On War

by Clausewitz

Discussion Questions

1. What does Clausewitz think is the role of international law in war?

2. How according to Clausewitz are the wars or civilized peoples different from those of savages? What does he think accounts for those differences? To what extent do the differences indicate the superiority of civilized peoples?

3. What would Clausewitz say to those who advise using skill to disarm and overcome an enemy with the least amount of bloodshed?

4. What sort of reasoning about war is Clausewitz criticizing when he speaks of "reasoning in the abstract" and imagining that we can strive after perfection and even attain it? What is the more realistic view that Clausewitz is advocating?

5. Clausewitz writes that "the result of war is never absolute." What does he mean by this?

6. What does Clausewitz mean by the political object of war? What role does Clausewitz think that political goals should play in war?

7. Does Clausewitz’s reference to war as a game or as chance make him an evil man, who is insensitive to the suffering that war brings? What does Clausewitz mean when he refers to war as a game?

8. What does Clausewitz mean by "an ideal war"? (see "Diversity in War"). Is an ideal war one that he would like to see in reality?

9. What is "the wonderful trinity" of elements that Clausewitz finds in war? Why does he call them "wonderful"?

10. Does Clausewitz’s treatment of the ends and means of war suggest any restrictions on the conduct of war?

Paper topics:

1. What are the virtues that come into play during war, according to Clausewitz? Does Clausewitz think that they are the highest virtues?

2. What are the characteristics that Clausewitz locates in the individual who has a "genius for war"? Although Clausewitz argues that to conduct a war to a successful termination, a general must become a statesman. Does Clausewitz nevertheless understand that there may be a conflict between the virtues of a general and the virtues of a statesman?

3 What is Clausewitz’s view of the role of pride in human life? How does his view differ from that of Augustine?

4. Compare and contrast Clausewitz’s view of war with that of Thomas.

5. On what different grounds would Clausewitz and Augustine argue against Kant’s position on "perpetual peace"?

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