Sunday, December 7, 2014

Donald Stoker's "Clausewitz: His Life and Work"

Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is the author of The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War.

Stoker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Clausewitz: His Life and Work, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us at a moment when Clausewitz is worried about the situation he is facing because of his decision to resign from the Prussian army and take service under the Russian Czar. It is the spring of 1812 and Napoleon is preparing his famous invasion. Clausewitz’s homeland of Prussia has been coerced into taking part on the French side. Clausewitz hated Napoleon (and the French) and refused to fight as their ally. He is on his way to Russia, but he has had to borrow money from one of his friends and mentors, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau, in order to make the trip. He’s expecting some other payments to reach him, and they eventually do, but he’s worried about providing for his wife while he was away—and himself as well.

Clausewitz would go to Russia and fight in the 1812 campaign from beginning to end. He saw the horrors of Borodino, the burning of Moscow, and Napoleon’s famously disastrous retreat across the Berezina.

We also see Clausewitz hurriedly finishing one of his first theoretical works, a slim volume known to us as The Principles of War. He penned this for his student, the Prussian Crown Prince (the future Frederick William IV), hoping it would “breath a spark” into the teenager’s soul. Clausewitz did not intend it as a manual for how to fight wars (an impression easily and mistakenly conveyed by the English title)—wars are too individually unique and complicated for that—but as something that would serve as a way to teach the Prince how to think about some of the tactical and strategic problems a war leader might face. This book did not form the basis for Clausewitz’s most famous work, On War (though it does touch on some of the same subjects such as the relative merits of the offense and the defense), but it is an important intellectual steppingstone on the way to his magnum opus.
Learn more about Clausewitz: His Life and Work at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Grand Design.

My Book, The Movie: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

--Marshal Zeringue