An introduction to the career of a military officer

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An introduction to the career of a military officer

See Article History Alternative Title: Early military career Clausewitz enlisted in the Prussian army inand in —95 he took part and was commissioned in the campaigns of the First Coalition against Revolutionary France.

In he gained admission into the Institute for Young Officers in Berlinan event that proved to be a turning point in his life. His basic ideas regarding war and its theory were shaped at that time.

With the Prussian army demolished and the prince captured, Prussia was forced to give up half of its territory in the concluding peace treaty. After their release at the end ofClausewitz joined the group of young and middle-rank officers around Scharnhorst, who struggled to reform the Prussian army.

However, such a modernization of society, state, and army was widely resisted among the aristocratic elite, which feared an erosion of its status. During these years, Clausewitz married Countess Marie von Bruhl, with whom he formed a very close but childless union.

Clausewitz was ill at ease in society and more in his element among a small circle of fellow military reformers. He served in various staff posts, and during the catastrophic French retreat he was instrumental in generating the chain of events that ultimately drove Prussia to change sides.

Clausewitz took part in the final campaigns that brought down Napoleon in — During the Waterloo campaign, he served as chief of staff to one of the four Prussian army corps. Military scholar With the coming of peace and the setting in of the reaction to the terms of the treaty in Prussia, which clouded his career, Clausewitz increasingly concentrated on his intellectual interests.

He had been thinking and writing on war and its theory since his days in the Institute for Young Officers. His tenure as head of the Military Academy at Berlin —30 left him plenty of time to work on his major study On War.

Appointed chief of staff to the Prussian army that prepared for intervention against the Polish revolt ofClausewitz died of cholera that year. His unfinished work, together with his historical studies, was posthumously published by his widow.

An introduction to the career of a military officer

Intellectually, he expressed in the military field the sweeping Romantic reaction against the ideas of the Enlightenmenta reaction that had been brewing in Germany since the late 18th century and that had turned into a tidal wave by the beginning of the 19th century in response to French Revolutionary ideas and imperialism.

In the spirit of their time, the military thinkers of the Enlightenment had believed that war ought to come under the domination of reason. A comprehensive theory based on rules and principles ought to be formulated and, wherever possible, given a mathematical form.

Against this Clausewitz argued, in line with Romantic critics, that human affairs and war in particular were very different from natural phenomena and the sciences. He ruled out any rigid system of rules and principles for the conduct of war, celebrating instead the free operation of genius, changing historical conditions, moral forces, and the elements of uncertainty and chance.

Here is the second revolution that dominated his life. While very conscious of the changing social and political conditions that had brought about this transformation of warfare, Clausewitz, like his contemporaries, held that the new, sweeping way of war making, culminating in the decisive battle and the overthrow of the enemy country, reflected the true nature of war and the correct method of its conduct.

He had expressed this view in his writings throughwhen the first six books of On War out of an eventual eight had been completed.

However, in Clausewitz began to have serious doubts about whether total war was really the sole legitimate type of war. He died while working on Book One, however.

Thus, the manuscript remained as an incomplete draft—Books Two to Six expressed his old ideas regarding the supremacy of the decisive battle and total war, whereas the beginning and end of On War proclaimed the subservience of war to politics and consequently the legitimacy of limited war.

An introduction to the career of a military officer

Since later readers have been largely unaware of the reasons for the glaring inconsistency in On War, while being impressed by its sophistication, they have tended to concentrate on those ideas that most accorded with the spirit of their own times.

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