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On War Hardcover – 21 Oct 1976

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 21 Oct 1976
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (21 Oct. 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691056579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691056579
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.5 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,335,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Undoubtedly one of the most useful books ever written."--The New Republic

About the Author

Peter Paret is professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study. He has written widely on the history of war and society and on the relationship of art, society, and politics. He is the author of "Clausewitz and the State" (Princeton), now in its third revised edition. Most recently he gave the 2008 Lees Knowles Lectures at Cambridge University, on which this book is based, and was guest curator for the spring 2009 exhibition Myth and Modernity at the Princeton University Art Museum.

Sir Michael Howard has held the Chair of War Studies at King's College London, the Chichele Chair of History of War and the Regius Chair of Modern History at Oxford, and the Robert A. Lovett Chair of Military and Naval History at Yale. His works include The Franco-Prussian War, The Causes of Wars,
War and the Liberal Conscience, The Lessons of History, and War in European History. Together with Professor Peter Paret he edited and translated Clausewitz, On War.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Format: Paperback
Without going into the details and virtues of Clusewitz's work (suffice to say that whether you agree with what he says or not, this is compulsory reading for anyone interested in war and strategy) I think it's important to point out that this particular translation (by Sir Michael Howard and Peter Paret) is widely acclaimed as far and away the best English language translation available. If you are considering getting hold of On War (especially if you are going to be studying it formally), put your hand in your pocket and get this version.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This edition only includes Books I-IV of 'On War,' just half the book, and the 'active' table of contents only extends to the introduction. Look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not an easy book to read nor understand. It takes several readings. A large investment in time will allow the reader to understand Clausewitz's system and the remarkable way that it stills aides in understanding the phenomenon of war. The text is adorned with many historical examples. Continuously emphasizing that war is 'a continuity of policy by other means. He has defined perfectly the theory of war, its tactical and strategic purposes. A must for an military or political leader.
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Format: Paperback
This Penguin Edition of On War should be avoided at all costs. This is a weirdly edited and seriously misleading edition, put together by Anatol Rapoport in 1968. Rapoport was a biologist and musician--indeed, he was something of a renaissance man and later made some interesting contributions to game theory. However, he was outraged by the Vietnam War and extremely hostile to the state system and to the alleged "neo-Clausewitzian," Henry Kissinger. He severely and misleadingly abridged Clausewitz's own writings, partly, of course, for reasons of space in a small paperback. Nonetheless--for reasons that surpasseth understanding--he retained Maude's extraneous introduction, commentary, and notes, then used Maude's errors to condemn Clausewitzian theory. Between Graham's awkward and obsolete translation, Maude's sometimes bizarre intrusions, and Rapoport's hostility (aimed more at the world in general, and at Kissinger in particular, than at Clausewitz personally), the Penguin edition is badly misleading as to Clausewitz's own ideas. The influential modern military journalist/historian John Keegan apparently derives much of his otherwise unique misunderstanding of Clausewitz from Rapoport's long, hostile introduction--necessarily so, since he has obviously never read Clausewitz's own writings, not even the rest of the text of this strange edition. I would recommend the Graham or Graham/Maude translation. I if you do own this twisted Penguin version put it in a glass case, get it bronzed, or burn it--but READ something else.
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Format: Hardcover
Clausewitz treats war as a natural, social organism, which can best be understood by practical experience. In reaction to the attempts by Jomini and other strategists to rationalize the theory and practice of war into discernible, scientific laws, Clausewitz emphasizes the capriciousness of warfare. As in all human endeavors, chance is a random variable in the conduct of war. Implicit in Clausewitzian thought is a distinction between strategy and tactics. While certain principles are useful for tactical calculations, Clausewitz asserts that no "laws" for strategy exist; experience, though, can prove of great use to the military commander. Another Clausewitzian innovation is the idea that defense is a stronger form of war than offense. In defensive warfare, a greater degree of the state's internal resources (including her citizen-soldiers) are brought to bear on the military effort. Clearly, Clausewitz warns that offensive advantage, once it has lost its initial momentum or has seen its concentration of force weakened or divided, can quickly be transmuted into a defensive orientation. Thus, a good defense is necessary for good offense (even if only during momentary pauses).
The main contribution of Clausewitz is represented by his maxim that "war is merely the continuation of policy by other means." In other words, war is basically an extension of politics. The initial motive for warfare is encapsulated by a political objective; war is a means to a political end. Clausewitz argues that policy permeates and essentially determines the character and extent of all military operations; the authority of the military commander is circumscribed by the political aims of the state. Thus, Clausewitz essentially maintains that the public sector (the state) must exercise authority over military operations.
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Format: Paperback
Technology has made the details of Clausewitz's work obsolescent -- for example night attacks by US forces are highly effective. And strategic nuclear war approaches what Von Clausewitz thought merely an abstraction: "absolute war." Nonetheless, "On War" remains the definitive text on the unchanging fundamentals of military strategy and the relationship of force and policy.
"On War" will always be a dense and difficult work to read; it has so much information in so (comparatively) little space, and the concepts are frequently new to modern eyes. Nonetheless, a great translation makes the book far more accessible than does a poor one (such as the Wordsworth edition uses). The Howard/Paret translation is the definitive English language version. Any student of war, or even of politics, should read this book in this translation.
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