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Journal of Strategic Studies
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New or Old Wars? Debating a Clausewitzian Future
Colin M. Fleming
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Available online: 24 Apr 2009
To cite this article: Colin M. Fleming (2009): New or Old Wars? Debating a Clausewitzian Future, Journal of Strategic Studies, 32:2, 213-241 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402390902743175
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The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 32, No. 2, 213–241, April 2009
New or Old Wars? Debating a Clausewitzian Future
COLIN M. FLEMING
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
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ABSTRACT Over the last 18 years or so, much of the debate about modern warfare has been about whether it should be described as ‘old’ or ‘new’. However, there has not been a deﬁnitive answer as to which best reﬂects war in the modern world. Increasingly, the alternative arguments are polarised into opposing camps. Indeed, it would be fair to say that there is little in the way of debate at all. By revaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each argument, this paper aims to reinvigorate that discussion by examining whether changes in the way we understand war are really required. Finding that the ideas are not in fact mutually exclusive, it suggests that future research could beneﬁt from a combined approach. KEY WORDS: Strategy, Clausewitz, New Wars
Since the end of the Cold War, the literature focusing on strategic studies has highlighted a multiplicity of changes affecting war as it enters a supposedly post-modern age. It has even become customary to hear that transformational changes within the international system have altered the very nature of war itself. Consequently, an increasing number of scholars have repudiated traditional theories of strategic thought. Clausewitzian theory, in particular, has taken a bit of a bashing. As Paul Hirst notes, ‘we are living in a period when the prevailing political and economic structures are widely perceived not merely to be changing but subject to radical transformation’.1 In this ‘new’ era it is broadly accepted that the political and economic forces reshaping international relations are causing equally profound changes in the nature and conduct of war. Moreover, since the end of the Cold War, speculation about a future not set neatly by the parameters of the East/West stand-off has resulted in varied interpretations of both present and future. Would it be a radically different world to that which had passed? What would replace the Cold War rivalry? What
Paul Hirst, War and Power in the 21st Century (Cambridge: Blackwell 2001), 1.
ISSN 0140-2390 Print/ISSN 1743-937X Online/09/020213-29 Ó 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/01402390902743175
214 Colin M. Fleming would deﬁne international relations (IR) as it entered a new millennium? Of course, in the immediate aftermath of the ‘West’s’ Cold War victory, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History famously heralded the triumph of capitalism over communism as conﬁrmation that the world had entered an age free from the antagonisms of ideology. According to Fukuyama, Western liberalism now held the trump card as the global cure to war, inequality and domestic insecurity.2 Indeed, as the international system reacted to the freedom afforded by the West’s success, the strength of capitalism and Western liberal values seemed to indicate that a truly transformational and progressive period was underway. Driven by economic and liberal values, what is now termed as the ‘globalisation’ of world politics has become one of the central features of contemporary international politics. It is widely accepted that these changes are also affecting the nature of war. Although not without its weaknesses, the argument that the state – hitherto the central actor in international relations – is in terminal decline, has stimulated claims that war in the twenty-ﬁrst century is undergoing profound change. A growing cosmopolitanism and a sense that economic interdependence now restricts the actions of states has ensured that many analysts query previously accepted approaches to understanding international relations (IR). It has even been argued that economic interdependence and a rising intolerance to the horrors of conﬂict – resulting from a Revolution in Attitudes towards the Military (RAM)3 – has produced an era in which war between the major states is obsolete.4 By the late 1990s, commentators such as Michael Mandelbaum were claiming that the trend towards obsolescence had accelerated.5 Mandelbaum even suggested that ‘the rising costs of war, and the diminishing expectations of victory’s beneﬁts, have transformed its status’.6 In short, major war was thought to be a thing of the past.
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Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and The Last Man (London: Penguin Books 1992). 3 James C. Kurth, ‘Clausewitz and the Two Contemporary Military Revolutions: RMA and RAM’, in Bradford A. Lee and Karl F. Walling (ed.), Strategic Logic and Political Rationality: Essays in Honor of Michael I. Handel (London: Frank Cass 2003), 274–98. 4 John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books 1989). 5 Michael Mandelbaum, ‘Is Major War Obsolete?’ Survival 40/4 (Winter 1998–1999), 1–2. 6 Ibid., 23.
For proponents of this view. Marine Corps Gazette (Oct. Schmitt. among others. New and Old Wars. it is even claimed that the nature of war itself is changing. This paper will revaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. (ii) methods. Attacking the traditional position propounded by Carl von Clausewitz. 22–6. its primary claim is that modern conﬂict differs from its historical antecedents in three major ways: (i) structure. As new war theorists believe Clausewitzian theory is coterminous with the state. See also: Herfried Munkler. it is the salience of what is now termed the ‘new war’ thesis which has done most to undermine traditional ideas about the nature of war. and suggest ways in which the debate can be reinvigorated. and Gary I.206. 6. Wilson. the debate between these competing ideas has been ongoing from the early 1990s. the claim is made that new ways of comprehending war’s modern dynamics are required to cope with political. The New Wars (Cambridge: Polity Press 2005). 1989).). New and Old Wars (Oxford: Polity Press 2001). cultural and technological transformation.145. Keith Nightengale. consider whether changes are required. 7 Downloaded by [86. war has ceased to be a political and rational undertaking. though what is now termed the new war thesis is in fact a collection of different ideas about war in the modern world. emergent type of warfare has been primarily attributed to scholars and practitioners such as William S. 8 For an alternative classiﬁcation. Mary Kaldor. Joseph W. Sutton. and Mary Kaldor.9 Like For a comprehensive examination of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and its historical underpinnings. It was Kaldor who coined the term ‘new war’. the methods of warfare and how they are ﬁnanced’. the notion of a new. and (iii) motives – each element interpenetrates the other. The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1320–2050 (Cambridge: CUP 2001). Lind. Lind. The Transformation of War (New York: The Free Press 1991). the new war idea focuses on changes in the international system stimulated by globalisation – particularly the perceived decline of the state. Consequently. ‘The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation’. and Kaldor. However. New Wars: Into The Fourth Generation? While the new war argument is diverse. when war does take place it has been argued that it will differ fundamentally from the rest of strategic history.New or Old Wars? 215 Furthermore.7 Yet. that ‘war is the continuation of policy’. see: MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray (ed. Mary Kaldor claims that ‘new wars can be contrasted with earlier wars in terms of their goals.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 .8 Moreover. they repudiate his work as a result. John F. Martin van Creveld. 9 See William S. without deﬁnitive answer as to which offers the greatest success of understanding modern war. Martin van Creveld. though a range of ideas seem to be affecting wars’ utility. and have thus been presented as grand narratives in their own right.
