War & Peacebuilding Lecture/Literature summaries
Williams, P. D. (2013). Security Studies (2nd ed., pp.187-205), “Chapter 13:
War”. New York: Routledge.
War is much more than the strategies/tactics of warfare, it is the full spectrum of social
phenomena far beyond warzones and wartime in social/cultural/political/economic relations in
a society. And most fatalities in armed conflicts are indirect deaths (children, woman etc..)
through disease and/or malnutrition for example.
The three philosophies of war describe war as follows >
- Political: war is a game of strategy (Clausewitz)
- Eschatological: war is a mission
- Cataclysmic: war is a disaster
Clausewitzean thinking is contested in the modern era for several reasons:
The first is that the modern battlefield is no longer aligned with that of when Clausewitz came
up with the concept. The urbanization of warfare, the reach of terrorist organisations and the
hybridization of warfare all contribute to this. The second reason is that for example with the
war on terror both sides have often rejected the political narration of the war. Instead what
they did in their rallying cries was to focus on Eschatological concepts, for example in the cry
for a global jihad.
Thirdly, the introduction of nuclear weapons goes way further than political reasoning of war.
It is a mutual suicide pact for both sides. And finally, we see that insurgencies, revolutions do
not call for the classic approach of destroying your opponent’s military forces, as often the
enemy is blended within the civilian populations.
The functions of war:
War seems to be the effort to win a violent contest against an enemy as soon as possible,
however studies have shown that this is not always the case and that other functions of war
play an important role as well. Several functions other than victory are >
- Limiting violence: The aim is to limit your own exposure and your constituency to the
violence. This is achieved by outsourcing the war to your proxies, fight the war outside
your own territory and/or avoid battles against a better equipped army.
- Immediate gains: two ways > economic gain through accumulating resources, or
psychological gain by giving people the sense of playing a important role in society.
- Weakening political opposition: can be the enemies or own political opposition.
Suppressing, dividing or delegitimizing of potential critics within your own camp.
Trends in armed conflicts since 1945:
- Decline in interstate conflicts, rise in intrastate (between a state and an internal
opposition group) conflicts.
- State based armed conflicts have declined significantly, partially due to the end of
colonialism, the end of the Cold War, increased level of international activism by for
example the UN and finally the increased popularity of global norms.
- Sharp decline in battle deaths.
- Sharp increase in non-state armed conflicts.
- Shifting regional spread of armed conflicts, meaning that the historic constraint of
climate and geography have become less important.
Is the nature of warfare changing?
Three important ideas >
The total war: The concept revolves around the notion of increased escalation and
participation. The fear is that once started a war is hard to contain and control, the increased
participation refers to the growing involvement of civilians in warfare both as combatants and
labourers for supplies, and the fear that they would be targeted in a war. But in reality there
have always been restraints in war, morally and or practically.
“The new war”: The idea that “new wars” are distinct form “old wars” in terms of their
goals, methods and systems of finance, which all would reflect the erosion of the state’s
monopoly on organized violence. Some of the fears are that these “new wars” are financed
through a decentralized global system, use of guerrilla and insurgency tactics and the goal of
eradicating certain identity groups. But many of these fears are contested, wars have been
globalized for a long time and insurgency tactics have been used for a long time as well.
The contemporary Western way of war: The trend of mostly Western countries changing
their warfare ambitions to spectator sports. Using a limited aid of advisors or small
expeditionary forces to achieve a goal. The reasons for this development are the new
definition of Western states of the enemy, which used to be a state, but now is much narrower.
The enemy is now often just a single leader or its regime. And the delegitimization of
civilians as acceptable targets, which means Western states want to minimize collateral
damage. And finally these wars do not require full societal participation such as the First and
Second World War for example. Instead they are fought by a small number of professionals.
Gray, C. (2012). War, Peace and International Relations (2nd ed., pp.5-14),
“Chapter1: Themes and contexts of strategic history”. New York: Routledge.
Conditions in which war occurs, six themes >
1, Strategic historical continuity and discontinuity: War has an unchanging character,
changes often move through evolution rather than revolution. The morale, discipline and
training are the most important aspects in a fighting power.
