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By Carl von Clausewitz

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Extra info for Carl von Clausewitz: two letters on strategy (CSI reprint)

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My analysis merely tries to show that the proposition on which the author’s reasoning rests is, as so very often in strategic theorizing, an entirely unproven thesis, a mere phrase. 6. 14This is inferred from the defenhe systemof Prussia. If by this term the author means the Prussian intention to fight the campaign on the strategic defensive, then his inference is false. If circumstances were as described, nothing would be more compatible with this intention than to attack one of the Austrian columns before the two could unite.

The phrase “freedom of action” is among the most pernicious 32 of all strategic cliches, because it is used more often than any other, and no one feels obliged to define its actual meaning. In general, then, the author concludes that the best position for the Prussian army lies between Herzberg and Torgau, where, in one way or another, it can offer the most effective resistance. I have no wish to criticize this conclusion in and of itself, only to point out that it bears little or no relation to the author’s construct of strategic theorizing and calculations of time and space.

Of this preponderance the problem has nothing to say; it appears on the contrary to assume a kind of equilibrium of strength. Furthermore it seems to me that tKs problem assigns undue significance to the question as to which Austrian 27 operation poses the greatest threat. Attack and defense determine their measures reciproc&y. But surely in theory- that is, for the purposes of general analysis-the sequence of ideas arising from this interaction must start somewhere? Quite so. The sequencebegins, I am convinced, with the defensive, in part because peacetime military arrangements are directed primarily toward defense, which thus precedes the offensive; in part because offensive plans depend on the disposition of the defense, without which they would have no factual basis, The defensive, on the other hand, does not lack the necessary data in the absence of an attaek, because these reside in the overall character and circumstances of the country.

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