Fourth-generation Downloaded by [86. This irregular mode of conﬂict is believed to be a return to the way war worked before the state monopolised violence. The primary emphasis is to attack the enemy’s rear areas and ‘collapse him from the rear forward’. second. Lind’s argument focuses on his concept of fourth-generation warfare (4GW). can defeat greater economic and military power. when properly employed. It is an evolved form of insurgency. 4GW makes use of society’s networks to carry on its ﬁght. sixth and seventh generations of warfare at some point in the future. Colonel Thomas X. Lind’s claim that future war will be markedly different from the past is premised on the decline of the state. Hammes of the US Marine Corps explains: Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) uses all available networks – political. Mass ﬁrepower inﬂicted huge damage on the enemy. which he claims is part of an historical process that has already produced ﬁrst.10 Lind’s 4GW analysis starts from the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Second-generation warfare addressed mass ﬁrepower ﬁrst encountered in the Great War (1914–18) by maintaining order despite the increased indirect destructiveness of artillery ﬁre. Third generation war. technologically dominated ‘effects’ based warfare practised by the richest modern armies. this is precisely why victory in modern war appears so elusive. when the state monopolised mass violence. another product of World War I. Still rooted in the fundamental precept that superior political will. contemporary state/military structures encapsulate and practise third generation war. 10 . was developed from 1916–18. and military – to convince the enemy’s political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived beneﬁt. economic. followed by the advance of infantry. 2004).206. For advocates of this idea. Although attention is now focused on 4GW. social. Lind. despite the high tempo. .216 Colin M. 14. For many.–Oct. Fleming fellow advocates. . it is only a step towards the ﬁfth.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 William S. and third generation war. ‘Understanding Fourth Generation War’. third generation war is based on speed rather than attrition and ﬁrepower. The First Generation of War (1648–1860) was one of line and column – battle was perceived to be orderly and there was an increasingly clear distinction between combatant and civilian.145. Exempliﬁed by the Blitzkrieg of the German Army in the opening campaigns of World War II. Military Review 83/5 (Sept.
hatred. Thomas X. 14 Clausewitz. 69. Instead. Clausewitz wrote that: War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to a given case. Clausewitz argues that despite wars’ violent proclivities. war is the means of reaching it. Indeed. 1993). and of its element of subordination. The Transformation of War. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (New York: Knopf/Everyman’s Library ed. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity – composed of primordial violence. the demise of state primacy accelerates the obsolescence of the traditional Clausewitzian model which posits war as a political instrument. the sense that the nature of military conﬂict has changed stems directly from debate about the contemporary role of the Trinity in understanding modern war. This concept continues to court controversy. and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose. On War  trans. Indeed. Hammes USMC. On War. 13 Carl von Clausewitz. or technology’. 12 Creveld. who argues that declining state power is eroding the traditional structures of IR. Van Creveld predicts that a breakdown of political legitimacy will transform war from a rational pursuit of states into an irrational. As he reminds readers: ‘The political object is the goal. as an instrument of policy. ethnicity. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (St Paul: Zenith Press 2004). which makes it subject to reason alone. 2. it will be ‘driven by a mixture of religious fanaticism.New or Old Wars? 217 wars are lengthy – measured in decades rather than months or years. of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam. war should be fought for the rational pursuit of political goals. and enmity which are to be regarded as a blind natural force.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Col. culture.145. unstructured activity – fought not by armies but by groups with varying motivations.14 Downloaded by [86. 11 .11 A new type of emergent warfare is also envisaged by Martin van Creveld. This assumption has formed the cornerstone of the majority of studies shaping the literature of war. it is bound by political objectives. He also argues that war will lose its political purpose.’13 The idea that political rationality interpenetrates all aspects of warfare is thought to have been encapsulated in Clausewitz’s ‘Remarkable Trinity’.12 In his opinion. 101.206.
so too have the methods. nonpolitical war will remain.145.206. has been replaced. many scholars have assumed that the concept is fundamentally linked to the state.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . just as the structure of war has changed. Creveld’s argument that a new type of war is emerging rests with the fact that there has been a decline in the number of inter-state conﬂicts and that there has been a subsequent rise in the number of wars within states. the political base is redundant – leaving the ‘people’ as the only remaining component of the ‘Trinity’. thus Ibid. of a clash between opposing armies. it is assumed that war can no longer be described as a rational political activity. the appropriate ‘rational’ component of the concept cannot restrict the irrational traits that all wars exhibit. are no longer present. the scope which play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the army. In other words. and therefore the international system of states. the military and principally the government. modern wars rarely follow conventional norms and are thought to be distinguishable by their sheer brutality and lack of strategic rationality. This is because the rational elements of the Clausewitzian Trinity.16 Entwined with changes in the structure of modern conﬂict is the argument that war’s distinctive character. With state decline. the second the commander and his army. For Creveld.218 Colin M. Fleming He continues: The ﬁrst of these three aspects mainly concerns the people. but the political aims are the business of government alone. The increasing use of irregular warfare by terrorist organisations and weaker powers is also claimed to loosen the bonds between state and military. war would be stripped of its rational elements. which do not have structures able to promote rationality in the advance of their conﬂicting cultural aims. 16 15 Downloaded by [86. only violent and non-Trinitarian. With the end of the state. In short.15 By marrying the ‘Trinity’ to sections of society. The passions that are to be kindled in a war must already be inherent in the people. Consequently. the proliferation of Low Intensity Conﬂict (LIC) in conﬂicts within states is evidence that Clausewitz’s Trinitarian concept no longer represents a coherent explanation why war is a rational instrument of the state. the third the government. As it is thought that the ‘people’ will form armed militias or mobs. Non-Trinitarian war is a term coined by Creveld to express the redundancy of Clausewitz’s Trinity.
Kaldor.17 Following the publications of both Lind’s and Creveld’s theses. 44. the implications necessitate analysis of. 91–111. Throughout the 1990s wars in the Balkans. This gives credibility to the claim that state war between recognizable belligerents is a thing of the past – a post-Clausewitzian approach is. The Transformation of War.20 Moreover. it is also claimed that in Bosnia.19 After all. it is argued that global economic inequality and the destabilising effects of failed states are the primary danger awaiting the modern world – especially when ‘factions’ resort to communal violence in order to restore ‘group’ security. Highlighted by Robert Kaplan’s provocative thesis The Coming Anarchy. The Coming Anarchy (New York: Vintage Books 2000). Malone. war in the former Yugoslavia. The Economic Functions of Violence in Civil Wars. New and Old Wars. and throughout Africa seemed to substantiate their claims with much needed evidence. Kaplan. As this trend accelerates traditional armies will become increasingly like their enemies in order to tackle the threat that this poses. 20 Rober D. Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Boulder. Creveld. The feared result is an overspill of unorganised violence from the developing world. war was driven by criminal gangs intent on maintaining lucrative proﬁt margins.145. Caucasus. Caucasus and Africa propelled the idea of transformative change in IR. ‘Doing Well out of War: An Economic Perspective’. ‘armies will be replaced by police-like security forces on the one hand and bands of rufﬁans on the other’. 31. ‘traditional militaries’ rarely loomed large as central players. 18 17 Downloaded by [86. Paul Collier. he too rejects the Clausewitzian argument that war is governed by politics. CO: Lynne Rienner 2000). the paradigm of the new type of warfare’. David Keen. 225. It is thought that this trend will be accelerated by demographic problems exacerbated by economic and environmental problems. this argument is accurate. As such. These conﬂicts do appear to exhibit irrational traits and they often seem to be guided by factors other than governmental policy. For Kaplan. it has become common for commentators openly to envisage a world where ‘conventional’ armies cannot function properly against a new type of enemy. New and Old Wars.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 .New or Old Wars? 219 accelerating and exacerbating the original problem of state decline. ‘the whole question of war’. Mary Kaldor has even claimed that ‘the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has become the archetypal example. during the 1990s. in Mats Berdal and David M. 19 Important works include: Kaldor. therefore.206. According to Creveld.18 Ostensibly. In Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia it is argued that ethnic hatred exacerbated the tense political context. he mirrors Creveld’s position. Adelphi Paper 320 (Oxford/London: OUP for IISS 1998). an immediate requirement.
