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Guillaume Durocher

Hitler & Clausewitz: The Philosopher as War Cry, Part Two

Part 2 of 4 (Part One here) Clausewitz in the Third Reich I: A National Hero Clausewitz’s presence in this period of German history cannot be reduced to Hitler. As a Prussian patriot and the preeminent theorist of modern war, Clausewitz was unsurprisingly enthusiastically celebrated in the Third Reich. This had obvious benefits for the glorification of both Germany and warfare. Furthermore, the National Socialists were eager to portray their movement as being in the lineage of the Prussian/German tradition of politics and warfare, from Luther through Frederick the Great to Bismarck. Clausewitz was a natural part of this, and …

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Hitler & Clausewitz: The Philosopher as War Cry, Part One

Part 1 of 4 All intellectuals dream that their ideas will not be confined to the dead letters of books accumulating dust on library shelves, but should possess the world. An underexplored but highly fertile field in this respect is the influence of the great Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz upon the German dictator and warlord Adolf Hitler. This is an extremely controversial issue. Clausewitz is the preeminent military theorist, rivaled in fame only by the ancient Chinese sage Sun Tzu. His influence is profound, being cited by figures as varied as Moltke the Elder, Lenin, and Mao, and …

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On the Rise & Decline of War in the Modern Era

The modern era is characterized by the steady, at times exponential, growth in the material power of human societies in mastering their world. This has paradoxical consequences in the field of war. The most obvious is an exponential increase in warring states’ means of destruction: nation-states can conscript entire societies, economies, and propaganda apparatuses towards the war effort (“total war”), geographical limits to war are annihilated (aerial bombing), and destructive power becomes god-like (nuclear war). This accounts for the crescendo of violence in the wars of the modern era, beginning with the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but especially with …

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The Willful State: Frederick the Great’s Report on the Prussian Government

Frederick the Great Exposé du gouvernement prussien, des principes sur lesquels il roule, avec quelques réflexions politiques Berlin, 1775-1776[1] One often encounters people who have no faith in the ability of a small nation to achieve anything worthwhile.[2] Yet one typically does not have the luxury of choice. One may prefer to live in a large and populous country, but in any event one must work with what one has. Furthermore, the fact is that small states can and do on occasion “punch above their weight” and influence the course of history. In support of the proposition that even the …

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Enlightened Patriarchy: Frederick the Great’s Principles of Lawmaking, Part 2

2,925 words Part 2 of 2 Moderation & Humaneness The sovereign has authority but, as with the father, this must be deserved. Frederick notes dispassionately that Publicola, one of the founders of the Roman Republic, had legalized tyrannicide. The laws must be fair and appropriate to the nation concerned, otherwise they will soon be abolished and the people will revolt: The legislators who establish laws in monarchies are typically themselves sovereign: if their laws are gentle and equitable, they will maintain themselves by their own accord, all individuals find their advantage in them; if they are harsh and tyrannical, they …

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Enlightened Patriarchy: Frederick the Great’s Principles of Lawmaking, Part 1

2,882 words Perhaps the most impressive Western tradition of statecraft, at least in the modern era, is that of Prussia. To be sure, the liberal-democratic tradition launched by the United States and France is formidable, and it is not without reason that it today dominates our world. But the greatness of America and France also relied upon a prosaic factor: sheer demographic and geographic size. Little Prussia in contrast accomplished feats with absolutely miserable resources, raising herself up among the great powers and founding the German nation-state through sheer force of will. The Prussian “authoritarian” tradition, with its emphasis on …

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Tocqueville’s Patriotic Republic: Nationalist Themes in “Democracy in America,”

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America[1] is one of the great classics of the American political tradition, alongside the best writings of Thomas Jefferson or the Federalist Papers. This is no small achievement for a Frenchman. Indeed, Tocqueville’s magnum opus is, I believe, the only foreign-language book to be included in the Library of America series. One can see why Democracy in America was so popular in American civics classes. The book is a highly nuanced portrait of the early American Republic, with many insights which help to explain the differences that endure to this day between Europe and North …

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