Clausewitz's Timeless Trinity: A Framework For Modern War, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Clausewitz's Timeless Trinity

A Framework For Modern War, 1st Edition

By Colin M. Fleming


218 pages

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This is the first book to apply the Clausewitzian Trinity of 'passion, chance, and reason' to the experience of real war. It explores the depth and validity of the concept against the conflicts of former Yugoslavia - wars thought to epitomise a post-Clausewitzian age. In doing so it demonstrates the timeless message of the Trinity, but also ties the Trinitarian idea back into Clausewitz's political argument. Intended to build on the existing corpus of scholarship, this book differs from the existing literature in two ways. By applying the Trinity to the wars of former Yugoslavia 1991-1995, it explores war at its micro-foundations, assessing the complex cause-and-effect nexus of reciprocity produced by actions between belligerents embroiled in dynamic competition perpetuated by their own interaction. Providing valuable insights into the complexities of real war fuelled by passion, undermined by chance, and shaped by reason, it is the first study to bridge the Clausewitzian world of theory with real experience. Examining each part of the triad separately, the book explores the multiple manifestations of hostility and chance, before then assessing the influence of these elements on the policies of the belligerents as the war evolved.


’Colin Fleming has written one of the most important studies on Clausewitz to appear in recent years. It is a masterly dissection of Clausewitz’s timeless trinity�, tied to real events - the war in the western Balkans in the 1990s. It is also a striking refutation of those who would deny the world’s greatest phenomenologist on war - a voice in the understanding of contemporary conflicts.’ Christopher Coker, London School of Economics, UK ’Those who believe that Clausewitz’s ideas are passé and hopelessly narrow should read Colin Fleming’s insightful book very carefully. He explores the foundations of the Trinitarian model by examining the ways in which hostility, chance, and rationality influence war, how they interact, and the consequences that make war so difficult and dangerous an activity. These micro-foundations that define war’s nature rather than its evolving character, he argues, are timeless. Clausewitz’s Timeless Trinity deepens our understanding of the Balkan Wars in 1991-1995 and illuminates the relevance of the Prussian strategist’s theory of war. All serious students of strategy and war will be informed and stimulated by this clear and sound challenge of the conventional wisdom.’ Pascal Vennesson, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Clausewitz’s enduring legacy: inspiration and methodology; Clausewitz and the tale of two trinities; Hostility; ’Chance and uncertainty’; Policy; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Colin M. Fleming is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

About the Series

Military Strategy and Operational Art

Military Strategy and Operational Art
The Ashgate Series on Military Strategy and Operational Art analyzes and assesses the synergistic interrelationship between joint and combined military operations, national military strategy, grand strategy, and national political objectives in peacetime, as well as during periods of armed conflict. In doing so, the series highlights how various patterns of civil-military relations, as well as styles of political and military leadership influence the outcome of armed conflicts. In addition, the series highlights both the advantages and challenges associated with the joint and combined use of military forces involved in humanitarian relief, nation building, and peacekeeping operations, as well as across the spectrum of conflict extending from limited conflicts fought for limited political objectives to total war fought for unlimited objectives. Finally, the series highlights the complexity and challenges associated with insurgency and counter-insurgency operations, as well as conventional operations and operations involving the possible use of weapons of mass destruction. Scholars and practitioners in the fields of politico-military history, international relations, and national security policy are invited to contribute to this new series as well as faculty at senior and intermediate level service schools involved in professional military education.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Strategy