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On War

Bibliographic Content

Clausewitz, Carl von

1832 (original)


Kindle, Paperback (94 pages), Hardback (‎130 pages), Audible (29hrs:20min)

Synopsis from Author

On War was first published in 1832, at a time when muskets and cavalry were a dominating presence on the battlefield. Yet in the 21st century, it remains a much-valued and studied treatise on the subject - perhaps the most important European classic of its kind - and this despite the author’s demise before he could finish what was an extended review of the whole subject of military strategy. Why is that? As Louise Willmot, lecturer in history, Open University, explains in her lucid introduction, because ‘it was the first to propose a comprehensive theory applicable to every stage of military history and practice’.

Vom Kriege, to give it its original German title, is in effect ‘a study of war in its entirety’. Carl Maria von Clausewitz (1780-1831) served in the Prussian army during the wars against Napoleonic France. He also served with the Russian army and then again in the Prussian army under Blücher during the final push against Napoleon. He was, in part, prompted to write On War following the initial successes of Napoleon. Clausewitz presents a simple definition of war as ‘an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will’. But he goes further to suggest two types of war: first, ‘absolute’ war, which only ends in the complete victory of one side over another; there is no place for moderation. Second, ‘limited’ war, which takes into account political realities: war is ‘simply the continuation of policy by other means’. Though not considering the moral issues of war, Clausewitz does advocate taking a rational objective in protecting the state and its interests. As a result, in war, military men should never be allowed to preside over the political purpose.

The decision to publish Clausewitz’s text despite it being unfinished (he died unexpectedly of cholera at the age of 51) was taken by his widow, Marie von Clausewitz. On War contains the six complete books along with the substantial ‘sketches’ for book VII and book VIII. The overall plan is as follows: book I, On the Nature of War; book II, On the Theory of War; book III, Of Strategy in General; book IV, The Combat; book V, Military Forces; book VI, Defence; Sketches for book VII, The Attack; Sketches for book VIII, Plan of War.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, ebook, or Audible audiobook, we have provided a helpful link directly to its storefront page on Amazon; purchase any version of the book and we get a small affiliate bonus for every referral. “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.”

on war, clausewitz, carl von clausewitz
Video Book Review
War is a mere continuation of policy by other means.

We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means of its uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

Summary of Book from War Is My Business

Carl von Clausewitz is a well-known name amongst military theorists and students of warfare. He was a Prussian military officer who was born in 1780 and entered into the service around the age of twelve, where he participated during the War of the First Coalition (1793-1794) against the French. He entered military academies, became an instructor, and supported numerous campaigns against the French, including the culminating Battle of Waterloo. His life would be cut short by Cholera in November of 1831, which he contracted while in Poland during the Polish rebellion of 1830.

This work of On War (Vom Krieg) would be published after his death. His widow, Marie, would compile all of his writing into various books to the best of her ability, and to which I presume she structured based on her intimate knowledge of her husband’s intent for how it would be structured, taking the form of “On War” that we know today. Indeed, this major treatise on contemporary military theory; the relationship between the nation and the military; the purpose of warfare; and the dichotomy between political and military objectives, much of our current understanding of western military theory is shaped by Clausewitz. We owe Marie much credit for seeing that her husband's writings were published.

  • Do note: For those unfamiliar with On War, this work is a book of books. Much like the Christian Bible can be viewed as a book of books - Book of John, Book of Luke, etc. So when I mention something like “Book One: On The Nature of War,” that is simply the first book of eight that make up the entirety of On War.

Biographical footnote aside, what you need to know about Clausewitz is that much of his perspective on military theory was shaped by his experiences and perspectives during the Napoleonic Wars in the heart of Europe. That his perspective would become a major treatise in western military thought outside of Prussian military circles is a testament to the logic and rationale of his principles and his perspective of warfare’s place in international politics.

