[Previous Section] [Table of Contents] [Next Section]
Clausewitz Condensed

Triad of Government, Armed Services, and People

The close interplay between politics and military affairs suggests a second conclusion reached by Clausewitz, namely that war is waged by a "remarkable trinity" of the government, armed services, and people. "A theory that ignores any one of them or seeks to fix an arbitrary relationship between them would conflict with reality to such an extent that for this reason alone it would be totally useless." (89) The government established the political purpose; the military provides the means for achieving the political end; and the people provide the will, the "engines of war." All three are indispensable legs of Clausewitz' strategic triad.

Clausewitz takes special note of the symbiotic relationship between strategy and statecraft. Not only must military leaders prosecute the war, they must also remember the political end for which it is being waged, the difference between ends and means and between tactics and strategy:

" If we do not learn to regard war, and the separate campaigns of which it is composed, as a chain of linked engagements each leading to the next, but instead succumb to the idea that the capture of certain geographical points or the seizure of undefended provinces are of value in themselves, we are liable to regard them as windfall profits. In so doing, and in ignoring the fact that they are links in a continuous chain of events, we also ignore the possibility the their possession may later lead to definite disadvantages. This mistake is illustrated again and again in military history." (182)

Hence, at the summit of power, the distinction between strategy and statesmanship can no longer be discerned. Ultimately, what the strategist has wrought must be judged on political, not military, terms. The telling criterion of his work, however, is how effectively he has used available means to accomplish desired ends: "A prince or general can best demonstrate his genius by managing a campaign exactly to suit his resources, doing neither too much nor too little." (177)