On War
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On War

By Carl von Clausewitz

War is nothing but the continuation of policy by other means

I'm not going to lie, I found On War incredibly frustrating and tedious to read.

Firstly, the topic is generally quite an unpleasant one. War is neither fun nor entertaining and it's certainly not lighthearted.

Secondly, this was first published in 1832, which becomes abundantly evident when you have to read loooooooooong sentences, like:

Only this explains why in war men have so often successfully emerged in the higher ranks,and even as supreme commanders, whose former field of endeavour was entirely different; the fact, indeed, that distinguished commanders have never emerged from the ranks of the most erudite or scholarly officers, but have been for the most part men whose station in life could not have brought them a high degree of education.

That's not to say it's without merit - it's a classic for good reason. While the topic at hand is one that isn't going to be relevant to the overwhelming majority of us (🤞) there are a numbers of lessons to be learnt and extrapolations that can be applied to modern life.

The quote above, for example, is an interesting one. It draws parallels to the myth of the "college dropout" startup founder that we see all too often today.

On War didn't really click for me until I reached Book 8 (On War is itself split into 8 books). Specifically, how war has changed historically in terms of available resources and what war is really about.

The aim of war in conception must always be the overthrow of the enemy; this is the fundamental idea from which we set out.

With MAD an assumed given between major world powers, does modern warfare look like what we're seeing online? With nation states using online tools and platforms to destabilise and demoralise other nations?

I wouldn't recommend this to most people, but it's an interesting read if you want to understand some of the concepts behind a lot of business strategy books. For most people you'd be better off reading Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard P. Rumelt.

Cheers,