosyncratic explanation of war is perfectly compatible with Clausewitz. Many of his observations are in fact reinforced by the message of On War, if only because both are based on the same empirical experience of war. Keegan, however, demands that his ideas be treated as sui generis; because they are his insights, they cannot be integrated into or paralleled by anyone else's conceptual scheme. In other words, Clausewitz was a personal failure and his ideas are obsolete, or evil, or benighted, simply because, were things otherwise, John Keegan would not be unique.
* * * *
Clausewitz is long dead. He was never omniscient. The modern Clausewitzian is under no obligation to accept every aspect of his argument. Clausewitz represents not an end point for speculation about war and its history but a solid foundation for further investigation. His flexible analytical approach remains supremely useful. It can do much to help transcend the distance between his time and ours and between one modern thinker and another, without in any way inhibiting our individuality or creativity.
The individual historian or theorist therefore gains little by a wholesale rejection of Clausewitz, and the community of thinkers and scholars benefits not at all from the systematic misrepresentation of his historical role or of his ideas. John Keegan, a creative and insightful historian, would be able to see further—and, in fact, to help us all see further—if only he were willing to stand upon the shoulders of giants.
* * * *
1. For an intelligent Marxist critique of Keegan, et al, click here.
2. From Michael Handel, Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 3rd ed. (Portland, OR, Frank Cass, 2001), p.305:
Unfortunately, [Keegan's] ‘summary’ of Clausewitz has nothing to do with what Clausewitz actually said. Clausewitz’s ideas are either misunderstood or quoted out of context. (For an understated critique of the case, see Christopher Bassford’s article, ‘John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz: A Polemic’, in War in History, vol. 1, no. 3, November 1994, pp. 319–336.)
3. For a more mainstream critique—perhaps less inherently suspect than that of the editor of The Clausewitz Homepage—see Jim Byrne, "Keegan versus von Clausewitz," The Defence Associations National Network's National Network News, vol.6 no.1 (Spring 1999).
4. See Daniel Johnson, "First, Read Clausewitz." Copyright Daily Telegraph Apr 17, 1999. [Johnson wrote this op-ed piece at the height of the 78-day NATO air-war against Serbia over Kosovo. "NATO needs statesmen who know their Clausewitz, but it does not have them."] It's nice to know that someone at the Daily Telegraph has actually read Clausewitz.
5. Nick Young, computer support technician in Sydney, Australia, and apparently a student at the University of New South Wales. His website is http:/www.inocuo.org/. Here's an admirable bit of understatement from this non-historian, in a paper entitled " Readings on the macrohistory of human invasion processes: Some thoughts on technological determinism and other evils," pages 1/7, 3/7:
"John Keegan's project in A History of Warfare is to tell the history of warfare in a way that debunks the work of Clausewitz,... Not being a military historian myself, I cannot judge how effective a rebuttal Keegan's book would be. However, it would seem that Keegan has quite admirably rebutted Clausewitz, but in doing this, his priorities have forced him to occasionally create explanations out of thin air that will support his argument."
6. LTC Walter M. Hudson [Instructor, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College], " The Continuing Influence of Clausewitz," Military Review, March-April 2004, pp.60-62. This is a review essay on John Keegan, Intelligence and War: Knowledge of the Enemy From Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).
7. From Richard K. Betts, "Is Strategy An Illusion?," International Security, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Fall 2000), pp. 5–50:
"Keegan’s dismissal of Clausewitzian rationality falls of its own weight. It simply confuses what politics, the proper driver of strategy, is. Consider his astounding statements that “politics played no part in the conduct of the First World War worth mentioning,” or that although Balkan wars “seem to have as their object that ‘territorial displacement’ familiar to anthropologists. . . . they are apolitical.”45 Keegan is a respectable historian of military operations, but a naïf about politics, so he cannot render a verdict on the strategy that connects them."
8. Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, in his book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Viking, 2014), pp.170-186, goes after Keegan as an exemplar of deluded and turgid writing. It is perhaps only coincidental that Pinker chooses Keegan's assault on Clausewitz as a particularly rich source of inanities.
"Immersed as he was in the study of war, [Keegan] became a victim of professional narcissism, and was apt to confuse the History of Warfare with the History of a Man in My Field Who Gets Quoted a Lot about Warfare." (p.186)
REVEALING ON-LINE INTERVIEW WITH KEEGAN
Excerpt on Clausewitz ("this awful German"): "He was a Prussian, son of a clergyman, born 1780, served in the Prussian army, captured by the French, changed sides when Poland invaded Prussia, went to fight for the Russians. Never made a great success of his military career. He was a difficult, cantankerous man. He was regarded with suspicion because he fought for the Russians even though that was in the course of Prussian independence. And he was sort of pensioned off, sent to the staff college to live out his days, where he sat down and wrote this great—I mean, it has to be said—great theoretical work called "On War," which has influenced every soldier and statesman interested in war for the last 100 years."
