What were Clausewitz’s warnings about war?

Words: 1602
Pages: 6
Subject: Warfare

. 1. What were Clausewitz’s warnings about war? 2. Does balance of power lead to peace? Or does a hierarchy of power? 3. What evidence supports the “previous-war” theory? -Part 2: First review this video https://vimeo.com/454424482 Professor Savell explains that the United States is taking action against terrorism in eighty countries. (This number has increased to eighty-five since the video was filmed.) Review this map https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2021/USCounterterrorismOperations. Answer the following question Looking at the map, in which countries have U.S. soldiers been involved in direct combat from 2018 to 2020? In how many countries is the United States providing counterterrorism training or assistance? Were students aware that the War on Terror spans so many places? (Yes we are) explain how? (1 answer paragraph recommended, no need citations) -Part 3: Review this video https://vimeo.com/454424818 and this websites https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/politics/2021/02/25/joe-bidens-foreign-policy-america-first-twist/4345647001/ In a paragraph together answer this questions about human cost in war ( no need for citations) 1. What is the scope of the cost? (How many people does it affect? How much money did it cost?) 2. Who pays the cost? (U.S. soldiers and their families? U.S. taxpayers? Civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, or other countries? Future generations?) 3. Will the cost persist in the future? (Is it permanent, or is it possible to undo the damage? If so, what would it take to do so?)

The Complex Realities of War: Clausewitz’s Warnings, Balance of Power, and the Costs of Conflict


War has been a recurring phenomenon in human history, characterized by violence, destruction, and the loss of countless lives. As societies have evolved, so too have the reasons for and the consequences of engaging in warfare. This essay explores three interconnected aspects of war within the last five years: Clausewitz’s warnings about war, the role of the balance of power in maintaining peace, and the human cost of conflict. We will delve into each of these dimensions while referencing contemporary sources to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complexities associated with modern warfare.

Part 1: Clausewitz’s Warnings about War

Carl von Clausewitz, a renowned military theorist, offered valuable insights into the nature of war. In his seminal work, “On War,” Clausewitz articulated several key warnings about the inherent dangers of warfare. One of his fundamental concepts was the idea that war is an extension of politics, where military actions are employed as a means to achieve political objectives (Clausewitz, 1832). This perspective is still highly relevant in today’s world, where geopolitical interests and power dynamics often drive conflicts.

Clausewitz also emphasized the unpredictability and uncertainty of war. He famously stated that “war is the realm of uncertainty; three-fourths of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty” (Clausewitz, 1832). This warning underscores the difficulty in predicting the outcomes of military engagements, a reality that has been evident in recent conflicts such as those in Syria and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Clausewitz cautioned against the potential for war to escalate beyond control, often leading to unintended consequences. He argued that once a conflict begins, it can take on a life of its own, with unforeseen developments that may not align with the original goals (Clausewitz, 1832). This warning resonates with contemporary conflicts like the War on Terror, which has seen a prolonged and evolving nature, with shifting objectives and consequences.

Part 2: Balance of Power vs. Hierarchy of Power

One of the central debates in international relations theory revolves around whether a balance of power or a hierarchy of power leads to peace. The balance of power theory posits that when multiple states or actors have roughly equal power, they are less likely to engage in aggressive actions, as they are deterred by the potential for a strong counter-response (Waltz, 1979). On the other hand, the hierarchy of power theory suggests that a dominant power can maintain stability by exerting control over other states, thereby preventing conflicts (Mearsheimer, 2001).

In recent years, we have witnessed both balance and hierarchy of power dynamics in international politics. The rise of China as a global superpower has shifted the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, leading to increased tensions with the United States and its allies. This has resulted in a more competitive and potentially unstable environment.

Conversely, the United States has often acted as a dominant power, particularly in its pursuit of counterterrorism efforts. The video by Professor Savell highlights the U.S. involvement in terrorism-related activities across 85 countries (Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 2021). Examining the map provided, it is evident that U.S. soldiers have been involved in direct combat in several countries from 2018 to 2020, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. In many of these cases, the U.S. has taken on the role of the dominant power, attempting to shape the outcomes of conflicts and counter terrorist threats.

As for the question of whether balance or hierarchy of power leads to peace, it is clear that the answer is not straightforward. Both theories have their merits and limitations, and their applicability depends on the specific context and actors involved. The balance of power can deter aggression but can also lead to competition and the risk of conflict escalation. Conversely, a hierarchy of power can provide stability but may generate resentment and resistance from subordinate states. Ultimately, the pursuit of peace in international relations is a complex and multifaceted endeavor that requires a nuanced understanding of power dynamics.

Part 3: The Human Cost of War

The human cost of war is a profound and often overlooked aspect of armed conflicts. It encompasses the physical, psychological, and social toll that war exacts on individuals and communities. Examining recent data and reports, we can gain insights into the scope, those who bear the cost, and the potential long-term consequences.

  1. The Scope of the Cost: The human cost of war is vast, affecting millions of people worldwide. In terms of casualties, the cost includes the lives lost on the battlefield, the wounded, and the displaced populations. According to the Costs of War project at Brown University (Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 2023), it is estimated that over 800,000 people have died as a direct result of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. This number is staggering and underscores the significant human toll of these conflicts.

Additionally, the financial cost of war is immense. The United States has spent trillions of dollars on its military operations in the aftermath of 9/11. These funds are diverted from other crucial areas such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, affecting not only soldiers but also U.S. taxpayers.

  1. Who Pays the Cost: The human cost of war is borne by various groups. U.S. soldiers and their families shoulder a significant burden, with many experiencing physical injuries, psychological trauma, and disrupted lives. U.S. taxpayers finance the military operations, and the allocation of resources to war efforts can have long-term economic repercussions.

Civilians in conflict zones, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, have paid a heavy price. They face the constant threat of violence, displacement, and the loss of loved ones. Many innocent civilians have become casualties of war, emphasizing the moral and ethical dilemmas associated with armed conflicts.

Future generations may also bear the cost, both in terms of the financial burden created by wartime spending and the potential for ongoing instability in regions affected by conflict. The consequences of war can persist for years, hindering economic development and social progress.

  1. Will the Cost Persist in the Future: The human cost of war is not easily reversible. The physical and psychological scars left by armed conflicts can endure for generations. Rebuilding infrastructure, providing healthcare, and addressing the trauma experienced by individuals and communities require long-term commitment and resources.

Efforts to mitigate the cost of war should focus on diplomacy, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction. These initiatives can help address the root causes of conflicts and promote stability. However, the legacy of war will continue to shape the lives of those directly affected, making it essential to provide support and assistance to affected individuals and communities.

In conclusion, war is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that carries significant warnings and implications. Clausewitz’s insights about the unpredictability and dangers of war remain relevant today, as conflicts continue to evolve in an interconnected world. The debate between the balance of power and the hierarchy of power highlights the intricate dynamics of international relations, where no single theory can provide a definitive solution to maintaining peace. Finally, the human cost of war underscores the profound impact on individuals, communities, and nations, necessitating a concerted effort to mitigate the consequences and strive for a more peaceful world.


Clausewitz, C. (1832). On War. (J. J. Graham, Trans.) Project Gutenberg.

Mearsheimer, J. J. (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. W. W. Norton & Company.

Waltz, K. (1979). Theory of International Politics. Addison-Wesley.

Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. (2021). U.S. Counterterrorism Operations.

Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. (2023). Costs of War.

USA Today. (2021). Joe Biden’s Foreign Policy: An ‘America First’ Twist.

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