While the books cover many different topics, the bulk covers principles on the conduct of military operations at the strategic and operational levels of war while, at most times, endeavors to tie these principles into the overarching concept that all of these operations and the plan for the war itself must be guided by the political ends that the nation seeks to achieve.

In this review, to avoid spending too much time in its extensive study, as it is so defining to the entire study of military theory, I will cover some of the more important topics where he discusses the nature of warfare; the use of warfare as a tool; and the emphasis of its relationship to national interests. Ultimately, I will bridge the discussion to how this applies to non-military endeavors, like business.

Theory, Ends, Means, and Methods

One difference that I find that separates the great intellectuals and academics from the mediocre ones is that the good ones will go to great lengths to explain how they came to their conclusions. More than simply saying that things are the way they are and that what one says works and should be taken as fact, the best teachers will explain why it is so. They will take you from simple and widely accepted positions and, through logical and rational discussion, lead you to their conclusion. Even if you disagree with their conclusion, you understand how they came to it because they took you on that intellectual journey. Clausewitz does just that for practically every position he states as the nature of things in war and politics.

Clausewitz has an underlying goal in his writing, and that is to get the audience to understand the nature of warfare and its relationship with diplomacy between nations. He uses analogies to help the reader understand and view a topic from a new perspective. He references historical battles to flesh out a concept with a real-world example. Do note, though, that he is a man of his time, and his references to battles and historical figures can go over our heads as we are 200 years later from his time period. Finding an edition of “On War” with good footnotes from the translator/editor will help us understand these references and provide better clarity.

As he attempts to teach us his perspective on the theory of warfare, he also teaches us his views of what any theory provides for us. For him, there are truths that exist that are unshakable truths that manifest themselves as “laws.” Then there are things that are viewed as generally true, as they are manifested as expected except under certain conditions, and these are “principles” of which there are two. “Objective principles” are generally true for every scenario, and “subjective principles” or “maxims” are generally true under certain scenarios. One such scenario is the state of warfare between nations and the nature of open hostilities between groups of organized people ready to fight. His discussion on the theory of warfare discusses these subjective principles or maxims that are generally true and can therefore be understood and applied. This is the realm of theory, not in the scientific sense but in the pragmatic and practical sense.

Clausewitz states in “Book Two: On the Theory of War, Chapter I: Branches of the Art of War,”

The knowledge and applications of skill in the preparations for War are engaged in the creation, discipline, and maintenance of all military forces; what general names should be given to them we do not enter into, but we see that artillery, fortifications, elementary tactics, as they are called, the whole organization and administration of the various armed forces, and such things are included. But the theory of War itself occupies itself with the use of these prepared means for the object of war. It needs of the first only the results, that is, the knowledge of the principle properties of the means taken in hand for use. This we call ‘The Art of War’ in a limited sense, or ‘Theory of the Conduct of War’, or ‘Theory of the Employment of Armed Forces’, all of them denoting for us the same thing.

The Art of War thus viewed in its limited sense divides itself again into tactics and strategy. The former occupies itself with the form of the separate combat, the latter with its use. Both connect themselves with the circumstances of marches, camps, cantonments only through the combat, and these circumstances are tactical or strategic according as they relate to the form or to the signification of the battle.

Here, Clausewitz tells us that the theory of warfare, this art of war, is generally focused on the means of war - the battle. All things related to the battle, like movement and fortifications, are included as they serve as auxiliary elements to the conduct of the battle itself. We have a theory that helps us understand what we need to do in order to achieve our ends. Theory helps us contextualize what we are witnessing in the environment and how we can effectively shape that environment. To understand how to employ a military force in battle, how to prepare it for battle, and how to shape the environment so that we may gain an advantage in battle has to come from some set of principles, and these principles are what we call theory.

That being said, we have a theory to achieve our ends, and this theory informs us of how we may be able to shape the environment towards that end - the desired results we want. The theory we develop, any theory for any human endeavor, serves as a guide for how to use the means we have to do just that. Clausewitz saw war as a means to achieve the political objective, and within war, a singular means is available - battle.