• Clausewitz was the son of a minor customs official, formerly an officer in Frederick the Great's army. Keegan evidently has him confused with British thinkers B.H. Liddell Hart and J.F.C. Fuller, both sons of church ministers.
• No Polish state existed in Clausewitz's era, a fact of which most historians are aware. However, France did invade Russia in 1812, forcing its conquered Prussian satellite to contribute an army corps to the invasion. Rather than fight for occupied Prussia's oppressor, Clausewitz (with the permission of the King of Prussia) joined the Russian army in order to resist Napoleon. He returned from that war a hero, was reinstated in the Prussian army, and was promoted. [Major Claus E. Andersen, of the Danish army, has suggested to me that the transcript incorrectly transcribes Keegan's words here, and that he actually said "changed sides when Napoleon invaded Prussia." This would be a somewhat less egregious historical error (Napoleon invaded Prussia in 1806, Russia in 1812) but looks like an effort to paint Clausewitz as a traitor. Perhaps the correct language is even "changed sides when Napoleon invaded Russia," but in fact Clausewitz remained on the same—i.e., the anti-Napoleon—side.]
• I suppose it can fairly be said that Clausewitz's military career was a failure, since he never rose above the rank of general. :-) Seriously, the notion that Clausewitz was a failure in his military career is an element of British wartime propaganda and appears to stem not from Carl's own views or feelings but from Marie von Clausewitz's anguished and bitter comments upon his untimely death. See the discussion by Vanya Eftimova Bellinger (Clausewitz's wife's biographer) on this issue.
• As to personality, Keegan has confused Clausewitz with the irritable Jomini. Clausewitz was famous (and sometimes unpopular) for his cool, reserved bearing. Keegan's confusion is understandable, however—Jomini was, after all, like Clausewitz, a foreigner.
• Clausewitz was regarded with suspicion in the Prussian court, not because he fought with the Russians, but because his social and political views were considered too liberal. The King also found Clausewitz irritating for his insistance during the wars of 1812 to 1814 that the King's job was to protect Prussia's interests, not just to hold on to his crown at any cost. But he was not too irritated to promote Clausewitz to Major-General, which he did in 1818.
• Clausewitz was never "pensioned off." He died as a result of service in the field as chief of staff (and, briefly, commander) of the only army Prussia mobilized in the crisis of 1830-31.
• Clausewitz did indeed write a great book. Despite his pretensions to expertise, however, Keegan has never read it. When I asked him (c.1995) if he had, he sputtered a bit and said that he'd been assigned it in school—back in the late 1960's. That figures. It is fairly obvious that he once read Anatole Rapoport's long, hostile introduction to Penguin's severe abridgement (published in 1968), and nothing else. Nothing anywhere in Keegan's work—despite his many diatribes about Clausewitz and "the Clausewitzians"—demonstrates any reading whatsoever of Clausewitz's own writings.
NOTES to "John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz"
1. Spenser Wilkinson, "Killing No Murder: An Examination of Some New Theories of War," Army Quarterly 14 (October 1927), pp.14-27, criticizing Liddell Hart's The Remaking of Modern Armies (London, John Murray, 1927).
2. Basil Liddell Hart, "War, Limited," Harper's Magazine 192, no.1150 (March 1946), pp.193-203.
3. This discussion of Liddell Hart is derived from Chapter 15 of my own book, Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994).
4. Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1957); Henry A. Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1957).
5. Harry G. Summers, Jr. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, CA, Presidio Press, 1982); Caspar Weinberger, "The Use of Force and the National Will," Baltimore Sun, 3 December 1984, 11.
6. References to Clausewitz's On War (Vom Kriege, 1832) are to the translation by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1976), 1984 edition.
7. Headquarters United States Marine Corps, FMFM 1: Warfighting (Washington, D.C., 1989).
8. John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York, Knopf, 1993).
9. This view of Clausewitz as a failure in his military career appears to stem from some of Clausewitz's own musings to his wife concerning his failure to achieve certain personal ambitions. It also relates to speculations concerning the Clausewitz family's social status and dubious claims to nobility. These issues can be mutated into professional failure only with great effort, and that effort must ignore Clausewitz's considerable achievement in obtaining prominence and general's rank despite some very real political obstacles to his advancement.
