The Clausewitz Homepage

Dr Paul Cornish
    Centre for Defence Studies
Areas of Interest
European security institutions
Arms control and the international arms trade
The legal and ethical dimensions of the use of armed force.

Journal of Military Ethics
is published by
Taylor and Francis,
part of the Taylor
& Francis Group,
and is available
online via

Paul Cornish, "Clausewitz and the ethics of armed forces,"
Journal of Military Ethics, Volume 2, Number 3/November 2003.
Click HERE for the full article in PDF format.

ABSTRACT: The work of Carl von Clausewitz continues to provoke heated debate. For some scholars, Clausewitz's On War remains indispensable to serious thought on the resort to war in the modern period. Others, however, see Clausewitz's work as either outdated, or a morally repellent argument for unlimited, unrestrained and brutal warfare. This essay argues not only that Clausewitz's work continues to be relevant to discussions on the use of armed force, but also that On War provides a framework for ethical reflection on war and its conduct. Two main preoccupations of western military academies and staff colleges--Clausewitz on the one hand, and the just war tradition on the other--can complement, rather than rival each other. On War creates a space for reflection on the use of armed force, and for that reason if no other, should still be considered an important resource for contemporary students and practitioners of strategy.

*Reprinted from Journal of Military Ethics, 2003, Vol 2, pp. 213-27, by permission of Taylor & Francis AS.

Return to The Clausewitz Homepage