In “Book One: On the Nature of War, Chapter II: End and Means,” he states:

We have only one means in War - the battle; but this means, by the infinite variety of paths in which it may be applied, leads us into all the different ways which the multiplicity of objects allows of, so that we seem to have gained nothing; but that is not the case, for from this unity of means proceeds a thread which assists the study of the subject, as it runs through the whole web of military activity that holds it together…

The combat is the single activity in War; in the combat the destruction of the enemy opposed to us is the means to the end; it is so even when the combat does not actually take place, because in that case there lies at the root of the decision the supposition at all events that this destruction is to be regarded as beyond doubt. It follows, therefore, that the destruction of the enemy military force is the foundation-stone of all action in War, the great support of all combinations, which rest upon it like the arch on its abutments.

In Clausewitz's time, destroying the enemy’s capacity to resist was the surest way to achieve the desired ends. Be it the removal of a national threat, the annexation of enemy provinces into your own, supporting allied efforts as part of a mutual treaty, etc., all of these ends could be more effectively achieved through the destruction of enemy resistance. Suppose the enemy can resist and has hopes of actually achieving some modicum of success from resistance. In that case, the ends may not be achieved, so by destroying the enemy’s means of resistance - their armed forces - we can achieve our ends from a position of strength that the enemy would not be able to challenge without further harm to their national interests. The theory, therefore, was predominantly based on setting the conditions for the battle.

Theory, however, is only “generally true,” as previously mentioned. It is the subjective principles that apply to warfare, but may be false should conditions change or there be some aspect of the environment not fully understood, some variable not accounted for that makes the principle false. When need to make the theory useful, to make it work for actual operations in the field, as we may not be able to understand every variable at play. We need a way to turn principles into applicable action that provides us success more than failure.

In “Book Two: On the Theory of War, Chapter IV: Methodicism,” he states:

Methodicism is therefore not founded on determined particular premises, but on the average probability of cases one with another; and its ultimate tendency is to set up an average truth, the constant and uniform application of which soon acquired something of the nature of a mechanical appliance, which in the end does that which is right almost unwittingly…

But principles, rules, prescriptions, and methods are conceptions indispensable to a theory of the conduct of War, in so far as that theory leads to positive doctrines; because in doctrines the truth can only crystallize in such forms.

Clausewitz’ process of Methodicism is simply the process of creating methods that have a probabilistically high chance of achieving the desired results. We may not be able to ever fully understand a situation when we need to make a decision or prepare for a future action right now. Still, through a method of proven principles that have been shown to have worked, we can develop a method of decision-making that improves our chances. These methods eventually develop further into practical concepts that can be shared within an organization for everyone to utilize and understand, making the organization better able to get the results they are looking to achieve. This is “doctrine,” the conceptual guidelines that organizations follow to improve the probability of their success. All organizations, be they military, business, sports, or whatnot, utilize doctrine in some capacity, even if they don’t call it by the name “doctrine.”

So, Clausewitz has discussed that theory is there to guide us on the nature of things. We have established ends, and a means to achieve those ends. And we have methods by which we can use those means to shape that end. But what are these ends? We have mentioned that the military's desired end is the destruction of the enemy armed forces, which makes the enemy nation unable to further resist our nation's will. This goes directly into the political objectives of which Clausewitz emphasizes that the military objectives are always subordinate to the political objectives.

To Compel the Enemy to Our Will

The first military objective a nation, locked in war, must achieve is to compel the enemy to terms, or at least leverage enough pressure to get terms that are favorable. The adversary, however, will not simply roll over and accept conditions that are unfavorable to them by threats alone. There needs to be some credibility to the threat. There is a reason why we have the saying, “oh yeah, you and what army?” when responding to questionable threats. We understand that threats are only as good as the means to back them up, and the means of warfare - the “battle” as Clausewitz sees it - is the means to intimidate the enemy into accepting terms or into accepting the challenge on the battlefield. To be a credible threat, and to protect the interests of the nation, the military needs to be able to defeat an adversary in battle or at least influence the adversary enough to make them reconsider their options.

