Impact Of Clausewitz's Theories On First World War Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 15 Subject: Drama - World Type: Essay Paper: #14301200 Related Topics: World Peace, Michael Jordan, Revolutionary War, World Wars
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¶ … Clausewitz and World War I

The role of various theories and concepts in the First World War has been an issue of considerable concern that has attracted various studies in attempts to understand their influence in the various battles related to the war. In addition to the various concepts behind the war, Clausewitz theories of war have come under increased scrutiny with regards to their influence on World War I. The scrutiny has led to assertions that the protracted and bloody stalemate of the First World War was largely because of the decision by the then leaders to stubbornly rely on the theories of Clausewitz. These assertions have generated various arguments and counter-arguments based on an overall outlook and analysis of the actual causes of World War I. Proponents of this idea continue to assert that these theories largely influence military strategies while opponents state that the theories had very minimal impact on the bloody stalemate.

Clausewitz's during the First World War

Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and intellectual who came from a middle-class social background and acted as a practical field soldier. Clausewitz's involvement as a practical field is evident in his widespread combat experience against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France armies.

His fame is largely attributed to the significance and impact of his book regarding the theory of warfare and strategy despite the varying interpretations and misinterpretations associated with the book. Clausewitz's theories of warfare and strategy have attracted considerable interest from scientists, historians, political analysts, military strategists, and business thinkers. Actually, most of the discussions of military strategy have always involved analyzing Clausewitz theories of warfare and strategy.

While various sophisticated military thinkers during the World War I continued to discuss Clausewitz's theories, they relatively had minimal time for theoretical meditation.

Arguments Regarding Clausewitz's Influence

As previously mentioned, the theories of Clausewitz have been considered as one of the most influential factors in the World War One with regards to their role in the protracted battle and bloody stalemate. While there have been several assertions to demonstrate that these theories were largely influential in the war, there have been counter-arguments to show otherwise. One of these counter-arguments is the fact military strategists during this war had little theoretical meditation, which implies that the theories did not have any influence on the war. Actually, the interpretation of Clausewitz theories has been very difficult because of the dialectical approach he utilized and the many contradictions.

Secondly, the influence of Clausewitz's theories on World War One has been rejected on the premise that the battle contributed to the virtual eclipse of Jomini. Actually, Clausewitz purposely rejected to develop a strategic jargon in a manner that makes Jomini's impact an easy thing to detect. Third, the influence of Clausewitz's theories has been opposed on the basis that it is chronologically ridiculous to propose that he can help interpret the war since he died 73 years before the beginning of the conflict.

Fifth, the opponents have argued that these theories are irrelevant because Clausewitz's main theoretical insights do not have any interpretive strength in relation to the war. They also state that World War I did not have any strategic ideas or concepts on both sides of the frontlines of the battlefield.

One of the concepts of Clausewitz's theories of warfare and strategy is that there is a link between war and politics. He argued that war is basically an extension of politics, which implies that every act of violence must have political objectives.

Clausewitz's stated that war can never be separated from politics and the military must remain secondary to political authorities.

However, opponents argue that politics did not play any role in the conduct of World War I in a way that is worth mentioning. These opponents state that the war was largely a gruesome cultural anomaly. In some situations opponents of Clausewitz's claims have argued that the origins of the war were mysterious and cannot be attributed to political objective or military subordination to political objectives.

Counter-arguments in Support of Clausewitz's Influence

The argument that military strategists had no theoretical meditation to an extent that Clausewitz's theories...


In his analysis, Liddell Hart examined the root cause of the bloody stalemate and concluded that the eventual responsibility for the battle was with Clausewitz. This is primarily because Clausewitz's wrongheaded theories or concepts about warfare and strategy had been passionately adopted by European armies.

For instance, the failure of the German army in the war could be directly attributed to the army's close following of the theories Clausewitz. Therefore, it would be better to assume that Europe would have probably not engaged in the First World War if Clausewitz did not introduce his theories of warfare and strategy.

