The political theory of war with Carl von Clausewitz and Carl Schmitt from the vantage point of Russia (part 1)

Vasily K. Belozerov


Present politics in its global, regional and national dimensions is becoming more and more dynamic. This also applies to its military manifestations, what is understood a “war”. The reactions of the scientific community within and out of Russia to these processes are increasing, but they are not integrated into the processes of the current methodology of cognition. A consequence of such processes could be an increase of scientific interest in the ideas of two German thinkers, Carl von Clausewitz and Carl Schmitt, and in their discoveries concerning politics and war. Recently their works have been published/republished in Russia as well as some of the essays and discussion papers written by these two theorists. This is understandable, as the works of Clausewitz on war have been considered “classic” for a long time, and as Schmitt is an important author of topics such as politics and geopolitics. So far, however, the opinions of both thinkers have not been compared scientifically. Thus, a corresponding analysis could encourage the synthetic cognition of their ideas concerning the coherence of war and politics. Such a study would contribute to the development of a holistic political theory of war (“Politics of War”), but there is still no such theory in Russia. The comparison of considerations like those of Clausewitz and Schmitt would also be interesting from a methodological point of view, because it could be part of the theoretical instruments of modern political as well as military political processes. Due to the fact that there are no „officially“ declared wars any longer under the present law of nations, the repudiation and denial of war as such does not necessarily mean that war disappears from political everyday life. Only the terminology changes. War is known to be a state representing the opposite of peace. The interests of keeping peace, however, demand understanding for possible procedures, from armed incidents to extreme manifestations – the total war of extermination, and thus questions arise such as how to avert war. Reducing the political exclusively to the instrumental “function of war” is his immoderately simplified appreciation of this question. One can rightfully argue that the concept of war of Clausewitz and the perception of the political of Schmitt are based on the acknowledgement of political relationships as subject-subject-relations, that both of them are tantamount subjects from a legal point of view. According to Schmitt, the presence of both subjects is necessary for the political: the friend and the foe, at the same time, because the difference between friend and foe justifies the existence of a people. At the same time, considering the probability of war, society and nation create a military organisation, a concentration of ideas and resources. Maintaining armed forces is justified with the necessity of preparing and making both defensive and offensive war or preventing it, meaning the possibility to resort to military violence. The result of this, namely the permanent danger of war, has consequences for every society and its political organisation.