2006. Fleming Like other ‘new war’ writers. 1997. attacking civilians has become the tactic of choice for the non-state actors operating there. information retrieved 15 Jan. the index estimates the total number of civilian fatalities as a result of conﬂict at 151.brookings. 26 The fact that future war will have an asymmetrical component is reﬂected in: US Marine Corps Doctrine. Additionally.25 Certainly.21 Wars will not be characterised by the large-scale industrial confrontations of the twentieth century. For a study into this tactic. MCDP 1-1. Kaplan warns that a preponderance of ‘high-tech’ weapons is useless in a world where ‘conventional’ war is outmoded. the recent experiences of the United States and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to suggest a trend towards difﬁcult irregular warfare. From 1991. 2007.568 – a total of 7. Ch. devoid of battles. 11. 2007’. Jan. 5www. Rather. 24 ‘Iraq Coalition Casualty Count’. population displacement and genocide was intertwined both in the war in former Yugoslavia. 5www. the ﬁgures for civilian deaths during conﬂict are even more telling.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . or be subject to any notion of legality.220 Colin M. These examples seem to compound the argument that future war will be asymmetrical. Senior Intelligence Analyst: Middle East and North Africa.22 If the present conﬂict in Iraq is any measure. and in Rwanda/Congo.hrw. at least on one side. ‘something far more terrible awaits us’. a cursory assessment of the situation suggests that direct targeting of civilians has accelerated since February 2006.org/oif/IraqDeaths.org/reports/1996/Rwanda. from 5www.24 According to the Brookings Institute’s ‘Iraq Index’. When compared with the total numbers of civilian fatalities in the same period from January 2005 until January 2008 the results are compelling – estimated civilian deaths during this period are a staggering 41. Figures compiled from data from published news articles.206.068. Human Rights Watch.26 In terms of Ibid. He cautions. It seems to have been sadly repeated in Kenya in 2008.htm4 23 Interview with Claire Fleming.300 police and military fatalities.edu/iraqindex4. there will certainly be no rules of war as understood today. AKE Limited. 25 ‘The Brookings Iraq Index. From March 2003 until June 2006.868. Strategy. 10 Jan. see: ‘Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath’. 2008. retrieved 14 Jan. Leaving multinational forces (MNF) aside.000. retrieved 1 Nov.145.23 Prior to 2005 it has been estimated that there were 1. Perhaps the most 22 21 Downloaded by [86. the primary target in new wars is the civilian population.icausalties.aspt4. 2007. From January 2005 until January 2008 the number of police and military deaths has risen to an estimated 6. 3. the US has begun to look seriously at how changes in IR affect the way it ﬁghts.
Hall (eds. in T. and armaments. 18–22. Diffusion. goes even further. 1. Paul and John A. Armies are rag-tag groups frequently made up of teenagers paid in drugs. Important works include: David Galula. Uncivil Wars: International Security and the New Internal Conﬂicts (Boulder. claiming that: War no longer exists. The debate about modern war has also generated or revived studies into counter-insurgency techniques.206. Marines Corps Gazette 83/1 (Jan. and Disintegration in the Middle East’. a retired top British general with direct experience of war in the Balkans.27 After all. Krulak. 29 Kalevi J.New or Old Wars? 221 purely intra-state conﬂict. war as cognitively known to most non-combatants. 28 David M. 304. regulations. Nagl. Northern Ireland and the Middle East. ‘soldiers’ discover opportunities for private enterprises of their own. Charles C. PA: Univ. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice  (Westport. in Iraq.). in David Carment and Patrick James (eds. these ‘new internal wars’ do not exhibit military objectives. Holsti. . conﬂict and combat undoubtedly exist all round the world – most noticeably.29 Downloaded by [86. some commentators have even suggested that using the term ‘war’ at all.). CO: Lynne Rienner 1996). None the less. Wars in the Midst of Peace: The International Politics of Ethnic Conﬂict (Pittsburg. 30 Rupert Smith. See Gen. 27 Monty Marschall. 1999). Confrontation. the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Palestinian Territories – and states still have armed forces which they use a symbols of power. The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (London: Allen Lane Books 2005). not ones we are used to seeing. International Order and the Future of World Politics (Cambridge: CUP 1999). gives it a credibility that belies its unorganised character.30 famous model to emerge from this discussion is that of the ‘Three Block War’. but quite in keeping with the interests of the warlords. of Pittsburg Press 1997). etiquette. of Chicago Press 2002). at least. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago. and John A. IL: Univ. rules.145. In the absence of authority and discipline. CT: Praeger 2006). 106–7.28 According to Kalevi Holsti: War has become de-institutionalized in the sense of central control. Snow. war as battle in a ﬁeld between men and machinery.V. ‘The Coming Chaos? Armed Conﬂict in the Worlds Periphery’. but not only. ‘The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War’. war as a massive deciding event in a dispute in international affairs: such war no longer exists. ‘Systems at Risk: Violence.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Rupert Smith. Afghanistan. or not paid at all. 82–115.
34 Ibid. explains the difference inherent in new wars: In contrast to the vertically organized hierarchical units that were typical of ‘old wars’. and partnerships of governance’. 71. she too rejects the Clausewitzian paradigm. they are highly decentralized and they operate through a mixture of confrontation and cooperation even when on opposing sides.222 Colin M. and War Economies’.145. In other words. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (London: Simon & Schuster 1997). police forces.. In organizational terms. Mark Dufﬁeld. 70. Somalia and Rwanda hit Western television screens. Transborder Trade. Downloaded by [86. criminal gangs. globalisation’s pervasive nature stimulates dissonance between those able to play a part in a globalised world.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Kaldor. as an emotional and irrational malady. Fleming Mary Kaldor. 86–9. contracts. in Mats Berdal and David M.34 As the 1990s opened up new opportunities for international peace and prosperity. Central to this is the idea that the more competitive aspects of globalisation are exacerbating cultural and political fragmentation. Huntington. local warlords.35 This argument gained immediate currency when the wars in countries such as former Yugoslavia. perhaps the best known of the new war advocates.206. 33 Kaldor. 35 Samuel P. they were thought to lack rationality. 8. 32 31 . ‘Globalisation.33 As a result. an historical curse. mercenary groups and also regular armies including breakaway units of regular armies. the units that ﬁght these wars include a disparate range of different types of groups such as paramilitary units. It became increasingly common to talk about war in the 1990s as if it were an inexplicable mistake.31 For new war proponents. who claims the process of globalisation is tearing up the previously stable state system – a system which for many has provided a starting point for understanding war and its role in IR. New and Old Wars. the wars grabbing the front pages seemed totally at odds from their historical antecedents. As Mark Dufﬁeld argues: ‘The changing competence of the nation-state is reﬂected in the shift from hierarchical patterns of government to the wider and more polyarchial networks.32 It is an opinion championed by Kaldor. and those who are not. There seemed to be a general feeling that wars stemmed from cultural and religious factors. New and Old Wars. Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (London: Lynne Rienner 2000). Malone.
