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On War

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  11,971 ratings  ·  319 reviews
Carl von Clausewitz's On War has been called, "not simply the greatest, but the only truly great book on war." It is an extraordinary attempt to construct an all-embracing theory of how war works. Its coherence and ambition are unmatched by other military literature. On War is full of sharp observation, biting irony, and memorable phrases, the most famous being, "War is a ...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published June 21st 1989 by Princeton University Press (first published 1832)
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, history, war
"War is simply the continuation of politics by other means."

Far too many people quote Clausewitz without reading him, but after reading this edition of On War, there is no excuse not to read Clausewitz, and perhaps understand him.

I will speak first to the translation: This is how it should be done. Howard, Paret, and Brodie produce an accurate and highly readable text, with invaluable supplementary essays on the historical impact of Clausewitz and his key points. Accept no other translations.

Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reviewing classics can be humbling. Some books have passed through so many generations and have been analyzed so thoroughly that they've reached mythic proportions. Only the arrogant or ignorant would criticize them. On War is just such a book.

First the disclaimer. I have an amateur interest in military history but do not have the depth to fully appreciate mid-19th century military theory. Regardless, I know enough to appreciate Clausewitz's rejection of formulated tactics and movement.

Now for
E. G.
Preface to the Pelican Edition
Introduction, by Anatol Rapoport

Introduction, by Col. F. N. Maude
Introduction of the Author
Brief Memoir of General Clausewitz by the Translator

--On War

Concluding Remarks by Anatol Rapoport
Mike Edwards
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, war
Almost 200 years later, this masterpiece is still misunderstood and ignored.

Clausewitz argues that the purpose of war is to disarm your opponent and thereby force him to give you want you want. Based on this premise, he concludes that wars are essentially unwinnable on the battlefield: it is virtually impossible to completely disarm your opponent through might alone. Instead, your opponent at some point has to decide to give you want you want--and getting your opponent to come to that decision m
Dec 05, 2012 rated it liked it
No one can actually enjoy reading Clausewitz - it simply must be done.
One of the most difficult books I've ever read (so far). Took me a month just to read it, and sadly not 100% able to understand the whole thing. This one needs a re-read someday. Some parts are just so indigestible and make me want to pull my hair due to frustration.

Having said that, why I gave this book four stars? Well, first it is a challenging read and I like challenges. Secondly, the contents are unbelievable. Yes, some explanations may be outdated, but the gist is still relevant. If one co
Aaron Crofut
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, war
It's hard to write a review of such a disjointed work. The important points he hits on are indeed extremely important, but wading through 750 pages of repetitive and wordy abstract run on sentences gets old pretty quickly. Two most important points:

1) Why don't nations fight wars of annihilation (remember, this is the early 19th Century, he doesn't know about the World Wars)? Well, why don't school children carry on their fights to the death? Answer: doing so isn't anywhere near worth the cost.
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without doubt the best book about war ever written!
Even after all this time (how long has it been since it was written? centuries!) it is not dated. Really, it is not dated.

Carl Von Clausewitz is the first theorist of war (and he remains the best). Moreover, he is the first to write and understand war fully. There are other great books on this subject such as those written by Machiavelli and Sun Tzu but this is a theory, a great theory of war. Just like Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the author creat
Clay Davis
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very wordy tome. Felt like I was reading War and Peace. Clausewitz seemed obsessed with Fredrick the Great. Odd that Clausewitz didn't mention Wellington. The edition I read needs to have the typos fixed. Not much mentioned about sea power or guerilla warfare. The book is a good snap shot of the thinking of the time. ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: European historians, military historians, strategists in training
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
Shelves: classics
This is the classic work of military strategy, written by a Prussian general in the nineteenth century, which has been often discussed but little understood. It is often held up as the ultimate example of “Prussianism,” of stifling military correctness, or as the champion of “absolute war” and the use of brutality and abandonment of rules in order to annihilate the enemy. It is blamed for the outbreak of both World Wars and for the horrors which those and subsequent conflicts loosed on the world ...more
Five stars for the translation which is simply the best on the market, and includes a superb commentary by Bernard Brodie. This is my fourth time reading this in the context of a class (Naval War College) and it is not any easier to navigate or understand, however, it is never a waste of time.

Clausewitz himself gives the best summary of this work on p. 89: "First, therefore, it is clear that war should never be thought of as something autonomous, but always as an instrument of policy; otherwise
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book stands as an important and modern classic about the nature of war. Clausewitz applies rigorous analysis to almost all the factors that influence war, not least of which are social and political aspects. Indeed, for him, war is part of man's social existence, and politics the womb in which war develops. This is encapsulated in his famous comment: "War is merely the continuation of policy by other means."

There are a number of intriguing and developed insights within this book: how defens
Considering its historical setting, this is quite the read, and very interesting to say the least.
Though in today's light, I'm not too sure whether there's still much to be learned from Clausewitz lessons as war is fought in such different manner.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-theory
"On War" is one of those books that was at the same time amazingly influential and almost never actually read. While Clausewitz is quoted and discussed by military men repeatedly, it fascinates me how many military officers serve long and distinguished careers without ever having read this book. In many ways this is understandable. Clausewitz is very philosophical and abstract, to the point that many of his ideas are simply not applicable to everyday military planning. One must also remember tha ...more
Hai Quan
It is incredible that there is none or almost no writer raise these very important questions :
1/ Are all wars evil, destructive for mankind as a whole,should and must be avoided at all costs?

