Episode 8: Continuation of Diplomacy by Other Means: Dietrich von Bülow

Dietrich Heinrich von Bülow (1757–1807) was called ‘everything from a conceited crank to the founder of modern military science’ (R R Palmer). Probably the last Prussian strategist to sympathise with the French Revolution, he had a keen interest in the relationship between political aims and war as their instrument, and in geopolitics: he correctly prophesied that the 19th century would produce in Europe the smallest number of states since states came into being, after the territorial expansion of the strong by conquering or annexing smaller powers

Von Bülow’s Spirit of the Modern System of War combined geopolitics with geographic considerations, ideas about the balance of power in Europe and geometric treatises on how to calculate and establish the best chances of success in battle by focusing on magazines and lines of supply and movement. He was unfairly ridiculed for his geometric approach by Clausewitz, who, at the same time, borrowed Bülow’s main tenet: ‘If something can be effected by force and cannot be achieved by negotiations, diplomacy turns into war, or conflict with reasons becomes conflict with physical forces’. And he concluded: ‘war is a means for the achievement of diplomatic aims’. Sound familiar?

This week’s guest on Talking Strategy, Dr Arthur Kuhle, studied History and Arts History at the Universities of Berlin and Belfast from 2006 to 2012. He completed his PhD at the Humboldt University Berlin on the intellectual predecessors of Carl von Clausewitz, a work subsequently published in German. After working at the University of Göttingen for some time, he is now engaged in research on the history of the climate of the Himalayas and its relevance for the emergence of early civilisations there.


Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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