Whereas the wartime economies found in ‘old’ Clausewitzian conﬂicts were centralised by state authority to maximise resources. but to perpetuate the cycle of violence in order to protect proﬁt margins. 40 See William Reno. With socially ostracised communities unable to express their political grievances. it is a Downloaded by [86.New or Old Wars? 223 Like other commentators.206.37 An additional new war argument hinges on an acceptance of substantive difference between the economies of old and new wars. there will be a parallel trend highlighting an increase in identity politics. but a way of creating an alternative system of proﬁt. Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Boulder. 39 Important works include: Kaldor.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Kaldor. in Berdal and Malone. The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destructions of Alternatives (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State UP 1999). see V.36 To grab power.htm4 38 Keen. New and Old Wars. power and even protection’. 37 36 . David Keen even claims that ‘war is not simply a breakdown of a particular system. Malone. in new wars the opposing forces favour the continuation of conﬂict as an exercise in economic enrichment. this process is supported by political elites. 11. For Yugoslav example. 113–28. Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars. it is thought they will employ war as the most attractive expression of their local cultural/ religious needs.145. 43–68. ‘Doing Well out of War’.39 They also agree that the economic element found in new wars is directly linked to why the distinction between war and peace has become blurred.org/reports/ 1999/rwanda/Geno1-302. 5www. in ‘new wars’ the economy is pervaded and supported by organised crime. Collier. The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s (Ithaca. The Economic Functions of Violence in Civil Wars. The Economic Functions of Violence in Civil Wars. In contrast to ‘old’ war economies. Keen. ‘war is no longer a Clausewitzian affair of state. The purpose of war is not to win a knockout blow.hrw. ‘Shadow States and the Political Economy of Civil Wars’.P. CO: Lynne Rienner 2000). As globalisation erodes the state system. ‘The Resource Curse: Are Civil Wars Driven by Rapacity or Paucity?’ in Mats Berdal and David M. Human Rights Watch (1999). NY: Cornell UP 2004) and Eric Gordy. Gagon.38 Several studies into the economies of new wars suggest that ‘greed’ plays a large role in contemporary civil conﬂict. and Indra de Soysa. For an account of the situation in Rwanda see: ‘Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda’. Kaldor believes the pervasive nature of globalisation is the root cause of modern political instability and war.40 For Mark Dufﬁeld. New and Old Wars. 69–89. Just as there has been a change in structure and methods so too are there changes in the motivations of modern war.
Moreover. and the shadow economy which is established by the ‘have-nots’. ‘if economic agendas are driving conﬂict. the disintegration of the state. 41 Downloaded by [86. New and Old Wars. as Paul Collier observes. 43 Kaldor. Can such an historical rarity be used as a model for understanding future wars? That some forms of modern war do not resemble the model of a world war. 44. There are problems with this argument.42 Ethnic violence. though there is evidence that organised crime proliferated throughout all of the wars of former Yugoslavia. then it is likely that these groups are beneﬁting from conﬂict and that these groups therefore have some interests in initiating and sustaining it’. 90–111. Fleming problem of underdevelopment and political breakdown’.41 Moreover. Kaldor views the war economy in BiH as a Maﬁoso-style protection racket. warlordism. ‘Doing Well out of War’. the return to identity politics exacerbates the warfare itself. For example. Additionally. act as a precursor. 91. Kaldor’s chapter on the Bosnian war is intended to mirror other experiences of modern war. prohibiting any meaningful political settlement.206. however. The very fact that war fragmented the state made the implementation of an ‘organised’ wartime economy impossible. her case study of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) only demonstrates that it was different to the widely accepted picture of a wartime economy – modelled on the total wars of the twentieth century. for her a true reﬂection of the altered nature of post-modern war. It is a situation recognisable in conﬂicts ranging from the wars of former Yugoslavia to the decades-long Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgency against the elected government in that country.224 Colin M. 42 Collier. This fails to demonstrate the whole picture. has changed. what Clausewitz called its ‘logic’. neither did it resemble an altogether different activity. even a inter-state war. it is in their interests to perpetuate the cycle of violence. One obvious problem with this approach is that there is an overwhelming sense that war can only be viewed through the lens of a world war. It is even claimed that the warring actors can survive only as long as the war continues. While it is axiomatic that the situation in BiH did not mirror a ‘world’ war. and the creation of wealth through extortion form a central pillar of the new security environment. as a force that drives and deepens war. where drugs. thus demonstrating that organised crime perpetuates conﬂict. not to mention current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is best reﬂected by their shadowy wartime economies.43 Yet.145. Global Governance And The New Wars (London: Zed Books 2001).89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . and Mark Dufﬁeld. does not necessarily mean that the nature of war.
‘The Myths of Medieval Warfare’. 28–34.. Willard and S.M. war is returning to a form found before the birth of the modern state. In one pertinent example during Operation ‘Trebevic’ in 1993. the argument that ‘looting’ heralds something new lacks historical foundation and is easily refuted by reference to conﬂicts such as the Thirty Years War. see also J. the ARBiH purged the 10th Mountain Division and 9th Motorised Brigade which had formed a criminal ﬁefdom in Sarajevo. for writers such as Kaldor or Creveld this is the very point. many modern wars seem to resemble their medieval and early modern antecedents. How Bosnia Armed (London: Saqi Books 2004). does not determine whether war is devoid of political rationality.46 Furthermore. trans. however. Brutality. they were implemented strategically. it suppressed and subsumed the very groups that suggest something new. after a shaky start. 2001). As Stathis Kalyvas argues. Verbruggen.47 Looting and plunder were certainly characteristics of medieval warfare. 46 See: Marko A.C.44 He continues: ‘The ﬁrst problem is the distinction of causality – do people wage war in order to loot or do they loot to be able to wage war?’45 Anyway.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . 44 Downloaded by [86. 103–4. 45 Ibid. It is thus returning to a period that lacked strategic rationality. the strength of this claim seems somewhat diminished by the fact that medieval and early modern historians have. 1994).New or Old Wars? 225 though there are undoubtedly examples when politics merged with criminality. The Art of Warfare in Western Europe During the Middle Ages. UK: The Boydell Press 1997). On their own. Kalyvas.145.F. although ostensibly accurate. it is striking that when the Bosnian Army (ARBiH) stabilised its position. 47 For a study which dispels the myth that medieval war was somehow un-strategic. 103. certainly a problem in the Balkans. and political and social complexity. Yet. and much of medieval warfare. been advancing the argument that war in these periods were in fact driven by political and strategic rationality. Thought to be irrational. see: Sean McGlynn. it is uncertain whether such factors automatically herald an emergent type of war. Of course. Hoare. Southern (Woodbridge. concurrently. ‘‘‘New’’ And ‘‘Old’’ Civil Wars: A Valid Distinction?’ World Politics 54/1 (Oct.206. favouring plunder and murder over battle. The very idea that looting. History Today 44/1 (Jan. it does not follow that it will be fought Stathis N. evidence that organised crime restricted strategic rationality is exiguous. ‘the concept of looting is analytically problematic because it is unclear whether it refers to the causes of war or to the motivations of the combatants (or both)’. Even when war stems from irrational impulses. although organised crime proliferated in the Balkans. S. is a characterisation of a new type of war lacks substance.