2/ Should we , as a whole , be ashamed of ourselves since this evil deed became as daily occurrence?

3/ What we can do as an individual to eradicate this shameful trait and transform us to cosmic beings ( Or what ever you wish to call ) our " new" selves ,worthy the name attached to us " Master Of All Speci
Who am I to critique Clausewitz? Honestly, everything he says could be written in about 40% of the space he takes, but his kernels of truth remain so and ever shall. Worth everyone's time (especially in this abridged version, which cuts out much of the period-specific tactica on terrain and investing fortresses and the like). ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Long considered one of the experts on waging war and studies at military academies around the world, Clausewitz sets forth his military theories on strategy.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: part-read, book-club
Ranked one of the great contributions in the literature of war, Clausewitz's book, "On War", presents a wide-ranging and very intellectual discussion of the subject of war. There is room for debate about precisely what the book is about.  But Clausewitz is emphatic about what it is not: it is not a book on doctrine; it does not presume to give definitive tactical lessons; it does not pretend to give a formula on strategy-making. These are not Clausewitz's purpose. Rather it is theory that he say ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With the understanding of certain tactical level chapters being outdated, it is still a phenomenal read for strategic and operational theorizing, but must be consumed slowly, deliberately, and with much contemplation. Superficial hypocracy and seeming contradictions are eliminated with careful evaluation, intellectually Clausewitz reduces issues to their theoretical, most simplistic forms, and then walks them back with elaboration of the real world complications that prevent and contrive a perfe ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As a sometime student of History and War Studies I read this book a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

I have the abridged Wordsworth Classics edition, abridged because the original consists of eight books in three volumes, and of course was written in German, so it's not a light read.

On War is certainly one of the great books of military history. It is probably also one of the most dangerous, because his theories can, and have been, taken out of context and misused as justification f
Mar 31, 2020 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Clausewitz begins with the essential and simple definition of war as 'an act of violence intented to compel our opponent to fulfil our will'. Immediately, however, he finds the definiton inadequate to describe the different kinds of war it is possible to fight. The problem is solved by suggestion that there are in fact two types of war:

•influenced by the teaching Kant and his concept of the Ding-an-sich (literally, 'thing in itself'), Kantian ideal type, -that is, an abstract notion of what war
Dan Raghinaru
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best book on war I have ever read. There are no moral judgments in this book against war, on the contrary. Following the political purposes and the goal of defeating the enemy, an exposition of “total war” is given here by Clausewitz. By defining war mainly as an art and a practice (as opposed to a systematic theory), the content of the book is quite interesting in opposing theoretical miss-conceptions or even attempts to systematize or theorize particular aspects of war. Gives an insight into w ...more
Jeff Whistler
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I see why this treatise is so famous. Clausewitz's erudition verges on genius often. Beside famous aphorisms like "fog of war" or "policy by other means", "war is not science, nor art, but a social interaction" struck me as profound. Editing is the only real issue as he died on campaign before finishing the book and his wife published it as is. ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This review is on the abridged Reclam edition of the text.
It is hard to classify what type of book this is. What it is certainly not, is a textbook on military tactics. In its different parts, it contains a meta-analysis of war, aimed at dispelling many of the theoretical beliefs on war at the time, a psychological and sociological analysis of the countries in war, the military and its leaders, and it also contains a good deal of advice on large-scale military strategy.
In all this, the text most
Jake Sylvestre
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
When it comes to military strategists in the Prussian tradition I prefer Moltke to Clausewitz (and believe Schlieffen gets more credit than he deserves).

Enough of the brilliant insights in this book have been spoiled in a hundred useless business strategy books and taken out of context and have had the affect of watering down my enjoyment of this formidable work.

Ultimately a must have for anyone interested in the history of strategy or prussian militarism.
Sonny Dyon
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now I go to sleep and dream of War, but of course War dreams of itself
Paul Conroy
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I was very interested in this book, as it’s regarded as a classic. However I was a little disappointed, as the author struggled to describe psychological states and motivations of commanders.
The best part were the examples of various specific battles and tactics employed, but I would have liked this part to be much larger.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The most difficult book I have ever read, 5/5, would invest the fortresses again
Timons Esaias
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those classics that I've read sections of, read discussions of, read debates about, but hadn't actually read from cover to cover. Until this year.

First, a couple of notes about this edition. Goodreads has (at this writing) the wrong total page count for the book. My copy, at least, has 936 pages. Also, a fascinating element of having the Graham translation (with his footnotes) as edited by Maude (with his footnotes) is that you get glimpses of how this was taken in the late 1800s
JS Found
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Okay, so this is a long book--over 600 pages--and some of it is a slog--like a battle that has gone on too long, with the reader's army expending a lot of energy and time to finish. But, it can be useful. The book I mean. Even as we don't fight wars in our everyday lives, we can use this book to solve problems and conflicts. Maybe. I haven't put its advice and strategies into action yet. But, here's hoping. Among much advice, Clausewitz says war is politics by other means. He urges it to be deci ...more
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Carl Philipp Gottlieb von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier, military historian and military theorist. He is most famous for his military treatise Vom Kriege, translated into English as On War.

Clausewitz has served in the Rhine campaign (1793–1794), when the Prussian army invaded France during the French revolution and in the Napoleonic Wars from 1806 to 1815.

Clausewitz helped negotiate the Conven

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