## 24 Apr 2009

### Clausewitz, On War, Book 1, Chapter 1, §10 The Probabilities of Real Life Take the Place of the Conceptions of the Extreme and the Absolute

by Corry Shores
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Clausewitz

On War

Book I "On the Nature of War"

Chapter I "What is War?"

§10 The Probabilities of Real Life Take the Place of the Conceptions of the Extreme and the Absolute

Previously we saw that when war is resolved, one or both parties still keep in mind the possibility of restarting aggressions. Nations might call for truces. They might even retreat. In fact, they could fully surrender. Neither side ever presumes resolution, no matter the outcome. So they temper their efforts in order to live and fight another day, even if they concede the battle today.
In this manner, the whole act of War is removed from the rigorous law of forces exerted to the utmost. (emphasis mine)
Neither side escalates to the absolute extreme. Rather, they must use their judgment to determine just how much effort to exert.
and this can only be done on the data furnished by the facts of the real world by the LAWS OF PROBABILITY.
If we merely regarded all the elements of warfare abstractly, then we could use mathematics to calculate the winner from the very beginning. But the real world cannot be pre-calculated. For it is not deterministic. War is wild. Much is mystery. We must calculate unknowns probabilistically.
Once the belligerents are no longer mere conceptions, but individual States and Governments, once the War is no longer an ideal, but a definite substantial procedure, then the reality will furnish the data to compute the unknown quantities which are required to be found.
From the character, the measures, the situation of the adversary, and the relations with which he is surrounded, each side will draw conclusions by the law of probability as to the designs of the other, and act accordingly. (emphasis mine)

Original text from the translation:

10. THE PROBABILITIES OF REAL LIFE TAKE THE PLACE OF THE CONCEPTIONS OF THE EXTREME AND THE ABSOLUTE.

In this manner, the whole act of War is removed from the rigorous law of forces exerted to the utmost. If the extreme is no longer to be apprehended, and no longer to be sought for, it is left to the judgment to determine the limits for the efforts to be made in place of it, and this can only be done on the data furnished by the facts of the real world by the LAWS OF PROBABILITY. Once the belligerents are no longer mere conceptions, but individual States and Governments, once the War is no longer an ideal, but a definite substantial procedure, then the reality will furnish the data to compute the unknown quantities which are required to be found.

From the character, the measures, the situation of the adversary, and the relations with which he is surrounded, each side will draw conclusions by the law of probability as to the designs of the other, and act accordingly.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War, Vol.1. Transl. J.J. Graham.
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