Carl von Clausewitz

  • German soldier
  • Born June 1, 1780
  • Died November 16, 1831

Carl Philipp Gottfried (or Gottlieb) von Clausewitz (; 1 June 1780 – 16 November 1831) was a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (meaning, in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was unfinished at his death. Clausewitz was a realist in many different senses and, while in some respects a romantic, also drew heavily on the rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment. Clausewitz's thinking is often described as Hegelian because of his dialectical method; but, although he was probably personally acquainted with Hegel, there remains debate as to whether or not Clausewitz was in fact influenced by him.

Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.

A conqueror is always a lover of peace.

I shall proceed from the simple to the complex. But in war more than in any other subject we must begin by looking at the nature of the whole; for here more than elsewhere the part and the whole must always be thought of together.

If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.

The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.

All action takes place, so to speak, in a kind of twilight, which like a fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.

Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.

The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.

War is the continuation of politics by other means.

War is not an exercise of the will directed at an inanimate matter.

Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.

War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means.

It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.

Two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.

Politics is the womb in which war develops.

The more a general is accustomed to place heavy demands on his soldiers, the more he can depend on their response.

Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult.

To secure peace is to prepare for war.

Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain.

War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.

War is the domain of physical exertion and suffering.

War is the province of danger.

Principles and rules are intended to provide a thinking man with a frame of reference.

War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means.

Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.