the apparent decline of the state is thought to negate the rational base upon which war is founded. Parameters 25/3 (Autumn 1995). One of the key new war claims is that it attacks the traditional Clausewitzian notion that the nature of war is political. that Michael Handel. Clausewitz Returns? Despite enthusiasm for the fashionable ‘new war’ idea. the other two elements. ‘the people’ and ‘the military’. ‘War and Politics: The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Continued Relevance of Clausewitz’. while it was Clausewitz who married his Trinity with corresponding sections of society.206.48 Anyway. rational. several questions remain unanswered. 102. an argument that seems premature. It is a position which requires further examination. ‘new wars’ are about ethnicity and particularistic identity. evidence explaining why these should be irrational or unusually apolitical is scarce. OR: Frank Cass 2004). As the detractors of the Clausewitzian model contend. are left without direction. these wars can no longer be thought of in the Clausewitzian sense. Yet. and the state is entering its ﬁnal demise. it is unclear why this should transform the nature of war. Even if the ‘new war’ writers are correct. a situation thought to provoke irrational violence. Joint Forces Quarterly (Winter 1995–96). While the Trinitarian concept is thought by many to be premised on the state. 48 Downloaded by [86. which is assumed to be apolitical and irrational. as a ‘continuation of politics’. Without the stabilising. if one is truly to understand the non-linear maelstrom of war. it is thus argued that the rational element of the Clausewitzian ‘Trinity’ is erased. As such. governmental. Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought. Fleming irrationally – as the role of Al-Qa’eda and the Taliban in contemporary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate. element of the Trinity. Third Revised and Expanded Edition (London/Portland. As noted above. and Antulio J. 9–19. ‘Reclaiming the Clausewitzian Trinity’. Echevarria II. While there is plenty of evidence to verify the claim that non-state actors participate in modern war. and (iii) war’s subordination to rational policy.145. hatred and enmity. conﬂict becomes an increasingly irrational activity driven more by ethnicity and culture than political expediency. Consequently. Villacres. According to Clausewitz.226 Colin M.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . there seems little reason why the ‘core’ Trinity cannot continue to inform this esoteric subject – these forces exist independently of the state structure. See also Christopher Bassford and Edward J. This is especially true of the conviction that current trends in warfare alter its nature. As a result. (ii) the play of chance and probability. it will be by assessing the interplay of these three tendencies. it is important to remember that at its basic level the concept comprises (i) passion.
From this accurate interpretation. In the years immediately following the Cold War there was evidence that war within states.New or Old Wars? 227 modern war displays irrational proclivities is not something terribly unusual. 4. they were at variance with common perceptions of what ‘it’ should look like. As Michael Handel remarks: It has often been argued that Clausewitz emphasizes the need to view war as a rational instrument. ‘The most marked security phenomenon since the end of the Cold War has been the proliferation of armed conﬂict within states. culture and ethnicity as motivating factors in conﬂict causation. for he knows that war in all of its dimensions is permeated by non-rational inﬂuences. with its focus on the state. following the ‘Great Debate’ of the late 1930s. Moreover.206. their origins seemed to exhibit an irrational predilection towards religion.49 Although Clausewitz’s Trinity does not require the state for it to continue as an explanatory model. Clausewitz. nor can it be conﬁned to war in one particular period. 81. some readers have erroneously inferred that Clausewitz also considers it possible for war itself to be waged as a rational activity. Since the foundation of IR as an academic discipline following the Great War (1914–18). The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre 2001). In fact. It was equally difﬁcult to distinguish between political groups or their military forces. which ‘cannot be classiﬁed or counted’. rather than between them. conﬂict has been explained as a military clash between two or more opposing states. was becoming more prevalent. however. or ‘spiritual factors’ (geistigen Gro ¨ ssen). realism. This appears to have been a particular problem for those approaching the subject from an international relations background. ‘spiritual forces’ (geistigen Kra ¨ fte).’50 During these wars it was often hard for outside observers to understand the inherent regional complexities frequently displayed. As the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) reported in 2001. Masters of War. 50 49 .145. became Downloaded by [86. Moreover. Though clearly war. the ‘new war’ focus on the redundancy of the state is understandable. or what he calls ‘moral factors’ (moralische Gro ¨ ssen).89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Handel. repeatedly reminds us that this is not so. as a means for the leaders to promote and protect their state’s vital interests.
Waltz. a wave of realist writers began to shape the discipline by emphasising the competitive nature of states. H. Arguing that realist maxims provided a better account of the workings of world politics. introduction by Michael Cox (Basingstoke. 5th ed. it is either discounted or presumed to be something transformational. Waltz identiﬁes the causes of war in (i) man.  (New York: Knopf. Morgenthau and E. This is equally true for theorists who by concentrating on ‘hegemonic war’ – war between the great powers and their alliance systems – reject the reasons for war in other systems or periods. it is this level that has been crucial to understanding war causation. and (iii) the international system of states.H.206. and E. a major problem with such statecentric accounts is that they fail to encompass a broad enough range of warfare under their scope. scholars such as Hans J. Man the State and War. Richard 2001). began to dominate the new discipline of international relations. 51 Downloaded by [86. Sceptical that the interwar liberal theorists had fully accounted for the scramble for power that led to World War II.51 In his seminal work. Of course. One problem with such attitudes is that when forms of conﬂict that do not correspond with hegemonic or inter-state war arise. Man the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis  (New York: Columbia UP 2001). 52 Kenneth N. whose structural neorealism became the mainstream approach in the second half of the twentieth century. they have been obliged to acknowledge the occurrence of interventions. Morgenthau.228 Colin M. Carr. indeed new.52 Of these three levels he views the international system of states as the most critical. among others. scholars have sought to understand the contours of war. Fleming the dominant theoretical approach. furthermore. Although it is evident that the state retains its special place as the primary political unit in IR. Important works include: Hans J. too much research posits the origins of wars exclusively at the feet of states. but they have not been entirely successful. (ii) the state. Since the inception of IR as an academic discipline.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . Quincy Wright observed that: International lawyers have attempted to elaborate precise criteria for determining the moment at which a war begins and ends. and. Carr. In the majority of studies they have looked at the relationships between states as their starting point. The ‘new war’ theorists are part of a much larger group of writers who have historically viewed military conﬂict as an activity performed by states – anything other than this is deemed to be out of the ordinary.145. Politics Among Nations. UK: Palgrave Macmillan 2001). Writing in the 1960s. Rosecrance. The Twenty Years’ Crisis . It was a theme developed by Kenneth Waltz.