10. Keegan, Warfare, 22, 354, tries to have it both ways on this accusation, which he seems to believe but also knows to be intellectually indefensible. "And although this catastrophic outcome must not be laid at the door of Clausewitz's study, we are nevertheless right to see Clausewitz as the ideological father of the First World War.... the objects of the First World War were determined in great measure by the thoughts that were Clausewitz's...."
11. Keegan, Warfare, 15-16, attributes this simply to frustration with the slow progress of Scharnhorst's "plot to flesh out the army under Napoleon's nose." He fails to note the social character of the army's reforms. He also equates Clausewitz's actions with those of the murderous Japanese ultranationalists of the 1930s. Such analogies, pro or con, are awkward. John Wheeler-Bennett, in The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics, 1918-1945 (London, Macmillan, 1964), saw in Clausewitz's 1812 actions a positive precedent for German military resistance to Hitler, but neither analogy works very well. Clausewitz was not trying to assassinate anyone, and Keegan conveniently forgets that Napoleon was an aggressive tyrant who held Prussia in its alliance only by threatening to complete her total destruction.
12. Despite Keegan's own many examples of very different kinds of forces with which Clausewitz had actual contact, Clausewitz's advocacy of militia forces in Prussia's own war for liberation, and the discussion in On War of "people's war," Keegan insists throughout that Clausewitz understood "only one form of military organization: the paid and disciplined forces of the bureaucratic state." Warfare, 222. In order to justify this view, and unable to find a suitably inane quotation from Clausewitz's own writing, Keegan is reduced to quoting other writers with whom Clausewitz "would have probably" agreed—particularly on the subject of the Cossacks, pp6-10.
13. The Economist, 2 October 1993, 97-98. See also former Navy secretary John Lehman's credulous review in The Wall Street Journal, 1 December 1993, A-18, or John Lancaster's in The Washington Monthly, 25, no.11 (November 1993).
14. Keegan, Warfare, 20; "Peace by Other Means? War, popular opinion and the politically incorrect Clausewitz," Times Literary Supplement, 11 December 1992, 3-4.
16. This postulates an extremely narrow definition of "politics." Does Keegan really believe that military officers do not engage in unit or service (much less national and international) politics? Politics exists in all human groups; no one is disqualified from its practice. The wider definition I imply here is much more akin to what Clausewitz discusses.
18. Michael Howard, "To the Ruthless Belong the Spoils," The New York Times Book Review, 14 November 1993.
19. Keegan, Warfare, 6, ignores this fundamental of Clausewitzian theory and says that Clausewitz was "struggling to advance a universal theory of what war ought to be, rather than what it actually was and had been."
20. Jay Luvaas, "Clausewitz, Fuller and Liddell Hart," in Michael Handel, ed., Clausewitz and Modern Strategy (London, Frank Cass, 1986), 197-212; John Mearsheimer, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1988); Keegan, Warfare, 48, 354.
21. On War, 133, 218, 488. Keegan's notion of "true war" appears to come not from Clausewitz at all, but from the American anthropologist Harry Holbert Turney-High (1899-1982).
22. "Not every future war, however, is likely to be of this type; on the contrary, one may predict that most wars will tend to revert to wars of observation [i.e., of the most limited type]. A theory, to be of any practical use, must allow for that likelihood." On War, 488.
23. In some ways as erroneous as Liddell Hart's or Keegan's, this is the vision of Clausewitz as "the preeminent military and political strategist of limited war in modern times," a quotation from Robert Endicott Osgood, Limited War Revisited (Boulder, Westview, 1979), 2.
24. The very first line of Keegan's main text tells us that "War is not the continuation of policy by other means." Interestingly, and based on much the same grounds of rationality, it is the very last line in Russell F. Weigley's The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1991), 543. Weigley, however, does not attribute the concept in that form to Clausewitz, because, he tells me, he has come to recognize that this phrase in English is so misleading as to On War's actual argument. Interview, Quantico, VA, 9 September 1992.
25. One can argue forever about definitions of rationality and its opposite in regard to policy. Keegan, Warfare, 381, says that "the ultimate object of rational politics," by which I believe he means policy, "is to further the well-being of political entities." Clausewitz, On War, 606, says essentially the same thing, without believing that this necessarily corresponds to practice: "That it can err, subserve the ambitions, private interests, and vanity of those in power, is neither here nor there.... here we can only treat policy as representative of all interests of the community."
26. My definitions; Clausewitz does not distinguish the two concepts, both of which are represented by the one word Politik in German. However, this definition of politics is expressed in Clausewitz's famous "paradoxical trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes [war] subject to reason alone." On War, 89.
