Class began with a hypothetical question: What should England do right now about the situation in Libya? What is the reason for London’s interference in the crisis, and what does it mean in terms of future action?
First, the class discussed options that could be offered the Prime Minister: back out now, maintain the status quo, or make a commitment to win. We then hashed out some particular plans:
- Reconsideration of the African Union ceasefire proposal, though this could be problematic for the British: South Africa has already tried something similar in Zimbabwe, but the arrangement has been misused by Mugabe as a form of disguised capitulation.
- Commitment of ground artillery for the next 6 months, although this would probably be just as expensive as the air strikes.
We then moved on to discuss this weeks reading, beginning by outlining the basic arguments made by Clausewitz:
- Political considerations determine the nature of war, and war is the continuation of political policy.
- Building an army is the same thing as building a state in terms of loyalty to a leader, and therefore leaders of the army tend to be powerful in any resulting state. In Libya, this implies that by training the rebel army one is effectively choosing the future leaders of Libya – which could possibly lead to more tribal warfare and complicate the international picture.
We then went over Clausewitz’s biography to put his work into historical context.
A Prussian, Clausewitz fought in the Napoleonic Wars and had a great impact on the outcome. He died in the 1830s leaving his book (On War) unfinished.
Frederick II of Prussia (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Clauzewitz had a stormy military career; Fredrick the Great (Friedrick II) took Silesia (part of modern-day Poland) for Prussia from the Austrian Empire in the 1740s. Although Prussia was the smallest of the European great powers, he went to war against both the Russians and Austrians. This was a fantastic example of somebody understanding exactly what they can accomplish and then doing it in an audacious manner; Frederick had no moral or dynastic claim to Silesia – he took it simply because he wanted it. Under Frederick, Prussia became famous for being extremely militaristic – with universal conscription and intense military drills – but notoriously stingy. Fredrick took a great interest in war, spending most of his reign in field. With addition of Silesia, Prussia became one of the most powerful states in Europe and the army became confident that it could handle any opponent, but was crushed when faced with Napoleon in 1806. This battle became known as “The End of History,” as the militaristic Prussians were defeated by the army of revolutionary France. In response to this battle, Hegel wrote that revolution had defeated autocracy; revolution would win, even if Napoleon didn’t.
Writing about the war, Clausewitz argued that both Napoleon and Fredrick were innovators of war, and were similar in that they both understood politics and the nature of war within their own countries. However, Clausewitz ended up falling afoul of King Frederick when Prussia entered into an alliance with Napoleon after being crushed by his army. When Prussia was strong-armed into an alliance with France, Clausewitz went over to the Russian army to continue the fight against Napoleon. This implied that loyalty to Prussia was greater than his loyalty to the King, highlighting the difference between citizen and subject.