him is the key to real victory. Between 1959 and 1975 North Vietnam deployed tactics and strategies taught by Sun Tzu which allowed them to out win their superpower enemy the US despite their overwhelming military advantages. Guerilla attacks ambushes and booby traps inspired by Sun Tzu forced the enemy to maneuver and respond to the North Vietnamese, this revealed the US’s strengths and weaknesses which allowed them to exploit those weak points.
After the US’s defeat, much emphasis was placed on the importance of the study of classical military theory. Clausewitz began to be widely taught across military academies and his teachings have guided the American military since the end of the Vietnam War. Clausewitz, a Prussian born strategic thinker, wrote prescriptively rather than descriptively which allows his ideas to transcend time and were universally applicable. His fame rests on a book published in 1832, the year after his death titled On War. It is a comprehensive treatise on the philosophy and practice of warfare. Though the first edition of his book did not make much impression, a few generations later Clausewitz was recognized as one of history’s most important military strategists. For Clausewitz strategy is “the use of engagements for the object of the war” (Dennis, 1977) therefore, strategy for him specifically provides the means of engagements of war. Moving on from his definition, Clausewitz lays out his principles which will be briefly compared to those of Sun Tzu. Clausewitz most famous notion is the proclamation that war is merely “a continuation of policy by other means” (Clausewitz 1976). Much emphasis is placed on the primacy of politics in the conduct of war which aims to serve a particular objective. Sun Tzu, also fully comprehended the political nature on warfare. We have already seen that in The Art of War he recognizes the primacy of politics in all major strategic decisions concerning the initiation, conduct, and termination of war; and no less than Clausewitz, he pays careful attention to the second dimension of Clausewitz framework, which includes the role of military men in all the technical details of preparing plans and leading troops in battle according to their best professional judgment. What remains to be shown is that Sun Tzu is also aware that mobilization of popular support is necessary for success in war. This bring me onto his remarkable Trinity, a political framework encompassing three key dimensions. The people and their commitment, the army and his commander who execute and plan military operations and then the state which determines policies and objectives of war ‘when one treats the people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders’ (Tzu, 2002). Furthermore, Centre of Gravity is another principle laid out by Clausewitz. This concept creates unity out of separate elements and focuses it towards a certain objective, essentially it is the core which may lead collapse the entire framework if unstable. Directly linking back to Sun Tzu, perhaps it may be argued that terrorists are familiar with the concepts of maneuver warfare and executed a strike against the gap in America created by freedom. 9/11 was an attack on America in the heart of its center, its economy, the USA’s weakness was understood on a tactful level and exploited. This leads me to the war on terror, The US’s declaration of ‘war’ on a tactic which is terrorism did not follow the classical model of interstate war. It is understandable why some may question his relevance in an age where terrorism has changed the nature of warfare. Though much of his work is contemporaneous to his time but there are some lasting lessons from it that endure, still applying today even in a post 9/11 era where we begin to move away from the state to state conflict towards more non-state actors and intrastate conflict. Strachan interestingly states that perhaps we may need to find “fresh angles from which to approach the text” (Strachan and Herberg-Rothe, 2007) which will allow us to appreciate the applicability of Clausewitz ideas and methods to modern-day warfare.
Upon analysis, the differences in principles between On war and The Art of war do not spring up a great deal of core strategic contrasts. This is not to say that there have not been great technological advancements and historical change, however, that was not the purpose of this essay. Rather, this essay displayed the works of two strategists from different ages that proposed particular principles which transcend the limitations of time and place. While it has been made clear that both are equally relevant for a modern strategist reader. often when interpreted within present-day contexts and understood in a wider sense – as demonstrated above – we do find that many of Clausewitz’s insights even apply today