“In war the result is never final.” Carl von Clausewitz’s comment on the ephemeral nature of victory remains one of the most important insights from his great work of military theory, On War. Even the most decisive battlefield success can only bring about a temporary advantage: a moment of political opportunity that must be capitalized upon before circumstances change. Victory is never set. It can never be preserved in aspic.

November 2018 marks the centenary of the Armistice at the end of World War I. At eleven o’clock French time, on a cold, misty morning, the guns fell silent and the world emerged from what was then the worst war in human history. Over 9 million men had died in the war, including 1.4 million Frenchmen, 890,000 Britons, 116,000 Americans, and two million Germans. Large parts of...

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