Attention step: Despite the decisive victory at the Battle of Königgrätz, Prussia offered Austria generous peace terms. Austria did not lose any territories, except Venice.
The Seven weeks’ War must be one of the most famous conflicts in the world history; while it cannot be judged on par with the WWI or WWII, it still left an important mark in the development of the world’s greatest states and helped define the world’s further leaders, as well as line up the forces. However, when reconsidering the details of the Seven Weeks’ War, one will possibly notice several peculiar issues about it. One of the most interesting facts is that, in spite of their victory, Prussia and Italy did not claim any of Austrian lands except Venice. Analyzing the Seven Weeks’ War from the perspective of Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity concept, one can possibly reveal a couple of peculiar issues concerning the Seven Weeks’ War outcomes.
During Seven Weeks’ War between Austria and Prussia, Moltke believed that tactical military victory was conflicting with Bismarck’s strategy and policy objectives. Bismarck considered Austria as a potential ally and there were no need to waste combat power when the object was to neutralize the force of Austria, which followed the principles of Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity exactly, since it demanded reason in considering Austria as an ally, using the chance to reinforce the power of the state and passion for the well-being of the state.
As Parkinson explained, “The conflict arose from Austria’s determination to block Prussia’s governing power in Central Europe.”1 Bismarck believed that Austria with its powerful army would be a good ally in the further conflicts. Considering Moltke’s point of view, one must mention that the latter opposed to Bismarck’s decision.
Prussia had to make the influence of Austria less significant for the sake of unification of Germany under Prussia
Apart from being an obstacle on Prussia’s way to entering Europe, Austria also hindered the unification process that was going on in Prussia under the guidance of Bismarck.
Incorporating the elements of the paradoxical trinity, Bismarck paid a special attention to the moods within Prussia. Noting that the Achilles’ heel of Prussia was the dispersedness of its lands, Bismarck conducted the policy of unification. However, Austria was standing in the way a completing the process: “The task of unification was not yet complete, however. Venetia in the north was still held by Austria”2. Hence, Austria had to be subdued to Prussia.
Bismarck planned and prepared the war with Austria for 3 years; however, destroying Austria was not his intent. Prussia had amicable diplomatic relation with Russia by supporting Russia on Polish-Russia War in 1863
Unlike one might have expected, the war with Austria has actually been an elaborate plan and a well thought-out political decision. Thus, one of the key postulates of Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity, probability, was used in the design of the political actions for Prussia.3
Bismarck met with Napoleon III to ensure that France would not get involved in any future actions between Prussia and Austria. Thus, Bismarck could make sure that Austria would not get help from allies and stand in the way of Prussia unification.
Though there were considerable debates in the Prussian government concerning the efficiency of Bismarck’s actions, the results were incredible. Capturing Austria and even its king, Prussia once again proved the genius of Bismarck. Crashing down the Second French Empire, Bismarck also made sure that France would never stand between Prussian and Austria.4
Politically and diplomatically prepared Prussian military defeated Austria decisively in the Seven Weeks’ War
Despite the fact that Austria had a prevalence of military forces, with the help of Clausewitz’s ideas, Prussia managed to take over.
Prussia did not pursue the Austrians. Austria rapidly agreed to peace terms and did not lose any territories, except Venice
Seeing that Prussia was doubtlessly stronger than Austria, the latter subdued to the conditions offered by Prussia.
The major result of the war was a shift in power away from Austria and towards Prussia for the German unification initiatives
Demoralizing Austria, Prussia managed to take the lead and continue the consolidation of the German lands.
Main strategy Bismarck used in Seven Weeks’ War was “policy” of Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity
With three key ideas, i.e., using the right policy, calculating the probability and putting all his passion into the plan, Bismarck managed to defeat Austria.
Bismarck had clear policy goals that extended the influence of Prussia of the unified German Empire by expelling Austria with competing initiative of German reunification with Prussian
As it has been mentioned, Bismarck’s goals were to not only make Austria the future ally of Prussia, but also consolidate German lands.
It was quite possible for Prussia to occupy Austria by military power. However, their goal was not to make a permanent enemy but rather a potential ally.
According to the existing evidence, Prussia had enough power not only to defeat Austria, but also to destroy the state’s military forces, economic system and political structure. However, Prussia preferred to leave Austria relatively unharmed, which meant that the Prussian leaders were going to build the relationships with the defeated state on another principle than “veni, vidi, vici.”
Analyzing the choices that were made by the Prussian government, one must mention that the strategy of imposing rather light reparations on Austria was chosen by a very narrow margin. While the state conducted the policy approved of by the Prussian Minister President, Otto von Bismarck, there was another point of view on the situation. Some people believed that Prussia should have taken its toll on Austria:
This policy of restraint was achieved by some effort on Bismarck’s part, against the desires of the king and some of his advisers. Bismarck realized, as the king did not, that the work of German unifications was not yet completed, and a humiliated and bitter Austria would be a potential ally for the new obstacle that now stood in Prussia’s way, France.5
Since Prussia lacked its own resources and military forces to fight France in the future, Bismarck wisely decided to use the help of the Austrian government. In the given decision, the elements of Clausewitz’s theory can also be traced. For example, it is obvious that Bismarck had to come up with a sophisticated policy towards the opponent, at the same time calculating the probability of having the need to resort to Austria’s services. Finally, one needs great passion towards the state and its political success to make the king himself change his mind concerning the relationships with Austria.
In the light of the above-mentioned acts, it must be admitted that the conflict between Austria and Prussia was solved rather wisely. Analyzing the results of the war, as well as the actions that were undertaken in the course of the war, one can trace the element of Clausewitz’s theory in the decisions that were made by Bismarck. Incorporating the appropriate policy, accurate calculations of probability, as well as the passion about the conflict, Bismarck managed to defeat the opponent.
Brams, Steven J. Theory of moves. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Duiker, W. J. and J. J. Spiegelvogel. World history: since 1500. Stamford, CN: Cengage Learning, 2012.
Hartmann, U. Carl Von Clausewitz and the Making of Modern Strategy. Stoughton, WI: Books on Demand, 2002.
Parsinson, Roger. Encyclopedia of modern war. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 1979.
Spiegelvogel, J. J. Western Civilization: Since 1789. Stamford, CN: Cengage Learning, 2011.
1. Roger Parsinson, Encyclopedia of modern war (New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 1979), 48.
2. William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spiegelvogel, World History: Since 1500 (Stamford, CN: Cengage Learning, 2012), 564.
3. Uve Hartmann, Carl Von Clausewitz and the Making of Modern Strategy (Stoughton, WI: Books on Demand, 2002), 36.
4. Jackson J. Spiegelvogel, Western Civilization: Since 1789 (Stamford, CN: Cengage Learning, 2011), 681.
5. Steven J. Brams, Theory of moves (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 81.