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John E. Tashjean


This article was published in the Naval War College Review, Nov-Dec, 1982, pgs., 69-86


The author states his thesis- "Our thesis is simple: in retrospect from 1952 to 1982 there is an unmistakable and enormous progress in our understanding of Clausewitz. In substantiation of this view, we discuss the most important Clausewitzian studies so as to see them against their strategic background and to highlight some features of current interest."
In his extensive foot notes, Dr. Tashjean cites very numerous authors from their articles as well as their books.


Dr. Tashjean first cites and evaluates Werner Hahlweg's edited publication of Carl von Clausewitz - Schriften-Aufsatze-Studien-Briefe - the sixteenth edition of Vom Kriege in which he restored the original text on the crucial issue of civil-military relations in high command. He writes that this 'restoration' was essential because beginning with the second edition in 1853 the editors had 'modified' the text to change the concept of war as a continuation of politics by other means into a concept that war 'replaced' politics. This was then the theory and claim used by the Prussian (German) general staff. He quotes Bismarck at length on this issue in his refusal to agree, and to let the generals exclude him from war planning and execution. Dr. Tashjean also cites the value of Hahlweg's addition of a considerable number of detailed technical, biographical, and historical references. In addition, Tashjean notes that Hahlweg included discussion of a large volume of modern commentary on Clausewitz. He judges that Hahlweg's opus should be studied in conjunction with the recent English translation of Vom Kriege by Peter Paret and Michael Howard.


Dr. Tashjean moves on to discuss the controversy within American academia over limited war - that is between those who support Upton's concept that 'when war begins politics ends' and its opponents. This controversy found its impact on actual practice during World War II and in American considerations of potential war in the Pacific and Asia. At the social, cultural, political level the controversy is shown in that between the 'internationalist' Republicans and the conservatives who are isolationists. The controversy was shown as well during the Korean War in the ideas of MacArthur versus Truman. He describes the issue clearly in Aron's terms as between 'war being the continuation of politics with (not by) other means. In practice this means, is the conduct of a war to be restrained by over all political considerations or not. MacArthur viewed the objective of the war to be the total defeat of the enemy while the Truman administration considered political objectives as paramount.


Dr. Tashjean sums up: "Thus Clausewitz began his career on the American stage as an authority figure of great intellectual respectability, but playing to half a house. The absent half never entered from the right, an American Ludendorff bold enough to break with the classic interpretation of the Clausewitzian, formula, as the real Ludendorff had when he argued that as international politics becomes extreme or bellicist, the formula becomes tautologous."


Dr. Tashjean continues with the legacy of the Korean War policy and results, noting the influence of the half of Clausewitz in the war's analysis of Colonel Harry Summers.
He writes: "All in all, then, the Korean war underlined four harbingers of the future. However awkwardly and precariously, a bilateral strategic balance had been put in place. Secondly, there had been a vivid lesson confirming that mucking around near the border of China could be not only exceedingly slow, messy, and inconclusive, but might risk escalation to nuclear levels involving the Sino-Soviet block .Thirdly, the PRC established itself as a natural pivot or 'horizontal' inter-regional escalation: Korea, China, and Vietnam emerged as one strategic region for no sooner did the Korean war wind down than PRC support of North Vietnam increased substantially. Finally, Clausewitz had been 'naturalized' in America as the ideological symbol of an establishment consensus which defeated sunbelt Uptonianism"


Dr. Tashjean moves on to discussion of 'problems of limited conventional war' versus nuclear war. Which problems he avers have remained with us ever since. (1982) In this section he discusses the Manhattan Project and then the shock in the Truman Administration when the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic weapon in 1949. This was followed by the Eisenhower's administration response to the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the decay of the Sino-Soviet Pack. He mentions also the outcome of the Carte Blanche war game in 1955 from which policy makers concluded that use of nuclear weapons in Europe would create disastrous collateral damage on civilian populations. All this helped lead to increased consideration of 'deterrence' rather than 'war fighting'.
Dr. Tashjean judges the new policy priorities as a shift from Clauswetzian doctrine. Quote: "the maintenance of peace is now an overriding objective of national policy in a sense quite alien to Clausewitzian times and circumstances. The vocation of soldier has acquired a profoundly humane purpose inasmuch as military power can serve only to prevent war and secure peace." In all this, the author is citing Ramon Aron, whose book he considers a major contribution to studies of Clausewitz.


Dr. Tashjean continues with a more extensive discussion of Aron in the context of Max Weber, Bismarck, and German concepts in general.
He comments: "Our criticism, applying equally to all other Clauswitzian literature, is to note the total absence of illumination by anthropology both empirical and philosophical.. The very last word of Clausewitz on war, at the end of his very first chapter, is that "its dominant tendencies, 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 it subject to reason alone".


He continues: "The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people, the second the commander and his army, the third the government." He elaborates on this theme. He writes that these three categories correspond to the three 'estates' in Indo-European societies, rulers, warriors, and workers. He notes that at the same time Hegel was propounding a similar categorization based on Christian concepts. He cites George Dumezil for further study. The anthropological point is that war is a fundamental exercise of the warrior's self - image.


Continuing, Tashjean notes that in 1976, the year Aron's book was published, there also appeared biographies of Clausewitz and translations of Vom Kriege. Further, he notes that Clausewitz became the subject of courses at the National Defense University and the three senior military service academies. He writes that Peter Paret's biography of Clausewitz had received well deserved praise. Dr.Tashjean recommends that future biographers include more attention to General Scharnhorst and his influence on Clausewitz.


Dr. Tashjean turns to discuss the volume of new publications in 1980, The jubilee year led by an anthology devoted to assembling many comments and critiques of Clausewitz by a host of scholars.


In the following section Dr. Tashjean discusses the strategies employed by the Vietnamese Communists, essential Maoist and not Clausewitzian. And he discusses the western efforts to consider Alexander Atkinson's text, Social order and the General Theory of Strategy. Atkinson included texts of captured Chinese documents relating to strategy of revolutionary war. Dr. Tashjean recommends Atkinson's book as an important contribution to the study of modern strategy in the context of revolutionary warfare.


Next, Dr. Tashjean turns to Colonel Harry Summers' book, On Strategy, which he considers 'indispensable'. He compares and contrasts Summers' and Atkinson's theories at length. Atkinson appears to believe that the Communist victory in China was inevitable, while Summers' considers that the Communist victory in Vietnam was not inevitable.


In the remainder of this section Dr. Tashjean describes and compares on both Summers' and Atkinson' books in the context of their contributions to scholarly understand of Clausewitz's ideas. He cites numerous other authors who have followed these two.

His conclusion: This much, at any rate, is clear: there is no comparison between America's post-Korean Clausewitz and our post-Vietnam Clausewitz. The latter is incomparably superior to the former in seriousness, reach, and depth. Atkinson's criticism of Clausewitz on absolute war appears to be entirely separable from, and independent of, his derivation of revolutionary strategy from the Clausewitzian political formula on war. In other words, even if everything Atkinson says about absolute war in Clausewitz is right, his expansion and universalization of Clausewitz remains valid. In this way the future of Clausewitz is so enlarged as to become, for the first time in all history, the truly global personification of fundamental strategy."


The Clausewitz Papers, Volume II: A Postscript


Dr. Tashjean notes the then new publication of the second volume of Professor Hahlweg's massive compilation of Clausewitz. He writes that Hahlweg has discussed the then forthcoming volume with him. The volume will contain philosophy and theory and will include the Kantian influence of Kiesewetter and philosophy that expands on 'matters military' in Clausewitz's writing.


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