New or Old Wars? 229 aggressions. IL: Univ. 33.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 53 Quincy Wright.54 However. rev. Clausewitz in particular. sanctions. and banditry as lying somewhere between war and peace as those terms are popularly understood. It is unclear why these ‘classical’ writers cannot be used as a guide in the modern era.145. It is a problem that lies in the level of analysis. carried on with other means’. It may be that this type of framework is as close as we come to ﬁnding the answer to – why war? Thucydides’ formula is as relevant today as it was for the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) he sought to understand. 56 Clausewitz. It is possible to ﬁnd in the writing of the classical war thinkers deﬁnitions that cover war in all its many guises. The difﬁculty in ﬁnding an appropriate framework with which to understand the causes of war is a reﬂection of the problems ﬁnding an adequate deﬁnition. As Clausewitz himself put it. 54 Handel. trans. as Clausewitz is at pains Downloaded by [86. insurrections. 43. arriving at suitable criteria can prove even more elusive. especially his claim that the answer to understanding the motivations for war is posited in his own trinitarian formula: honour. . this is not a criticism that ‘should’ be attributed to Clausewitz.53 In the twenty-ﬁrst century. mob violence. fear. (New York: Free Press 1996). 114.). On War. of Chicago Press 1966). armed neutralities. piracy.206. Richard Crawly. Strassler (ed. 99.56 Though Clausewitz was certainly a product of his time – formulating his theory through his own experiences as a soldier in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. and interest. ‘war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument. rebellions. defensive expeditions.55 The idea that war is a result of political action comes directly from the pages of On War. In terms of conﬂict causation. one thinks also of Thucydides. Masters of War. for many his ideas resonate throughout the history of warfare. a continuation of political intercourse. ed. A Study of War  abridged by Louise Leonard Wright (Chicago. For the Prussian general. 55 Robert B. reprisals. although it is evident that models viewing war as a state activity fail to account for other types of warfare. a fact that for many seems to conﬁrm the idea that the transformation of war is ongoing. the symbiotic relationship between war and politics stems from the very essence of what conﬂict is – it plays a vital and functional role. Indeed. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to ‘The Peloponnesian War’.
it should be remembered that ‘the political object is the goal.59 As Colin Gray puts it: Some confused theorists would have us believe that war can change its nature. 30. end disastrously.58 Clausewitz may have famously conceptualised an ‘ideal’ type of war with no limits on the levels of violence. ‘the Trinity is the Ibid.61 The Trinitarian concept simply describes the forces that make war so unpredictable. then it has become something other than war. He was cognizant that if war is intended to compel an enemy to accept your will. 59–90. According to Christopher Bassford. and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose’. 81. war is ‘an act of violence intended to compel our opponents to fulﬁll our will’. 60 Colin Gray. and rationality – it is clear that strategic calculations must be constantly re-correlated to account for ‘ends and means’. 59 Ibid. If the behaviour under scrutiny is other than that just deﬁned. sooner or later. In short. it is not war. 99.145. comprehension of such complexity in turn focuses attention towards ﬁnding a suitable strategy.. Ibid.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . however. albeit one which needs constant reﬂection and adaptation. That is its nature. What is the political aim of the conﬂict. Let us stamp on such nonsense immediately. will. he was acutely aware this theoretical ideal existed abstractly only.. and how do we reach that outcome? As war is a reciprocal activity. By conceptualising his real/ideal war dichotomy it becomes clear that war’s proclivity towards violence must. Beyerchen. but that prediction about the outcome of a particular war founded upon anything other than political dexterity. War is organized violence threatened or waged for political purposes.206.60 In terms of the ‘Remarkable Trinity’. 61 Alan D. Fleming to remind readers. Clausewitz intended his famous concept to act as a model with which to comprehend the complexity of war once hostilites had begun. 58 57 Downloaded by [86. ‘Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War’. ‘Clausewitz. be curtailed by policy. real war is restricted by political aims – and the physical ability to coerce one’s opponent. Another Bloody Century (London: Weidenfeld 2005).57 From this starting position the Prussian general understood war as a continuation of politics. when one understands that war is shaped by the interplay of complex forces – passion and hatred. at some point. Though violence drives violence. 83–4. chance. war is the means of reaching it. If it does not. International Security 17/3 (Winter 1992/93).230 Colin M. its ﬂuid and unpredictable nature ensures not just that prescription is difﬁcult.
Andreas Herberg-Rothe. Christopher Bassford. Hew Strachan.New or Old Wars? 231 concept that ties all of Clausewitz’s many ideas together and binds them into a meaningful whole’.).4 5www. Clausewitz and Contemporary War (Oxford: OUP 2007). p. these writers have been able to generate a new corpus of Clausewitzian scholarship.62 Furthermore.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 62 Christopher Bassford.145. or The Strange Persistence of Trinitarian Warfare’. just as there is a proliferation of ‘new war’ adherents. In the process they have demonstrated that the core Trinitarian concept is in fact comprised of (i) hatred passion and enmity. Clausewitz’s Puzzle (Oxford: OUP 2007).206.). 74–90. Clausewitz’s On War (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press 2006). Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford: OUP 2007). 63 Important works include: Beyerchen. Echevarria. Most simply accept that Clausewitzian theory is premised on a position of state primacy.64 Our comprehension of the Prussian’s true meaning of the Trinity has been aided even further by the meticulous analysis given to the subject by Echevarria’s Clausewitz and Contemporary War. Antulio J. Antulio J. both of which rightly place the concept at the heart of On War.Clausewitz. Though much of the debate surrounding modern war stems from debate about the role of the Trinity. See Hew Strachan and Andreas Herbeg-Rothe (eds. ‘The Primacy of Policy and the ‘‘Trinity’’ in Clausewitz’s Mature Thought’. By reﬂecting on Clausewitz’s original arguments. and Jon Tetsuro Sumida. there is also a growing body of literature supporting the position propounded by Clausewitz. 64 The proceedings of the conference are now available as an edited volume.63 Indeed. and Hew Strachan. ‘Tip-Toe Through the Trinity. Alan Beyerchen. among others.com/CWZHOME/TRINITY/TRINITY8. demonstrates the relevance of the Trinitarian concept by returning to the original text of Clausewitz’s On War. 2007. Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War (Lawrence: UP of Kansas 2008). Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford: OUP 2007). An earlier version is published as: Christopher Bassford. Echevarria II. in Hew Strachan and Nadreas Herberg-Rothe (ed. and Andreas Herberg-Rothe. . ‘Tip-Toe Through The Trinity’. (ii) the play of chance and probability and (iii) wars subordination to rational policy. Christopher Bassford’s working draft. few ‘new war writers’ can demonstrate an appreciation of the core concept. Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War’. and Andreas Herberg-Rothe’s excellent Clausewitz’s Puzzle. 3 Oct. building on a conference paper delivered in 2005 to an Oxford University conference on ‘Clausewitz in the 21st Century’.htm4. have revitalised Clausewitzian scholarship in response to the ‘new war’ polemic. rather Downloaded by [86. Scholars such as Colin Gray. ‘Clausewitz.
