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On War

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  8,784 Ratings  ·  232 Reviews
'War is merely the continuation of policy by other means'

On War is one of the most important books ever written on the subject of war. Clausewitz, a Prussian officer who fought against the French during the Napoleonic Wars, sought to understand and analyse the phenomenon of war so that future leaders could conduct and win conflicts more effectively. He studied the human a
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, Abridged, 284 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press (first published 1832)
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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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, 2012
"War is simply the continuation of politics by other means."

Far too many people quote Clausewitz without read 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.

The most difficult book I've ever completed. 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. Secondly, the contents are unbelievable. Yes, some explanations may be outdated, but the gist is still relevant. If one could get pass through the Book I-II
Mike Edwards
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
No one can actually enjoy reading Clausewitz - it simply must be done.
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
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron Crofut
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-Probablemente, sin superar tras ciento ochenta y dos años.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. Análisis teórico sobre la guerra basado en el pensamiento del autor, su experiencia y su tiempo, desde su propio concepto hasta la generalidad de sus planes operativos, pasando por las fuerzas armadas, el combate y la teoría estratégica. Publicado de manera póstuma, menos de un año después del fallecimiento del autor, con sólo el primer libro, de los ocho que lo componen, revisado por Clausewitz y los
Amazing how theories of war have not changed much over 200 years. This book is still relevant even though published in 1832.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bradley Hood
On War is often considered tedious, long, and difficult to read. Those who promote this argument certainly have some valid points, and their concerns were echoed by Clausewitz's contemporaries, which led to Antoine Henri Jomini achieving far more prominence in military circles before 1914. However, despite Jomini's continued influence in the concept of "scientific principles of war", Clausewitz's On War has proved instrumental in shaping the foundations of today's military theory and thought. An ...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
Antonio Simon Jr.
There are scores of books throughout history that have stood the test of time and remain relevant even today. To Clausewitz's credit, "On War" is one of them. Unfortunately, while Clausewitz's observations may be timeless, his writing style and voice are horribly out of date. His treatise is obtuse, repetitive, and rife with long-winded, complicated sentences.

It is true that he was a soldier and not a writer, and that his holistic view of war has shaped the manner in which armed conflict is cond
Henry Manampiring
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone young and foolish enough to become an army officer
Dubbed "Sun Tzu from the West", I rushed to buy this book after it was mentioned in my fave movie Crimson Tide. Turned out to be as indigestible as unthawed frozen food. So much with my youth's dream of becoming a general and invade Malaysia....

One point from the book still rings in my head though: "you only achieve complete victory if you have broken the enemy's WILL to fight". As long as there is will to resist and fight, the enemy will be a pain in the ass, no matter how poorly equipped they
I listened to Volume 1.
Carl von Clausewitz like Marcel Proust takes delight in unnecessarily complicated sentences. His style of writing isn't very suitable to the audiobook format.
In the beginning he spends some time defining fundamentals and debunking bullshitters.
His writing is most interesting when he uses examples to illustrate his ideas.
Ultimately, I was bored too often and his remarks frequently couldn't capture my attention, 2,5 stars.
Jaron Roux
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saass-600
So, after taking a week to really chew up and digest Uncle Carl, I see how and why a lot of people get his propositions wrong! They get his theory wrong, and then mis-apply it to modern day situations without fully understanding his context. I know for a fact this week has help to make me a better military thinker for gaining a better understanding and appreciation of Clausewitz!
Aminmo Hassan
كتب كلاوزيفيتس العديد من الكتابات في التاريخ العسكري والفلسفة والسياسة فضلا عن النظريات الحربية ويعد كتابة " عن الحرب " أحد أشهر اعماله وقد نشر بعد وفاته حيث امضى في كتابته في 12 عاما وقد أصبح مع مرور الوقت من أهم المراجع الكلاسيكية في الحرب وقد اشاد به كل من هتلر وايزنهاور وانجلز ولينين.
Fredrick Danysh
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.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
война есть часть целого, а это целое - политика. Для Клаузевица война - только инструмент политики, особая форма политических отношений. Политика определяет характер войны.

Помимо этого фактического различия между типами войн, надлежит точно и определенно установить еще практически столь же необходимую точку зрения, что война есть не что иное, как продолжение государственной политики иными средствами

Раз война является актом насилия, то она неминуемо вторгается в область чувств
Stephen Heiner
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This is a very reasonably abridged version of a book that is worth reading, but is very dry in parts, even for the most avid military historian (a group I do not count myself as part of).

More than anything, this is an observation on one hundred years of warfare. While von Clausewitz does reach back to Gustavus Adolphus and the armies of Louis XIV, his focus remains on Napoleon, Russia, and Prussia, and understandably so, this is where he had the most information. That being said, he makes genera
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction

Perhaps an unusually pragmatic entry in the 'philosophy' category, _On War_ is nonetheless best described as such, being neither identifiable as a book of science nor, as some have labelled it, a history book -- Clausewitz's use of (primarily contemporary) historical examples is not critical to the aim of the book, and nor does it make up the majority of his analysis, which for the most part is rational deduction from some grounding principles of war which Clausewitz establishes in example and a
Justin Tapp
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership, history, war
I was inspired to read this after it was cited heavily in Gaddis' biography of George Kennan and Thomas Ricks' The Generals. As the U.S. embarks on a quasi-war against the Islamic State, I was eager to compare Clausewitz's thoughts on war to the modern, limited conflicts we currently seem to wage with unclear political ends.

Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist. On War was part of Clausewitz's writings from 1816 to 1830 and appear to be Clausewitz's attempts to form a
It's a good idea to have some knowledge of the campaigns of Napoleon and Fredrick the Great before reading this. Knowledge of their campaigns (and a few others to a lesser extent) is assumed by the author. The first half of the book contains a good amount of theory that could also be applicable to non-military situations, the second half is almost exclusively applicable to war. There is no in-depth analysis of specific campaigns or battles but rather little snippets that apply to each situation ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O carte veche, de la care nu te-ai aștepta să îți spună multe despre războaiele din zilele noastre, dar pe măsură ce o citești iți dai seama că discursul autorului e încă actual.
Asta pentru că el discută despre esența războiului, caracterul cel mai potrivit al luptătorului și scopul final al oricărui conflict. Deși pe alocuri vorbește despre unele situații istorice, von Clausewitz o face mai mult pentru a te ajuta să-ți construiești un spirit critic care, spune el, e foarte important pentru cei
Alan Metelko
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Selections of the book should be read along with Suz Tzu by every military professional. Some of it is of only of antiquarian interest but other parts are just as relevant today as they ever have been. Of people interest is Clausewitz's trinity of public support, chance and friction. Also of course is the idea that war is political intercourse by other means. The very first chapter, which is the only one the Clausewitz considered finished, should be read and reread until it is completely underst ...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
More about Carl von Clausewitz...

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“War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.” 56 likes
“The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.” 39 likes
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