The argument that Clausewitz theories of warfare and strategy did not play a role in the First World War because the bloody stalemate was as a result of a gruesome cultural anomaly rather than politics is wrong. The role of politics in the First World War cannot be underestimated because most of the battles in this war were fueled by political differences between state actors. Clausewitz developed and introduced his theories because of his experience in combat battles in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic France armies, which were characterized by political differences. The theories clearly demonstrated or stereotyped the image of German-European relations through which he was writing from the angle of a weak country.

The link between politics and the First World War was further demonstrated by Thucydides who examined the role of human conflict in war. The human conflict is partly attributed to politics, which was the fundamental nature of the First World War.

Political influence in the First World War is further demonstrated when German generals planned to attack France first before shifting eastward toward Russia.

The other aspects of politics in the First World War emerging from these theories were their profound impact on Nazi Germany and American foreign policy as well as military strategies.

The other demonstration of the role of the theories of Clausewitz on the First World War is largely evident in the failure of the German Army. In the midst of the First World War, one of Germany's new strategies of warfare under the leadership of General Erich Ludendorff involved the use of all theories of Clausewitz.

These theories enabled the German army to consider balanced military opinions that promoted varying political considerations and solutions. This contributed to military preparations that disconnected the army from political objectives but also forced them into political directions or objectives that were not particularly for its best interests. In general, as a result of applying the theories of Clausewitz, Germany failed in predicting the result of various wars including World War I.

In conclusion, the idea that the prolonged and bloody stalemate of the First World War was largely because leaders during that period strongly stuck to the theories of Clausewitz is proven by various factors that occurred during the war. While this assertion has been opposed and rejected by various people, it is quite clear that there are numerous evidences that prove the use of these theories in the war. Unlike the claims by opponents, the theories of Clausewitz contributed to the failure of the German army and the clear link between politics and the conflict rather than a cultural gruesome anomaly.


Bassford, Christopher. Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945. Madison Avenue, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1994

Clausewitz. Frequently Asked Questions About Clausewitz. Accessed January 28, 2015.

Clemens, Walter C. Dynamics of International Relations: Conflict and Mutual Gain in an Era of Global Independence. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004

Davidson, Kenneth L. "Clausewitz and the Indirect Approach… Misreading the Leader."

Airpower Journal, 88 (1988).

Enge, Joseph. Why the Rejection of Clausewitz, Moltke the Elder, and Bismarck Led to Germany's Disaster and Defeat in World War I. Enge Translations. accessed January 28, 2015.

Farley, Robert M. Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force. Lexington,

Kentucky: University of Press Kentucky, 2014.

Handel, Michael I. Clausewitz and Modern Strategy. Oxford: Frank Cass and Company Limited,


Klinger, Janeen. The Social Science of Carl von Clausewitz. Strategic Studies Institute. accessed

January 28, 2015.

Lindell, Jordan. "Clausewitz: War, Peace and Politics." E-International Relations Students.

accessed January 28, 2015.

Mearsheimer, John J. Liddell Hart and the Weight of History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University,


Melton, Stephen L. The Clausewitz Delusion. Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Imprint, 2009.

Murray, Williamson. "Thucydides Theorist of War." Naval War College Review, 66, no.4 (2013).

Pommerin, Reiner. Clausewitz Goes Global: Carl Von Clausewitz in the 21st Century:

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Clausewitz Society. Germany: Books on Demand, 2011.

Strachan, Hew. "Clausewitz and the First World War." The Journal of Military History, 75


Waldman, Thomas. "Shadows of…

Sources Used in Documents:

Jordan Lindell, "Clausewitz: War, Peace and Politics," E-international Relations Students, accessed January 28, 2015,

Joseph Enge, "Why the Rejection of Clausewitz, Moltke the Elder, and Bismarck Led to Germany's Disaster and Defeat in World War I," Enge Translations, accessed January 28, 2015,

Stephen L. Melton, The Clausewitz Delusion, (Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Imprint) 2009:14

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