In “Book One: On the Nature of War, Chapter I: What is War?,” he states:

We shall not enter into any of the abstruse definitions of War used by publicists. We shall keep to the element of the thing itself, to a duel. War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale. If we would conceive as a unit the countless number of duels which make up a War, we shall do so best by supposing to ourselves two wrestlers. Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: each endeavors to throw his adversary, and thus render him incapable of further resistance.

War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.

As the opening quote, probably Clausewitz's most famous saying, that “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means,” he views warfare as a challenge between opposing nations along a new avenue of influence. What the diplomats and political leaders were not able to do solely in the domains of diplomacy, information, and economic forms of influence, war opens up the military element of national power. Words and treaties alone could not compel a decision; now threat of force is used, saber-rattling. If the threat of force is insufficient, then movement toward conflict is made until, finally, military forces clash where death and destruction ensue.

The war won’t be settled on the battlefield; it is merely a new avenue of diplomatic negotiation, as all conflict is inevitably settled with diplomacy in the end. The war, however, is a massive weight on the decision-making scale that political leaders must now contend with. The slaughter, the loss of industry targeted during the conflict, the loss of capital funding the military’s efforts, and the international pressure of third parties change the dynamic of what diplomats have to negotiate during talks. Before the conflict, they could negotiate from theoretical positions of strength. Now, however, the positions of strength have been made manifest, and the diplomat with the weaker military position has lost the leverage.

That being said, the military element of national power is undoubtedly compelling, an important aspect for all parties to understand before entering into conflict. But even during conflict, since the military entered it with an inherently political objective in mind, the political objective always takes priority over the military objective. Or at least, the military objective - the destruction of the enemy or taking some key territory- is subordinate to the political objective.

The Relationship Between the Political and Military Objective

The serious nature of conflict, with its life and death stakes and its suffering and devastation, tends to create a special aura of circumstance. What I mean by a special aura is that because of these major consequences, in the minds of the people, we place warfare and other forms of organized conflict into a special category of human influence. While all forms of national power; diplomatic, informational, military, and economic, can be equally consequential, it is the military arm’s utilization of violence and its visceral nature which makes it seem so much more consequential than the others.

The warfighters and their leadership also suffer in the conduct of their profession. For both attackers and defenders, this particular type of business is both harsh and unforgiving. Because of the difficulties of the profession of arms, and the problems associated with maintaining a ready military force and then using that force to achieve objectives through blood and hardship, the military can be naturally insular and protective from outside interference. Additionally, the military, because of these hardships, can look upon the more civilian aspects of diplomacy with suspicion and disdain. However, we must remember that ultimately, the military is being used as a tool of influence alongside those other elements of national power, and, therefore, there will always be this higher political objective that the military should not work against through its conduct.

In “Book Eight: Plan of War, Chapter VI-B: War As An Instrument of Policy,” Clausewitz states,

That the political point of view should end completely when War begins is only conceivable in contests which are Wars of life and death, from pure hatred: as Wars are in reality, they are, as we before said, only the expressions or manifestations of policy itself. The subordination of the political point of view to the military would be contrary to common sense, for policy has declared the War; it is the intelligent faculty, War only the instrument, and not the reverse. The subordination of the military point of view to the political is, therefore, the only thing which is possible.

