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Clausewitz's Kritik

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  • Clausewitz's Kritik

    The uninterrupted conduct of operations is the main condition for victory" --S.S. Kaniev, Red Army General

    The Prussian philosopher of war, Carl von Clausewitz, in his book, On War, described a concept of critical analysis that he called Kritik, a tool for studying war, which facilitates the development of military theory. Clausewitz, like the modern Soviet Armed Forces, had a clear purpose for his study of war. He was not seeking a set of cookbook formulas for war; instead he was looking for keys to understanding the relationship between phenomena encountered in war. He realized that understanding of the processes at work would inevitably improve military judgment.
    Clausewitz characterized Kritik as, "...a guide to anyone who wants to learn about war from books...It is meant to guide him in his self-education, not to accompany him to the battlefield..."

    Kritik's Three Steps and Three Advocacies

    Three Steps
    1. The discovery of facts.
    2. The tracing of effects to causes.
    3. The investigation and evaluation of means.
    Three Advocacies
    1. Military questions must be studied at all levels.
    2. The study of war results from the study of military history.
    3. It is better to study a few relatively recent military episodes in detail than to study many in a superficial way.

    Clausewitz correctly postulated that the purpose of studying war was to objectively discover why events "took the turn they did." He warned against the "dogma of responsibility," by arguing that the purpose of study was not to reward or punish the defeated or victorious. He also insisted that in war, "...criticism exists only to recognize the truth... We may legitimately criticize a general's decision..." He was right, generals must be accountable, yet it is no accident that the worst armies have the least number of well known, deserving generals.
    Clausewitz's systematic study of war included not only critical analysis of what actually happened, but also attention to what could have happened had resources been used differently. He advocated in-depth objective research, claiming that war effects, "...seldom result from a single cause; there are usual several concurrent causes…" In effect, Clausewitz advocated an intensive historical case study of war and "a willingness to think through hypothetical actions systematically and (by) multilevel analysis..."
    Ii is rumored, that in the 1930s, the Red Army decided to adapt to their needs a modified and streamlined application of Clausewitz’s Kritik. They planned to take the product of that research to the battlefield as norms and battle drills.

  • #2
    It is basically enlightenment rationalism applied to military matters, or military history, similarly to Clausewitz's contemporary von Ranke applied it to historical study in general.

    Probably also served as the basis for Delbrück's later concept of "Sachkritik".


    • #3
      Originally posted by tracker11 View Post
      3. It is better to study a few relatively recent military episodes in detail than to study many in a superficial way.
      One can argue with this one. A usual interest in history are typical, common phenomena and features and how they change over time. You won't understand what was common and what wasn't without inspecting a large body of facts.


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