War is nothing but a duel on a larger scale. Countess duels go to make up a war, but a picture of it as a whole can be formed by imagining a pair of wrestlers. Each tries through physical force to compel the other to do his will; his immediate aim is to throw his opponent in order to make him incapable of further resistance. War is thus an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will.
[Der Krieg ist nichts als ein erweiterter Zweikampf. Wollen wir uns die Unzahl der einzelnen Zweikämpfe, aus denen er besteht, als Einheit denken, so tun wir besser, uns zwei Ringende vorzustellen. Jeder sucht den anderen durch physische Gewalt zur Erfüllung seines Willens zu zwingen; sein nächster Zweck ist, den Gegner niederzuwerfen und dadurch zu jedem ferneren Widerstand unfähig zu machen. Der Krieg ist also ein Akt der Gewalt, um den Gegner zur Erfüllung unseres Willens zu zwingen.]
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 1 “What Is War? [Was ist der Krieg?],” § 2 (1.1.2) (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1976)]
(Source (German)). Alternate translations:
War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale. If we would conceive as a unit the countless number of duels which make up a war, we shall do so best by supposing to ourselves two wrestlers. Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: his first object is to throw his adversary, and thus to render him incapable of further resistance. War therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.
[tr. Graham (1873)]
War is nothing but a duel on a larger scale. If we would combine into one conception the countless separate duels of which it consists, we would do well to think of two wrestlers. Each tries by physical force to compel the other to do his will; his immediate object is to overthrow his adversary and thereby make him incapable of any further resistance. War is thus an act of force to compel our adversary to do our will.
[tr. Jolles (1943)]
Added on 24-Jan-23 | Last updated 24-Jan-23
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