Could Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great have achieved their unmatched successes were it not for the generals and advisors who played major roles in those successes? Arguably not. Strategy, by nature, is adaptive and evolutionary. While it is necessary for leaders to have strategic minds, it is perhaps even more important to have systems in place which allow for individuals to further develop their education and have the opportunity to influence the development of a nation’s strategy.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can help us better understand the experience of Clausewitzian genius. Now, this sounds about as illogical as Lewis Carroll’s famous riddle, uttered by the Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” But unlike the riddle, which was initially constructed without an answer, the concept of genius links Clausewitz and Alice without artifice. While Clausewitz’s “field of genius...raises itself above rules,” Wonderland is a fantastical space that enables Alice to raise herself not only above rules, but also sense. To see how this is so, we can appeal to Alice and her encounters in Wonderland to highlight the complexity found within military genius. But first we must locate genius in the space where theory fails to map onto reality.
If war is an inherently human phenomenon, then discussion of the human aspects of war is as timeless as the discussion of war itself. One prudent start point for any discussion on military matters is the philosophy of war described by the 19th century theorist Carl Von Clausewitz. In one of the lesser read sections of On War, he described what comprised the penultimate military genius. This article explores Clausewitz’s description of military genius as a point of discussion in the ongoing human dimension dialogue. In Clausewitz, we have a life-long soldier describing what it takes to reach the highest strata of the profession of arms; we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.