11 June 2024

Clausewitz, Theory, and Ending the Ukraine War

Donald Stoker, Michael W. Campbell -


Perhaps the greatest weakness in strategic thinking and the relative literature is planning how to end a war, particularly before launching it. In some respects, this nearly universal historical failure is understandable. The overwhelming pressure of fighting a war often inhibits nations from seriously considering how to end it.[i] Clausewitz noted the importance of this issue, especially when a war is becoming increasingly bloody. The last sentence here is key:

Theory, therefore, demands that at the outset of a war its character and scope should be determined on the basis of the political probabilities. The closer these political probabilities drive war toward the absolute, the more the belligerent states are involved and drawn in to its vortex, the clearer appear the connections between its separate actions, and the more imperative the need not to take the first step without considering the last.[ii]

But what would Clausewitz, and some additional theories, say about this most complicated of tasks: ending a war, particularly the war in Ukraine?

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