Ameliorate, Contain, Coerce, Destroy

Niall Ferguson reviews The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World by Rupert Smith, in the New York Times Book Review:

Ferg450Karl von Clausewitz, the greatest of all military theorists, learned the art of war the hard way. As a senior Prussian officer, he was on the receiving end of the Napoleonic revolution in warfare at the Battle of Jena in 1806, ending up a prisoner. Watching how Bonaparte used the French army to redraw the map of Europe convinced Clausewitz that war was “not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means” (the most famous and most frequently misquoted sentence in “On War”).

Clausewitz had witnessed a revolution not of technology but of mobilization and motivation. Under Bonaparte, war had become “the business of the people.” Raising larger armies than ever before, inspiring them with nationalist fervor, concentrating their attack on the enemy’s weakest spot and then annihilating the enemy’s forces: these were the essential traits of what Clausewitz called “absolute war.” In his view, its advent made political control of the military more important than ever before.

Now comes Rupert Smith, whose “Utility of Force” seeks to update Clausewitz for our own times.

More here.