A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Little Advice from Clausewitz on Intervention

I've already expressed qualms and mixed emotions about the new US position on Syria, whatever exactly it is,
 I know there are a lot of folks, from neocons on the right to "humanitarian interventionists" on the left, who see no problems with a deeper commitment in Syria. Many of the advocates are people I admire, and several are personal friends. But I still hear somewhere in the background that old hippie peacenik from the Prussian Kriegsakademie, Carl von Clausewitz:
No one starts a war — or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so — without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principle which will set its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail.
— Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Vom Kriege), Book VIII, Chapter 2
Trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, 1976, p. 579
Are we there yet?

1 comment:

freude bud said...

More than that, it's not clear to me how you can propose political and operational functions for a war in Syria if the US interest in the country has yet to be defined by any proponent of interference in Syrian affairs. If we are unclear on what interests we are protecting, how can we determine whether they merit any action whatsoever?