Fleming than the people. it expresses the very complexity of war itself. For example. claims that technology does not undermine the original concept. However. As such. The Trinity is not a staid expression of state war from the Napoleonic period. 66 See Smith.65 As such. While Handel argues that the Trinity should be ‘squared’ to account for the role of technology. Crucially. the core Trinity championed by Bassford can account for war between any variety of actors. and often counterproductively. concluding that a trend away from interstate conﬂict has resulted in the need for a new paradigm which can account for ‘war amongst the people’. Handel and Echevarria support the continued use of the Trinitarian concept. it is unclear why such transformation should affect its nature. debate about the utility of force is greatly welcomed. his claim that Western militaries are employing force wrongly. by building on the important work of Alan Beyerchen. 65 Downloaded by [86. it is perhaps true that too often commentators declare transformational changes in the nature of war when in fact what is changing is the way it looks. like Gray and Bassford. government model favoured in the wider new war literature. scholars such as Bassford. Gray and Echevarria have highlighted the non-linear focus of Clausewitzian theory. Although war’s characteristics may change.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . ‘War and Politics: The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Continued Relevance of Clausewitz’. in an era when the primacy of the state is thought to be in decline. the traditional Clausewitzian position is thought to be redundant.145. and is thus open to criticism in a world where war can be fought increasingly by a range of actors. even supporters of Clausewitz disagree on its exact use. army. especially by someone with direct operational command experience. Examples of this misconception are widespread throughout the current literature. they claim that the real Trinity is universally applicable and can thus be used to analyse war in the modern world. government – is widely thought to encapsulate the state. As noted already. in The Utility of Force retired British General Sir Rupert Smith reﬂects upon his operational experience with the British Army. Echevarria. The Utility of Force. that a completely new approach is required must Like Bassford. rather.206. 1–26. Therefore.66 This is a useful discussion. However. army. Certainly. they have reviviﬁed Clausewitz’s ideas just when international politics regularly displays its non-linear characteristics. merits closer attention – especially at a time when UK and US forces grapple with the problems of overcoming a complex ‘irregular’ opponent.232 Colin M. as has been highlighted. Yet. Though the second model – people. part of the confusion surrounding Clausewitzian theory is the widely held assumption that it is coterminous with the state. A very good account of this debate can be found in: Echevarria.
women. ‘Clausewitz and Guerrilla War’.68 The classical war thinkers may have desired a return to an era when conﬂict did not deviate from the strict parameters imposed by the ruling elites of the eighteenth century. his ideas are not exclusive to the state and they do not exclude other types of war. On War. Returning once more to his Trinity.’70 By stressing that Christopher Daase. – as at Fontenoy. Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century. Clausewitz reminds readers that: ‘War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to a given case. often dramatically. one must ask what it is that will make it so fundamentally different? Like other writers. 183. he dedicated an entire chapter in Book 6 of On War to this very issue. The very point that the Prussian was making was that despite war’s evolving character. preferring loyal and chivalrous warfare to organised assassination. Like his contemporary.67 Jomini. Smith shares a predilection which associates Clausewitz directly with wars between states. even noted that: Downloaded by [86. if it be necessary to make a choice. 69 Clausewitz. in Michael Handel. 715. and its own peculiar preconceptions’. 127–33. 101.145. The Art of War  ed. 68 Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini. I acknowledge that my prejudices are in favour of the good old times when the French and English Guards courteously invited each other to ﬁre ﬁrst. In fact. Clausewitz and Modern Strategy (London: Frank Cass 1986). Lieutenant General Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini. from one age to the next. 67 . Indeed. and children throughout Spain plotted the murder of isolated soldiers. Clausewitz was aware of the role that ‘people’s’ war could play. with an introduction by Charles Messenger (London: Arms & Armour Press 1992). – preferring them to the frightful epoch when priests. Yet. in Strachan and Herberg-Rothe. and lectured on the subject of ‘small wars’ at the Berliner Kriegsschule during 1811–12. 70 Ibid.206. For further information of Clausewitz’s conception of guerrilla war. 34–5. yet they were acutely aware of other modes of warfare. who had participated in a guerrilla war in Spain himself.. as Clausewitz made clear in Chapter 3 of Book 8.69 Clausewitz’s assessment of the changing character of war throughout history illustrates his awareness that the character of war was constantly changing.New or Old Wars? 233 be queried. its special nature is universal. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity. When considering the possible developments of future war. ‘Clausewitz and Small Wars’. see Werner Hahlweg. ‘its own limiting positions. every age has its own kind of war.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 As a soldier.
it is unclear why it should delimit war’s political nature. 73 Beatrice Heuser.71 As a strategy. Gen.. a belligerent is subject to the same strategic logic as their ‘conventional’ opponents. trans. Thomas Hammes. that belligerents use a long-term strategic approach questions the idea that modern war lacks political rationality. 74 Ibid.206. of Illinois Press 2000). Fleming war is ‘more that a chameleon’. and reason. after ‘allowances have been made for historical differences. 51–7.74 She continues: He realised that while the best way to victory is unquestionably to have larger armies and to defeat a smaller or weaker enemy army utterly in one main battle. wars still resemble each other more than they resemble any Hammes. That it alters its appearance and character ‘to a given case’ is neither here nor there. Samuel B. Though the characteristics of such a conﬂict will be different to war between states. chance. Clausewitz informs readers that war’s nature should not be confused with the way it looks. this could be a greater stamina and patience. The Sling and the Stone. so that a larger enemy might not be prepared to invest the same amount of time to a particular conﬂict as the weaker force. thinking that irregular conﬂict is somehow a modern phenomenon which must recast our understanding of the nature of war may be a big mistake. The unifying element that ensures the universality of the nature of war has nothing to do with the way war is conducted. Apart from morale.73 She even asserts that he ‘laid the foundations of our thinking on asymmetric warfare’. In his On Guerrilla War Mao Tse-tung argues that protracted conﬂict is a critical stage in his ‘threephased war’. Grifﬁth  (Urbana: Univ. this hardly seems revolutionary. 2. Brig.75 Employing irregular warfare as a mode of ﬁghting a technologically or quantitatively superior opponent. On Guerrilla Warfare . As such. 75 Ibid.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . As Sir Michael Howard remarks. for example. ‘Clausewitz made quite detailed prescriptions for the use of the guerrilla’. Mao Tse-tung. 137. As Beatrice Heuser highlights. Reading Clausewitz (London: Pimlico 2002). other factors can favour smaller or weaker power. instead it relates directly to the fact that its nature comprises the interplay of the different elements within his Trinitarian concept: emotion. argues that the architects of 4GW ‘convince the enemy’s political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly’. 136. 72 71 Downloaded by [86.234 Colin M.145.72 Moreover.
as M. there is really only one meaningful category of war. L. there must be some concentration at certain points: the fog must thicken and form a dark and menacing cloud out of which a bolt of lightning may strike at any time. it is clear that Clausewitz’s principles relating to ‘small wars’ are evident in the tactics employed by forces in those contemporary conﬂicts described as ‘new’: A general uprising. its resistance should never materialize as a concrete body.New or Old Wars? 235 other human activity’.145. terrorism. Review of International Studies 29/1 (2003). low intensity war. conﬂict in 1939. war frequently proved indecisive. 89. It is widely accepted that grievances at the end of World War I led to another. call it what you will – new war. with the distinction between peace and war is blurred. . the elemental truth is that. . the world was faced with a new and potentially more dangerous Cold War. with individual wars petering on without end.R. crush it. otherwise the enemy can direct sufﬁcient force at its core. guerrilla war. On the other hand.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 . Smith. War. 214. In the aftermath of World War II.76 In fact. 77 M. R Smith argues: ‘As Clausewitz above all recognised. The Causes of War and Other Essays (London: Temple Smith 1983).. 581. 79 Ibid. As the Prussian observes: ‘the ultimate outcome of a war is not always to be regarded as ﬁnal. 80 Michael Howard. It was a situation regularly repeated during the twentieth century. ‘Guerrillas in the mist: reassessing strategy and low intensity warfare’. as Clausewitz was aware. qualiﬁcation is badly needed. 76 Downloaded by [86. for which a remedy may still be found in political conditions at some later date. is an extremely volatile activity – he was at pains to remind readers that it should not be entered into lightly. ethnic war. and that is war itself.L.’77 Indeed. The defeated side often considers the outcome merely as a transitory evil.206. 34. it is left to Michael Howard to remind us that even during what is thought of as the epitome of Clausewitzian conﬂict in the nineteenth century. 126–35.78 As to the claim that we have entered into an era of ‘constant conﬂict’. or the war on terrorism – in the end.’79 Again.. and take many prisoners. 78 Clausewitz. should be nebulous and elusive.80 That war in the twenty-ﬁrst century should also be regularly indecisive should not come Michael Howard. ‘When Are Wars Decisive?’ Survival 41/1 (Spring 1999). On War. as we see it. When war was joined he cautioned that it should be the means of reaching a better political settlement. more destructive.
