This War Studies Advanced Program is shaped by the publication of two important new books—one examining Clausewitz’s interaction with some of the dominant philosophical developments of his time; the other examining (for the first time) his intellectual interactions with his wife and with the intellectual and social environment of his life.  It also takes advantage of the publication of a new work wrestling with the ethical framework of war, dominated hitherto by Walzer, into a more rigorous and philosophically grounded structure.  The common theme of these works, and of Clausewitz himself, is the attempt to determine the best philosophical approach to understanding war—an activity that inevitably also shapes the meaning of the concept of understanding war itself.

The result of this study should be twofold: first, it will help us comprehend why Clausewitz’s work is so powerful and seemingly eternal in its utility, as well as how best to engage with it; second, it will further our own efforts to understand war, examine what we mean by “understand war”, and give us a solid intellectual and theoretical framework for engaging in that task in a time of great confusion and apparent transformation, once again, in the nature of war itself.

The course will not follow a fixed agenda—it cannot, given the enormous intellectual complexities involved in understanding the difficult theories of Kant and Hegel, the effects of the intertwined personal and intellectual lives of Carl and Marie, and the evolution of On War itself, as well as the interactions of Kant, Hegel, and Clausewitz with the ethics of war.  We will generally focus on Cormier and Dubik during the first weekend and on Bellinger during the second, but the discussion will range freely over both.

War Studies Advanced Programs are open only to alumni of the basic War Studies course. These sessions are offered in the winter and summer, and focus either on a national security challenge or on a historical conflict. Learn more about the War Studies Program.

Image: Georg Bleibtreu, Battle of Königgrätz, oil on canvas, 1866

Frederick Kagan on war & statesmanship

Faculty

James M. Dubik

LTG James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.) is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and a Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. General Dubik has extensive operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Bosnia, Haiti, Panama, and in many NATO countries.

Frederick W. Kagan

Frederick W. Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program at the Institute for the Study of War. The author of the 2007 report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” he is one of the intellectual architects of the successful “surge” strategy in Iraq. He is the Director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

Kimberly Kagan

Kimberly Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program and founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. She is a military historian who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale, Georgetown, and American University.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the various purposes of attempting to understand war?
  2. What are the different methods of attempting to understand war?
  3. How does the purpose interact with the method?
  4. How does the intellectual/theoretical/philosophical context of a thinker shape his/her approach to understanding war?
  5. How does personal experience and personality affect one’s approach to understanding war? 
  6. Is there a “best” approach to understanding war?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the various purposes of attempting to understand war?
  2. What are the different methods of attempting to understand war?
  3. How does the purpose interact with the method?
  4. How does the intellectual/theoretical/philosophical context of a thinker shape his/her approach to understanding war?
  5. How does personal experience and personality affect one’s approach to understanding war? 
  6. Is there a “best” approach to understanding war?

Other Courses You Might Be Interested In

War Studies Program

Learn the theory, practice, organization, and control of war and military forces.

Foundations of Grand Strategy

Assess grand strategic theory and practice in Thucydides and Plutarch.

American Grand Strategy

Examine how U.S. grand strategy has evolved since the founding of the republic.

Thinking Strategically

Study American strategic culture, and the factors that influence when and how the United States uses military power.

World Order & American Foreign Policy

Explore the nature of the world order and America’s role in shaping it.