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Clausewitz's PuzzleThe Political Theory of War$
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Andreas Herberg-Rothe

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199202690

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199202690.001.0001

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Polarities and the Asymmetry between Attack and Defence

Polarities and the Asymmetry between Attack and Defence

(p.119) 5 Polarities and the Asymmetry between Attack and Defence
Clausewitz's Puzzle

Andreas Herberg‐Rothe

Oxford University Press

Clausewitz intended at the end of his life to write a different chapter on polarity in which he would have disclosed the secret of his method, as Raymond Aron saw it. But this secret is not hidden in the concept of polarity itself, but within what Clausewitz called the ‘true logical antithesis’ of defence and attack. Clausewitz's proposition, ‘that defense is the stronger form of fighting with the negative purpose, attack the weaker form with the positive purpose’ reveals the true secret of his method. By differentiating this proposition, many transitions and intersections between these contrasts are exposed, which enables the formulation of a particular, Clausewitzian sort of dialectic. With the help of Clausewitz's treatment of the ‘true logical antithesis’ of defence and attack, we are able to validate that his different conceptualizations of war are really antithetical tendencies in every war.

Keywords:   defence, attack, stronger form, negative purpose, weaker form, positive purpose, dialectics, true logical antithesis

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