Continuity in confusion: understanding Clausewitz's trinity (part I)

Tom Waldman

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17 Citations (Scopus)


In the form of his ‘remarkable trinity’, Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) laid the basis for a comprehensive understanding of war. The trinity can perhaps be more mystifying than edifying, particularly if read in isolation and without an appreciation of his wider work. Yet, the trinity can serve a number of purposes for students of war. Much that has been written about On War has missed the point of the trinity. There are understandable reasons for this. In its existing form the text is imperfect, incomplete and at times perplexing to the modern mind. An early death prevented Clausewitz from fully developing his ideas. Perhaps, had he lived longer, his work would be less prone to basic misunderstandings, but we should perhaps be cautious in that regard. Misunderstandings more often derive from a failure to read the text thoroughly or to comprehend its central ideas in their proper historical context.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationBallots and Bullets Blog
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • war
  • Clausewitz


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