NOTE: This version of Clausewitz's On War is the long-obsolete J.J. Graham translation published in London in 1873. The 1976/84 Howard/Paret version is the  standard translation today.


Chapter VI

Destruction of the Enemy's Armies

THE destruction of the enemy's armed forces is the means to the end—What is meant by this—The price it costs—Different points of view which are possible in respect to the subject.

1, only to destroy as many as the object of the attack requires.

2, or as many on the whole as is possible.

3, the sparing of our own forces as the principal point of view.

4, this may again be carried so far, that the assailant does nothing towards the destruction of the enemy's force except when a favourable opportunity offers, which may also be the case with regard to the object of the attack, as already mentioned in the third chapter.

The only means of destroying the enemy's armed force is by combat, but this may be done in two ways: 1, directly, 2, indirectly, through a combination of combats.—If, therefore, the battle is the chief means, still it is not the only means. The capture of a fortress or of a portion of territory, is in itself really a destruction of the enemy's force, and it may also lead to a still greater destruction, and therefore, also, be an indirect means.

The occupation of an undefended strip of territory, therefore, in addition to the value which it has as a direct fulfilment of the end, may also reckon as a destruction of the enemy's force as well. The manœuvring, so as to draw an enemy out of a district of country which he has occupied, is somewhat similar, and must, therefore, only be looked at from the same point of view, and not as a success of arms, properly speaking—These means are generally estimated at more than they are worth—they have seldom the value of a battle; besides which it is always to be feared that the disadvantageous position to which they lead, will be overlooked; they are seductive through the low price which they cost.

We must always consider means of this description as small investments, from which only small profits are to be expected; as means suited only to very limited State relations and weak motives. Then they are certainly better than battles without a purpose—than victories, the results of which cannot be realised to the full.