Because of war’s nature, many had viewed that politics should stay out of war. That the nature of military necessity, when faced with the existential threats that are found in combat, would require political pressure to take a backseat, is an understandable position. But there is a difference between politics in general, the things that politicians whine and complain about to gain votes and to pander to the public, and the political objective for the use of the military. The military is charged with being ready to win the nation's wars and requires being ready to fight, and then actually going out and doing the fighting. The win criteria for the war is established by the political machine of the nation, and this will be tied with related and mutually supporting, or at least not counterproductive, efforts from the other elements of national power. They all have their own objectives, but all tie back to the ultimate national-level political objective. War and its conduct is just one particular way to achieve the political objective, but in the prosecution of the war, though realities may compel the military to act in a certain way, it mustn’t work against the overarching political objective if it can help it.

One caveat, however, is that the political machine must understand its own military to ensure that the use of the military can actually support the political ends. As the military, we are powerful in our ways and means, and our chain of command and mission-focused do-or-die mentality allows us to achieve great works that civilian agencies wouldn’t be able to do. As a result, civilian politicians may rely heavily on their military to accomplish political objectives. But is that always the best course of action? Probably not, if you want a tailored approach that is the most efficient in time and resources, as it may require a multitude of different means than just the military. But this understanding requires those politicians, choosing the tools available, to understand the true nature of their tools - what they can and can’t do, the pros and cons.

It is only when policy promises itself a wrong effect from certain military means and measures, an effect opposed to their nature, that it can exercise a prejudicial effect on War by the course it prescribes. Just as a person in a language with which he is not conversant sometimes says what he does not intend, so policy, when intending right, may often order things which do not tally with its own views.

This has happened times without end, and it shows that a certain knowledge of the nature of War is essential to the management of political intercourse.

Ultimately, if you want to create an end, you will use tools to shape the environment to that end. The military is such a tool. As mentioned, it will be up to the political body to determine the tools that will work to accomplish their objectives, however, if they don’t know the nature of that tool, then it won’t be used effectively. A sledgehammer is a hammer, but not ideal for pounding nails. So having an understanding of the military beyond the basics may be necessary to truly bring out its strengths and to seek out better alternatives if those strengths are not sufficient.

To understand the nature of the military tool, we must have an understanding of contemporary military theory and its principles. For military leaders, this is obvious as we understand the nature of our own profession in order to best employ our capabilities and ready our force. But even a basic understanding of military theory is necessary for political leaders as they will be the ones that need to 1) determine the political objectives that they need to achieve, 2) the nature of the tools they have at their disposal, and finally, 3) how to combine the tools in complementary ways to achieve the political objective.

Military Theory as a Tool of Understanding

One of the biggest issues with understanding the nature of the military is that nature changes alongside rapidly advancing technological developments in a complex and sometimes unfathomable geopolitical environment with numerous simultaneous threats.

In “Book VIII: Plan of War, Chapter III-B: Of the Magnitude of the Object the War, and the Efforts to Be Made,” Clausewitz discussed the changes in military theory and the art of war from the limited nature of wars of kingdoms before Napoleon to the more total wars of nations during the Napoleonic era. At the end of the chapter, he noted that the nature of theory changes, and its principles are altered with time and the environment. Theory is, after all, the practical application of principles to achieve desired results. If actionable principles are related to the environment around them, then naturally if the environment changes then so too must the principles.

That being said, Clausewitz states:

We here bring our historical survey to a close, for it was not our design to give at a gallop some of the principles on which war has been carried on in each age, but only to show how each period has had its own peculiar forms of war, its own restrictive conditions, and its own prejudices. Each period would, therefore, also keep its own theory of war, even if every where, in early times, as well as in later, the task had been undertaken of working out a theory on philosophical principles. The events in each age must, therefore, be judged of in connection with the peculiarities of the time, and only he who, less through an anxious study of minute details than through an accurate glance at the whole, can transfer himself into each particular age, is fit to understand and appreciate its generals…

Theory, therefore, whilst casting a searching, discriminating and classifying glance at objects, should always have in view the manifold diversity of causes from which War may proceed, and should, therefore, so trace out its great features as to leave room for what is required by the exigencies of time and the moment.

