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"Clausewitzian Deep Tracks: "Guide to Tactics, or ..." Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 4:05 p.m. PST

…the Theory of the Combat".

"On War is not the only text Carl von Clausewitz wrote. An undercited and underread text is "Guide to Tactics, Or the Theory of the Combat."[1] In English, it is found only in the Colonel John James Graham translation. Although it is located in the appendix of both the Hinterlassene Werke and Graham's On War, its literal literary isolation hints at why it has been underexplored.[2] It has never been published in English as a standalone text.[3] It is mentioned in very few articles and books, and then only in passing. Hew Strachan's Clausewitz's On War: A Biography contends it was likely written between 1808 and 1812 while Clausewitz was working for Gerhard von Scharnhorst.[4] Paul Schuurman presents the only substantive engagement, which is limited to observations that "Guide to Tactics, Or the Theory of the Combat" contains Clausewitz's thoughts on adversarial interaction, relationships between wholes and parts, and derives from the nature of military forces.[5] In Penser la guerre, Raymond Aron abstains from engaging with the text. He notes that at an epistemological and conceptual level "Guide to Tactics, Or the Theory of the Combat" is methodologically consistent with On War.[6] Beyond these references, it seems the greater community is unaware the work exists. This article seeks to change that.

"Guide to Tactics, Or the Theory of the Combat" is a better introduction to Clausewitz than On War. Of course, military professionals must understand that policy circumscribes the possibilities of military action, just as military means serve as an instrumental extension of politics. On War establishes the framework that fits the military into the larger geopolitical picture. It also defines war as "an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."[7] Such an understanding of Clausewitz will not change the day-to-day operational or bureaucratic realities of the profession, however, insights from "Guide to Tactics, Or the Theory of the Combat" might. The text is pragmatic and relevant, even as, or especially because, it remains theoretical…"
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