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Clausewitz Condensed

Policymakers Should Grasp Military Affairs

Given the impact of policy on strategy, political leaders must combine statesmanship with strategy, just as military leaders need to possess an understanding of national policy. Yet history is replete with examples, Clausewitz shows us, of politicians making erroneous military decisions, primarily because they lacked a solid grounding in the military means at their disposal:

" Only if statesmen look to certain military moves and actions to produce effects that are foreign to their nature do political decisions influence operations for the worse. In the same way as a man who has not fully mastered a foreign language sometimes fails to express himself correctly, so statesmen often issue orders that defeat the purpose they are meant to serve. Time and again that has happened, which demonstrates that a certain grasp of military affairs is vital for those in charge of general policy." (608)

Among other things, Clausewitz suggests policymakers maintain diligent consultation with chief military officials.