All this is to say is that military theory is not a static understanding of organized conflict that never changes; it must, by necessity, change alongside the changes in the environment. When we look back in time to assess the nature of the art of war, we must also understand the nature of the environment in which that art was shaped. Only then can we properly understand the thought processes of the leadership of those times, how they viewed and responded to situations as they unfolded around them, and how they led their forces accordingly. Just imagine, now in an age with almost instantaneous communication, how being able to radio or digitally communicate information on enemy and friendly movements, statuses, and requests for support would have invalidated many older principles of organized conflict found in Clausewitz’s time.

Understanding laws and objective principles that are applicable regardless of the environment while paying attention to changes that alter the nature of subjective principles, “maxims,” will allow the individual to have a better understanding of war’s nature. While military leadership should focus heavily on developing an appreciation for the study of military theory, it is also important that those political leaders do the same, as previously mentioned. Even a rudimentary understanding while leveraging the advice of military subject matter experts will mean the political body is competent enough to use the military arm to achieve the political ends of the state.

On War” for Business

Looking at things from a business angle, how can one use Clausewitz’s perspective to develop a better understanding of business theory? While his other discussions of the attack and defense, the nature of moral forces that motivate Soldiers and leaders, may appear more obscure, the aforementioned topics of theory, ends, means, Methodicism, and compelling others to our will are directly applicable. In fact, I could argue that these can be shaped into objective principles that are beneficial in any human endeavor - so long as you deconstruct them to fundamental human nature.

In our own discussion on the purpose of an organization in Chapter 2.3: On Leadership, we discussed that every organization has a purpose. The purpose of the armed forces of a nation is to win its nation’s wars through the use or the threatened use of violence. Every military sub-organization has its own purpose unique to its part in the bigger picture, but they all contribute to the ultimate purpose of winning wars. The purpose of a business is to make a profit through the use of products and/or services in a consensual exchange. Similarly, the sub-organizations in a business have their own roles but work towards the whole business’ effort of ultimately making a profit. These are the desired ends of organizations; the accomplishment of their purpose.

The use of violence or the provision of goods/services represents the means of accomplishing the purpose of our organizations. While Clausewitz discusses primarily ends and means, contemporary theorists have added the term “ways” to the concept - ends, ways, and means. This is to reflect that means can be employed in various “ways” to produce distinctly different effects that shape an environment to a particular end. That being said, a business organization will use its means available; personnel, assets, inventory, capital, and relationships with clients, customers, stakeholders, and suppliers, in various ways to make a profit. Just as a military organization will use its means in various ways to win a fight or compel the enemy to surrender.

Methodicism was about leveraging probability to produce effective results that would allow an Army to win battles. These are systems and processes that allow us to achieve a predictable outcome, and most importantly, they can be taught to our people to execute when certain conditions are met. The military has various drills that its personnel and teams use to solve immediate problems as they arise; e.g., clearing a jammed rifle, responding to an enemy ambush, flooding on a naval ship, or engine failure on an aircraft. We also have processes we follow that are more time intensive that we use to produce actionable products, such as the Army’s military decision-making process (MDMP) which help us develop workable courses of action, or the Air Force’s air tasking order (ATO) which dictates in advance the pilots and aircraft to be made available for missions on a particular timeline.

The concept of developing systems and processes that produce reliable results is in the business world too. Obviously, most well-structured businesses will be operating off of various proven methods of success for predictable scenarios and ongoing operations; e.g., business and marketing plans, customer relationship management systems, and even drills on what to do in case of angry customers, active shooters, broken critical infrastructure, and fires. Rarely, if at all, do we go into our jobs just “winging it.” We have our tasks that support a particular process that is designed to produce a certain range of outcomes, and if some unanticipated event occurs, we respond according to our standard operating procedures and use some critical thought to fill in any gaps. All of this is to produce a reliable outcome that is probabilistically going to help us accomplish our objectives that will in turn achieve our desired end, the purpose of the business.

