War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity

  • Published
War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity by Thomas Waldman. Ashgate Publishing, 2013, 203 pp

War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity is a detailed analysis of Carl von Clausewitz's seminal book On War as well as selections from his other writings. The book's purpose is to offer readers a better understanding of Clausewitz and the context of his writing by building on previous secondary studies. Dr. Thomas Waldman, an Economic and Social Research Council Fellow at the University of York, interpreted Clausewitz's theory of war in relation to modern conflict for his doctoral thesis. His knowledge of Clausewitz's life and writings--together with numerous secondary sources on the subject, which he references throughout this book--is impressive.

Here, he focuses on "passion, chance and policy" (p. 2), the three central elements or "trinity" that comprise war according to Clausewitz. The trinity is represented in the physical world by a secondary trinity: the people, commander and army, and government. Dr. Waldman also discusses a tertiary level to the trinity, which is historical context. He emphasizes the importance of context because the face of war is constantly changing. The author points out the discrepancy between Clausewitz's continued popular status with military historians and the lack of in-depth study of his work, a situation that has led to general misunderstanding or misinterpretation of his ideas.

The book consists of eight chapters, including a discussion of the theoretical foundations of Clausewitz's ideology and the historical context of On War as well as separate chapters on each of the individual elements of war and one that discusses their interaction. To understand or appreciate the author's argument, the reader need not have read Clausewitz or be familiar with any of the secondary sources discussed. Waldman does an excellent job of providing background information and synopsizing main points from the works of other historians who have written on the same subject. Consequently, the book serves as a good starting point for further study into Clausewitz's ideology.

A first look at the size of War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity would suggest a quick or easy read, but the content sometimes requires rereading to appreciate the author's point. Overall, the text is well written and detailed, featuring a compelling thesis. The book has no major faults, but the nature of its subject matter makes it somewhat abstract at times. As long as Clausewitz is a focus of study by military historians, including members of the Air Force community, this book should remain relevant.

Maj Michael D. Kennedy, USAF
Camp Walker, Republic of Korea

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."