Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Clausewitz : Seven “Cs” Analysis: States and Other Institutions of Power

Clausewitz : Seven “Cs” Analysis: States and Other Institutions of Power

NCSS Standard VI. Power, Authority, and Governance.

Understanding the historical development of structures of power, authority, and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society and other parts of the world is essential for developing civic competence.

Evaluate how the emergence of new weapons, tactics, and methods of military organization changed the scale and cost of warfare, required the centralization of power, and shifted the balance of power.

Analyze the role of warfare in remaking the political map of Europe and in shifting the global balance of power in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Assess the impact of war, diplomacy, and overseas exploration and colonization on European diplomacy and balance of power until 1789.

Explain how the French Revolution and the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars shifted the European balance of power and encouraged the creation of a new diplomatic framework.

Explain the role of nationalism in altering the European balance of power, and explain attempts made to limit nationalism as a means to ensure continental stability.

Evaluate how overseas competition and changes in the alliance system upset the Concert of Europe and set the stage for World War I.

Explain the ways in which the Common Market and collapse of the Soviet Empire changed the political balance of power, the status of the nation- state, and global political alliances.

Essential Question:
How and why did changes in warfare affect diplomacy, the European state system, and the balance of power?

Instructional Focus:
Analysis of Clausewitz and Synthesis of AP Euro Wars

1. Hook:
Excerpt from film Crimson Tide (1995).
The content is the theoretical argument scene between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington.

Direct your students to watch it closely. Clausewitz does not argue that the commander who ignores the political issues is the one most likely to win, but he does make an argument in very similar language that the opponent who considers his objectives to be worth a higher price has an advantage.

2. Whole class direct instruction:

Discuss the three fundamental concepts from On War by Carl von Clausewitz: Book One, Chapter One:
(1) “War is . . . an act of force [or threat of force] to compel our enemy to do our will;”
(2) “War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means;”  
(3) “As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a remarkable trinity – composed of primordial violence, hatred and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason.”

3. Class discussion of political objectives and military aims.

Use these three fundamental concepts as the organizing approach to discuss the nature and purpose of war by dividing the class into small groups with the task of explaining what Clausewitz “really meant,” provide historical examples. Work through the reading selections in the order read and ask the students to identify, explain, and evaluate the development of Clausewitz’s ideas and how his thinking may have changed as he wrote. Utilizing the Student Analysis section in each part of the reading.

4. Assessment:
At the end, have the students draw Clausewitz’s ideas together into a systematic, coherent body of thought and analyze their relevance and implications for the Major Wars studied in AP European History.

I have included a chart for reference. Use the 7 Cs as an Analytical Tool
Conflict Causes Course Consequences Conquerors Conquered Clausewitz


Teachers can modify the instruction to include a PPT presentation on Von Clausewitz and his general strategy that war has 3 objectives.
To conquer and destroy the armed power of the enemy.
To take possession of his material and other sources of strength.
To gain public opinion.

Teachers can additionally extend the lesson by modeling an analysis of one of the wars from the 7 Cs Chart.

Schake, Kori. “Thinking About War.” FPRI’s 2017 Military History Institute: Why Does America Go To War? First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, Wheaton. 25 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Christopher Bassford, “John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz,” War in History, November 1994, pp.319-336, https://

Clausewitz, Carl Von. On War — Ch 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

Pietersen, Willie. “Von Clausewitz on War: Six Lessons for the Modern Strategist.” Ideas & Insights. Ideas at Work, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

  • Ellen Resnek
  • Downingtown East High School
Related History Institute
Grade Level
  • High School: 10
Time Frame
  • 2-3 class periods

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