Passing Bull 269 – Deconstructing Clausewitz

The Australian is enjoying a fad about strategy and tactics.  I doubt whether they have read Clausewitz On War.  It is a large book of great substance.  Strategy is the use of engagements for the object of the war.  Tactics involve the use of armed forces in the engagement.  In The Australian of 1 April, there was a lot of comment on our withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Our engagement in my view was what Churchill called ‘a colossal military disaster.’  (He was speaking of Dunkerque.)  Under the heading US support was our only strategy, Greg Sheridan began his note this way:

The Western intervention in Afghanistan has been a strategic failure accompanied by countless tactical successes.

Mr Sheridan may or may not be following the Clausewitz model.  He appears to be saying that the West won some battles but lost the war.  But how do you lose a war when you have lost count of the battles that you have won in that war? 

But the problem gets worse.  Why did we join in this war?

Australia never had a strategic purpose in Afghanistan except to show the Americans we were good allies.  That is not a trivial purpose, but we had no independent strategic ambition at all.

At least two things might be said.  First, if our strategy was to cement our alliance with the US, is the writer saying that we failed in that objective?  He says that the Western intervention was a strategic failure.  I think it was a failure for our limited purpose because of what Mr Sheridan called ‘the weirdly limited way we waged war there.’  This was a simple case of tokenism.  But that is not I think the view of Mr Sheridan. 

Secondly, our government has never admitted what our limited purpose was, and it will not do so now.  It is no comfort to those who have lost loved ones – 41 died in combat – to be told that they died just to keep on side with Uncle Sam.

Nowhere did I find in the paper a reference to the number of soldiers who later killed themselves because of their involvement in this now lost war.  They far outnumber those killed in combat.  The ABC says there have been at least 500 such suicides.  And they are continuing.  You have to take that into account in determining just how badly our governments have let us down.


‘Our response will be guided by the principles of simplicity and clarity to make the law easier for Australians to understand and access’, a spokesman for Senator Cash said yesterday.  ‘It is important to reiterate that the government’s response is driven by simplifying the current legal and regulatory environment for victims of sexual harassment.  This doesn’t, however, absolve employers of their current obligations to make their workplaces safe for everyone and free of sexual harassment.’

The Age, 10 April, 2021.

This interesting contribution to simplicity and clarity involves more than failures of grammar – it is bullshit – World’s Best Practice.

2 thoughts on “Passing Bull 269 – Deconstructing Clausewitz

  1. We were in Afghanistan when the Russian tanks rolled in. Getting out into western Iran felt like moving from Collingwood to Toorak. Tehran was a dramatically beautiful city. It was out the frying pan and into the fire furv us, however. The Shah was in the bunker in his final days, and Savak appeared to have a policy of shooting everybody under thirty. We hung around for a week or so, and then moved on. These are places westerners always find difficult to navigate. But if the Taliban take over as is almost certain and reinstate their perverted take on Islam with all its brutality and misogyny, God help the Afghanis.

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s