October 24, 2013

War as politics, politics as war – and various other things “continued by other means”...


“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” 
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
       Prussian general and military theorist
       On War (1832-1834), Bk. VIII, Ch. VI, Section B:
“War is an Instrument of Policy”
       This is the traditional English translation of a line from On War (Vom Kriege), a collection of writings by Clausewitz that was published posthumously by his wife in three volumes between 1832 and 1834. It encapsulates a point Clausewitz made, but it’s not an exact translation. One issue is that some words can be translated several ways. For example, the German word politik can mean either ‘politics’ or ‘policy.’ In German, the full sentence the maxim comes from says: “Wir behaupten dagegen, der Krieg ist nichts als eine Fortsetzung des politischen Verkehrs mit Einmischung anderer Mittel.” This can be and has been translated in several ways, but essentially says something like: “We maintain [or ‘assert’] however, that war is nothing but a continuation of politics [or ‘policy’] with the admixture [or ‘addition’] of other means [or ‘resources’].” In context, the point Clausewitz was making is that he disagreed with the idea that war amounted to an end of political ‘intercourse’ (Verkehr) or discourse. He asserted that war is merely another kind of political communication that has it’s own ‘grammar’ (Grammatik). In short, while the oft-quoted maxim does seem to reflect Clausewitz’s line of thought, the common English translation is not literally correct.


“American politics is now the continuation of ‘war by other means.’...Government shutdowns, threatened debt default, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia can seem like discrete political struggles for democracy, good governance, and equal rights. Progressives and moderates make a huge mistake when they do not see the connections extremists make among them. It is crucial to see that to the extreme right-wing that is hijacking our political process right now, these are not discrete issues but part of a cosmic war on Satan played out in our American political life.”
       Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
       Professor of Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary, author of #Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power  
       In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, October 15, 2013
       (Cartoon by David Horsey)


“War is the improvement of investment climates by other means.” 
       Ben Kingsley as the character Walken, The Viceroy
       In the satirical anti-war movie
War, Inc. (2008)


“Technology is the continuation of evolution by other means, and is itself an evolutionary process.”
       Ray Kurzweil
       American inventor, author and futurist
       In his book
The Age of Spiritual Machines (2000)


“Law in a good society is first and foremost the continuation of morality by other means.”
       Amitai Etzioni
       German-born American sociologist
       In his book
The New Golden Rule (1998)


“Litigation...the continuation of business by other means.”
       Frederick L. Whitmer
       Professional litigator and author
       In his book
Litigation Is War (2007)


“Mr. Raimi [movie director Sam Raimi]...has cited the Three Stooges as his comic inspiration, and indeed, Evil Dead II is a sort of continuation of Stoogism by other means. Here, an eyeball isn’t just poked, but poked out and sent flying across the room, to be swallowed by an innocent bystander. Of such things, Moe Howard could only dream.” 
       Dave Kehr
       American film critic
       Referring to the famed
“eyeball popping” scene in the horror film Evil Dead 2 (1987)
a DVD review in the New York Times, October 18, 2005

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