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Warfare and the human perspective

The Theatre of War

Thucydides formations of strategy had firm foundations in studying human behaviour to rationalize crisis and he is often referred to as the founder of the school of thought on political realism. His book ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’, whilst written in the fifth century BC is still relevant and the foundations of his strategy known as the trinity; fear, honour and interest is still studied by many military academies including that of the United States.

The book is one of the great expositions on strategy and sits together with two other historical works that of Carl von Clausewitz's book titled ‘On War’ and Sun Tzu's ‘The Art of War’. Like Thucydides, Clausewitz also had his strategy based on a trilogy of war which he called the ‘remarkable trinity’. The trinity as he saw it was the policy of government, the military and the opinions and behavior of the citizens of the nation state.

Both Clausewitz and Thucydides stressed the need for political control over the armed forces, Sun Tzu on the other hand lived in an era of civil war and this is reflected in his strategy as is the lack of political assurance with respect to the situation after the war, his theory is also based on military action as opposed to human emotion for instance Thucydides and Clausewitz both consider fear, honour and interest as forces that influence human behaviour before, during and after warfare.

Thucydides trinity was a psychological one, the people of Athens feared their opponents but they also cared about their honor and had great concerns for their national interest. Clausewitz’ trinity is much the same in that it shows when all three come together they become the ingredients that create the conditions to determine war.

The difference between Thucydides and Clausewitz to Sun Tzu is that their historical observations and strategies include the human perspective and human influences, they are alike as they are philosophical and speculative whereas Sun Tzu’s stratagem is a strategy of the art of warfare, the actual fight. Essentially Sun Tzu did not devise a strategy, but rather detailed how to act out a strategy when in play. It can be determined that Clausewitz at this level is closer to Thucydides in his writings than Sun Tzu. Thucydides and Clausewitz could be classed as the play writers in the theatre of war and Sun Tzu the stage director.