Clausewitz and modern interstate warfare (1990-2012): the continuing relevance of Clausewitz?

Thumbnail Image
Fergusson, Owen
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
It has been almost 200 years since Carl von Clausewitz wrote On War. Clausewitz’s discussion of war explores four distinct, but related aspects of war: reasons for war (politics), the theory of war (absolute war), war in reality, and the conduct of war. Using his experience as a soldier in the Napoleonic and other wars of the 1700s and 1800s, Clausewitz’s major academic work seeks to provide a comprehensive theory of war. While war has changed dramatically since Clausewitz’s time, war involving states is still a part of everyday life. In this context, this thesis examines the contemporary relevance of Clausewitz with regard to modern interstate warfare, specifically analyzing whether Clausewitz would recognize modern interstate warfare. This was achieved by analyzing whether there was symmetry between the reasons for war and conduct of war variables, as explained in On War, with modern interstate wars waged between 1990 and 2012. The data revealed that both the wars of Clausewitz’s time and the wars of the modern era were varied in the their reasons for war and conduct of war, but that wars from Clausewitz’s time and the modern era still share similar characteristics. Despite the vast differences between Clausewitz’s time and the modern era this study found that Clausewitz’s wars and modern interstate wars do share common variables, making On War still relevant for the study of modern interstate warfare.
Clausewitz, Military Studies, International Relations, War