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Clausewitz Condensed

Surprise

Clausewitz contends that surprise is of more use to tactics than strategy.

"It is still more important to remember that almost the only advantage of the attack rests on its initial surprise. Speed and impetus are its strongest elements and are usually indispensable if we are to defeat the enemy." (624) While surprise, "is more or less basic to all operations," it is also somewhat overrated, if only because it is difficult to achieve in practice:

"But while the wish to achieve surprise is common and, indeed, indispensable, and while it is true that it will never be completely ineffective, it is equally true that by its very nature surprise can rarely be outstandingly successful. It would be a mistake, therefore, to regard surprise as a key element of success in war. The principle is highly attractive in theory, but in practice it is often held up by the friction of the whole machine." (198)