Political Control over the Use of Force: A Clausewitzian Perspective

  • April 01, 2001
  • LTC Suzanne C Nielsen

The author addresses the issues regarding the ideal relationship between the commander and the statesman in time of war and the balance between political control and military operational expertise by examining what Carl von Clausewitz has to say about civil- military relations and the use of force. She looks in depth at Clausewitz s arguments, reviews his theoretical approach, and discusses four key implications of the basic idea that political purposes govern war. In conclusion, the author suggests that Clausewitz has issued both statesmen and commanders a challenge. Commanders must appreciate the necessity of subordinating military means to political ends, and statesmen must think as strategists as they make decisions about the relationship between ends and means and the achievement of their goals.