Even if modern theories demonstrate new strategic realities. As Blainey argues: War itself provides the most reliable and most objective test of which nation or alliance is the most powerful. Holsti’s The State. Indeed. state-like actors are clearly affected by regional security dilemmas. Holsti. greed and fear are exacerbated by the lack of any overriding political authority. and the State of War he grapples with the idea that war within states has radically recast the security environment. where power.206. the warring nations agreed on their respective strength. However. it is not clear why realist maxims pertaining to causative theory should be set aside so readily. If new explanations offer a better understanding of why wars begin. War. the notion that war has become unusually inconclusive rests with the idea that war is solely the domain of states. that war is about the measurement of power. 81 . though Holsti produces a highly articulate argument. it is often the case that the collapse of central authority results in an ‘emerging anarchy’.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Kalevi J. it is a claim that depends on the level of analysis. In many of the situations motivating civil conﬂict. The State. After a war which ended decisively.236 Colin M. and the State of War (Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1996).82 All of these factors serve as motivation towards warfare. ‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conﬂict’.145. all are entwined with the wider realist tradition.81 The increase in ‘civil’ war and the subsequent decrease in interstate wars have brought him to the opinion that the predominant realist explanations for war are unfounded. War. it retains its potency in the modern world. 27–47. should this herald the end of existing explanations of strategic theory? As already highlighted. Geoffrey Blainey’s penetrating argument. Yet. Intended as an insight into war between states. a growing number of commentators have proclaimed that these existing paradigms are now superﬂuous and must be superseded in favour of new models. then they are gladly welcomed. is another example to reﬂect upon. Even after acknowledging a higher than usual incidence of war within states at the end of the twentieth century. The losers and the winners might have disagreed about Downloaded by [86. the problem is that it is not at all clear whether these new explanations are better than their predecessors. Fleming as a great shock. and of the strategic calculations that must ultimately follow. in Kalevi J. Survival 35/1 (1993). as alluded to already. Yet again. Yet again. should it follow that traditional models are now useless? For example. 82 Barry Posen.
while this is a perfectly acceptable scholarly enterprise. focusing attention on non-state conﬂict.145.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 Geoffrey Blainey. what direction should future research adopt? Of course. the founding premise that it offers an insight into a non-Clausewitzian universe is on very shaky ground indeed. The Causes of War (New York: The Free Press 1988).206. and these trends must be taken seriously. its major ﬂaw is that it wrongly presumes that Clausewitzian theory is premised on state primacy and the rational actions of governments. At the very least.83 This is equally true of Clausewitz’s remarkable Trinity. After all. Although at some point in the future the state may lose its central status. As we have seen. the Prussian writer also understood and assessed the contribution of other modes of warfare. this latest challenge to Clausewitz has again demonstrated the timelessness of his core 83 Downloaded by [86. If one is truly going to grasp the complexity of war. 118. his concept is as equally relevant to any polity engaged in warfare.New or Old Wars? 237 the exact margin of superiority. They highlight important developments which appear to be changing the conduct of modern conﬂict. the ‘new war’ theorists have opened up a more complex strategic environment for analysis. Nonetheless. they did agree however that decisive superiority existed. in order to distinguish ‘old’ wars from ‘new’ it needs to repudiate the traditional position of Clausewitzian theory. This does not imply that the trends ﬂagged by the ‘new war’ writers are not important. does this necessarily mean that the entire ‘new war’ idea is now irrelevant? Indeed. in light of Clausewitz’s seemingly universal model. not only is the core Clausewitzian Trinity – the major object of ‘new war’ criticism – not in fact coterminous with the state at all. The very fact that non-traditional security concerns exacerbate traditional security calculations is in itself enough to warrant signiﬁcant attention. there is a danger that many of the ‘new war’ claims become exaggerated. Yet. Furthermore. . they have reignited debate about warfare in the modern world. despite apparent prescience. Yet. The central ‘new war’ claim that modern war is post-Clausewitzian is therefore unfounded. then reﬂection of what factors are critical to understanding it is a positive step. Understanding Modern War: A Clausewitzian Future? Although the intention of the ‘new war’ idea was to offer a modern insight into contemporary conﬂict. so long shaped by the contours of the international state system. Moreover. the obvious answer is to pursue a Clausewitzian analysis of war in the modern world.
essential if an esoteric subject such as war is to be better understood.84 To garner a greater awareness of the complexity of war we must continue to test and assess contemporary problems. it is ‘inquiry which is the most essential part of any theory’. and though certainly more intriguing. then certainly on its character and conduct. it must prove itself against hard empirical evidence. but for it to be a useful analytical tool its supporters must illustrate its strengths by using it to generate a better understanding of modern war. This is not to suggest that we do not continue to test the centrality of Clausewitzian ideas against modern examples. mutually exclusive at all. Rather than competition. In short. Downloaded by [86. Though there is a danger that the ‘new war’ idea becomes exaggerated. as this paper has demonstrated. Clausewitzian concepts can be used as analytical tools in ostensibly new wars. The Clausewitzian Trinitarian model may have demonstrated that it is not coterminous with the state. If anything the complexity of ‘new wars’ require that the primacy of politics. It would be less than prudent to discard his ideas as irrelevant to our own period. in fact. Fleming principles. it nevertheless highlights trends that if correct will impact. as they do not inhabit separate worlds there is little reason why analysts cannot draw on a combined approach.89] at 04:34 22 September 2011 84 Clausewitz.145. Indeed. Though possibly less obvious. just as the ‘new war’ trends can open up the complexity of war and the requirement to ﬁnd a political solution to contemporary humanitarian and conﬂict situations. Moreover. 162–3. In fact. On War. rather than become doctrine on its own. After all. the new war thesis false premise means that they are not.238 Colin M. Put simply. this is something clearly in keeping with Clausewitz’s own belief that theory should be studied. there is room for ﬁnding common ground. As he reminds readers. is even more essential than in wars between ‘states’. Such conﬂicts require a Clausewitzian approach even more than ‘conventional’ war. rather than violence. there is room to build from the platform offered by Clausewitz – both to test the strength of his ideas against contemporary examples. is to draw on the strengths of Clausewitzian and ‘new war’ theory as a means of generating a fuller understanding of modern conﬂict. . if not on the nature of war. Too often the two competing approaches polarise themselves as rivals. if Clausewitzian theory is to retain its primacy it must continue to demonstrate its modern salience. and if appropriate reﬁne them to enable a modern analysis of war. in terms of the Trinity.206.
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