27. Although Clausewitz focuses largely on inter- and intra-state politics, it is not difficult to extend this definition to politics in opposition to or even without reference to the state, a point to keep in mind when considering other recent dismissals of Clausewitz by writers like Martin van Creveld.
28. The latter interpretation is extremely common and frequently a source of hostility to Clausewitz. See for example David Kaiser, Politics and War: European Conflict from Philip II to Hitler (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1990), 415.
29. See for example Burton I. Kaufman, The Korean War: Challenges in Crisis, Credibility, and Command (New York, Knopf, 1986), 150.
31. Warfare, 47. Keegan's criticisms here are more appropriately directed at Jomini, who represents the culmination of the Enlightenment's efforts at military theory, and at Jominians like A.T. Mahan, who translated Jomini's "politique" one-sidedly as "diplomacy."
32. Azar Gat, The Origins of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to Clausewitz (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1989); The Development of Military Thought: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1992).
36. A point that Keegan, previously author of a book called The Nature of War (New York, Holt, 1981), is recognizing when he notes acidly that "there is no such thing" as a "`nature of war' itself." Keegan, Warfare, xi.
38. Despite his objections to Clausewitz's alleged insistence on the total destruction of an enemy, Keegan, Warfare, xi, opens with a sneer at the "inutility of the `Western way of warfare'" for its failure to utterly destroy Saddam Hussein, which "robbed the coalition's Clausewitzian victory of much of its point."
39. The systematic dismantling of Iraq's military machine by the vastly superior coalition during a uniquely unbalanced conflict obviously offers some parallels to this analogy.
40. This last metaphor is one suggested, in a slightly different context, by Jane Holl (National Security Council staff) in a presentation to the USMC Command and Staff College, Quantico, Va., 23 October 1992. The point is that one must continue to live and interact with the now disgruntled spouse or, if that particular relationship has been "terminated with extreme prejudice" (a very rare event in either marital or international politics), at least with one's own and the spouse's relatives and neighbors.
41. "Clausewitz, in short, was not a modern man." Keegan, "Peace by other means?" Whereas Keegan attacks Clausewitz as a proto-fascist, however, the fascist-leaning Fuller of the 1930s attacked him as a democrat. Such efforts are essentially ahistorical. Placed in the context of Napoleonic-era and Metternichian Prussia, Clausewitz's social and political views can be seen as distinctly enlightened and progressive. Viewed from the standpoint of an age repeatedly victimized by Prusso-German nationalism, events of an age long after he was dead, other of Clausewitz's attitudes are certainly open to suspicion. Clausewitz's politics are incomprehensible outside the context of his own era and are, in any case, irrelevant to the politics of modern "Clausewitzians."
42. J.F.C. Fuller, The Dragon's Teeth: A Study of War and Peace (London, Constable and Company, 1932), 66-67.
43. On War, 149; J.F.C. Fuller, Foundations of the Science of War (London, Hutchinson and Company, 1926), 20.
44. Letter, Fuller to Sloane, undated but in reply to letter, Sloane to Fuller, January 30, 1961, Fuller Papers IV/6/5; IV/6/6a. Fuller's papers are held by the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London.
45. J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War, 1789-1961: A Study of the French, Industrial, and Russian Revolutions on War and Its Conduct (London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961), 12.
50. If it becomes a matter of their own survival, of course, they well may, which would reinforce rather than invalidate Clausewitz's argument.
51. Alfred Vagts, A History of Militarism: Civilian and Military, revised ed. (New York, The Free Press, 1959; originally New York, Norton, 1937).
52. Keegan, "Peace by other means?"
54. See, for example, the very opening line in "Peace by other means?" Another example is Keegan's effort to tie Clausewitz to Marx—in hopes, perhaps, that the eclipse of the one will imply that of the other.
56. In his TLS article, "Peace by other means?," Keegan attempts to portray Clausewitz as a defender of "unrepresentative institutions." He misuses a quotation from Peter Paret as evidence. When Paret says that Clausewitz's "political recognitions were one-sided," he was referring to the philosopher's focus on foreign policy rather than domestic, not to his position on internal political structures. Since Clausewitz was in fact an advocate of parliamentary government, Keegan's accusation is false as well as pointless.
57. Richard M. Swain, ms. review of Keegan's A History of Warfare, submitted to Military Review.
58. Letters, Times Literary Supplement, 15 Jan 1993, 22 January 1993.
59. Sad to say, even this motive is not original to Keegan, for it appears to have driven Liddell Hart and the young Fuller as well.
OTHER USEFUL PAGES ON THE CLAUSEWITZ HOMEPAGE
US • UK • France • Germany