In regards to business theory, it serves the same purpose as military theory, it provides an understanding of the nature of its topic. Understanding the philosophy of business; the relationship between business and customers, management and employees, the importance of throughput and logistical chains, economies of scale, and competition for market share. Theory helps a manager understand how to lead their teams. It helps marketers develop their customer profiles for planned and targeted advertisements. It helps operations officers determine whether either just-in-time supply chains or large on-hand inventories are the best option.

And just like how military theory changes alongside the advancement of military tech and dynamic environments, so too does business theory. Business models that once dominated markets fail as the market itself changes to reflect available goods and services to the people. Horses were ubiquitous modes of transport until automobiles. Petroleum products replaced animal fats as a fuel source, but even with the advent of nuclear, solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy, coal power is still prevalent throughout the developing world. In the realm of technological development and services, there seem to be major shifts in the marketplace every decade. Because it is the environment that dictates how certain ways and means produce particular effects, in order to effectively keep up with the changing marketplace we need to be cognizant that business principles, concepts, and tenets that have been working may no longer be effective. Those subjective principles, these “maxims,” that had shaped business doctrine, organizational standard operating procedures, and the various drills and scenarios we rehearse will, over time, no longer produce the same probabilistic outcomes. Our business will be outclassed by those with a better understanding of the market, and have shaped their business model and methods accordingly.

And what is all of this theory, this understanding of the nature of the marketplace, what does it get us? It allows us to achieve the purpose of our business. The exchange of goods and services in a consensual transaction, which our ways and means, to our desired end, which is profit. Just like the military employs its ways and means to compel an adversary to our will, a business will use its ways and means to compel members of the marketplace; clients, customers, stakeholders, suppliers, employees, etc., to do our will. While compulsion might seem like a harsh and manipulative term, that is what we are doing. When they are hungry, we want them to eat at our establishments. When they are hunting for a new car, we want them to head to our dealership. When they are looking for clothes, we want them to shop at our outlet. When they are looking for an internet service provider, Realtor, or custodial service, we want our service to be top of their mind. Whatever value we provide we want to be the ones that they use. So we employ marketing, utilize positive word-of-mouth, provide cost-effective and tailored packages, or whatever tool and stratagem we can employ to convince them to use us over our competition. We want to compel the people in our marketplace, just as an Army would compel an enemy, to engage in a particular type of action.

Finally, just as a nation’s military must remember that they are but an element of national power that serves to support national political objectives and must subordinate itself to that higher purpose, so too do we find that in the business sector. But in the case of the business sector, it is the sub-departments of a business. The larger the organization, the more differentiation you will find between its teams. Operations, finance, human resources, research and development, public relations, logistics, etc., all have their own hierarchies, standard operating procedures, metrics, and whatnot to achieve their own department-specific objectives. They will pursue the accomplishment of their objectives, but high-level managers - chief-level executives and business owners - must seek to ensure that the objectives of each department support the overarching objective of the business, which in most cases is profit. R&D, in the process of working on the next project; some new and improved tech to be released to the public in the next calendar year, would probably desire a limitless budget in order to have no restrictions on what they can attempt to create. Naturally, however, this would put them at odds with finance, which must balance the budget to keep the business afloat, as well as operations and manufacturing who may not even be able to make the product cost-effective enough to turn a profit. It is up to business leaders to find a way to balance the needs and constraints of the departments of a business and provide them with proper direction so that their objectives are all nested effectively with the purpose of the business.

All of this, hopefully, will entice you to give Clausewitz’s On War a chance. Either for its potential insight into the nature of military theory or even to deconstruct it to find value in other endeavors, such as business. It is an important treatise that has shaped western military thought. Though it can be a difficult read, it gives a great perspective into how modern military operations are viewed in conjunction with the political objectives of the state.

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