2, The relationship between politics and war: Strategic history is all about the threat or use
of organized violence carried on by political units against each other for political motives.
Strategic history moves to the political calculations of a certain time, war has and should not
have any more reason to occur than a political reason. The strategy is the bridge between
military power and political purpose.
3, The relationship between war and warfare: War is a legal concept, warfare refers to the
conduct of war in its military dimension. There is a important distinction, you can be good at
warfare but still don’t achieve your political goals. Napoleon is an example of this or the
Germans during the Second World War, they had the best army in the world but lost the war
due to overstretch and bad practices in the war while being good at warfare. As Clausewitz
argues warfare is just the means to an end, in this case the end being to coerce the enemy in
accepting your will. 4, The relationship between politicians and soldiers: Military and political actors have
different values, skills, perspectives and responsibilities and therefore often have a troubled
relationship. And usually both camps draw their actors form different kinds of personalities.
You see this clearly in military operations where soldiers don’t have clear political guidance
and/or soldiers being given impossible tasks by policy makers.
5, The dependence of war on society: War is a social institution and it not only fought by
the state but by the whole society. Since the nineteenth century it became increasingly
important to take into account the public opinion. Societies were increasingly participating
and mobilizing during a war. This total war principle has decreased in the last 75 years but
audiences are increasingly fed mis and disinformation about wars.
6, The relations between war and peace, and between peace and war: One must analyse
the consequences of wars for the peace order/disorder that follows. And one must understand
the consequences of periods of peace for the succeeding periods of war. The waging of war is
ultimately to achieve your political goal, so one must prepare for when the war ends and how
the world and its relations will look like. Ideally after a war a better international order should
rise than the one it preceded before the war. We must understand the cycles of peace to war
and so on and learn from them. Why does peace occur and why does peace stop, what are the
triggering events? What is the Balance of Power and where do we stand regarding
Thucydides’ trap? The ability to master times of peace is as important as the ability to master
times of war.
Contexts of strategic history:
- Political: Decisions of war are the products of an political process
- Socio-cultural: Decisions of war impacted by values and beliefs.
- Economic: The economy can be an enabler or stopper of war, financing is done through
taxation or debt.
- Technological: All wars have technological opportunities and limitations.
- Military-strategic: The state of military affairs and capabilities will help determine
whether to go or not to go to war.
- Geographical: The geographical location of political units, the identity/characteristics
of neighbours and arrangement of land and sea have major influences on war.
- Historical: The people making strategic history were formed by their historical context,
it helped shaped the military identity of a country.
Freedman, L. (2007). War, “Chapter 1: Introduction”, pp.3-8 Oxford: Oxford
When is something a war:
A state should enjoy a monopoly of legitimate and organized violence within its territorial
boundaries. When that monopoly is seriously challenged, by external aggression or by an
internal threat such as a rebellion, or when it sees opportunities to expand its territory by using
force, it can consider itself at war. It is the severity of the threat, rather than the scale of violence,
which makes the difference. Urban rioting in the United States may be vicious but it is
essentially a police matter: it does not take on the characteristics of a civil war until an attempt
is made to take over the basic functions of the state. States do not only go to war because of an immediate threat to their own survival. They are
often part of alliances such as NATO. Through which they accept some obligations to protect
Security is a combination of a physical condition, in the sense of being able to prevent others
inflicting harm, and a mental condition, in the sense of confidence that this is indeed the case.
So much of the threat assessment will be dependent not only on identifying hostility in the
external or internal environments but on an awareness of a vulnerability within the society that
the hostile might target and exploit. Because of these vulnerabilities there are aspects of security which have nothing to do with
armed force. A government which senses that its people are getting restless may be better
advised to look to economic conditions or means of free political expression than to physical
repression. Occurrence of war:
Wars tend to occur when there is a doubt about the outcome. If the power relations are clear-
cut then the weak may recognize that they have little choice but to comply with the wishes of
the strongest. Even where there is awareness of a potential enemy, preparation for war is not the only option.
There may be a deal to be done or a shared interest to be jointly developed which might deflect
attention from more divisive matters, or a display of reassurance to convince this potential
enemy that there is no reason to be suspicious.