On War

In This Review

On War

By Carl von Clausewitz, edited and translated by Michael Howard
Princeton University Press, 1976
711 pp.
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This superb translation of and gloss on the work of an early nineteenth-century German soldier made Clausewitz readily accessible to a vast English-speaking audience who knew of him but rarely read him. It had a particularly powerful effect on the American military after Vietnam, and on American university campuses, where a generation of students of national security (by no means all of them American) wrestled with the meaning of such overused terms as "center of gravity," "friction," and "the fog of war." A philosophy of war rather than a set of prescriptive principles -- the author rejects attempts to develop such principles root and branch -- On War's most important themes are the permeation of war by politics and the dominance of intangibles in determining the outcomes of conflict. Arguably the most profound nonfiction work on war ever written.