Wednesday, December 5, 2012
What is War? A New Point of View
Lt Col Long seems to be attempting to be the next Clausewitz and define war for our time. Unfortunately she does not discuss Clausewitz' trinity which surprises me because if you are going to critique a "Clausewitzian definition of war" you probably need to begin with the idea that war is more than a true chameleon (see Howard and Paret trans., p 89). Perhaps since she is only focusing on the definition of war and thus by not discussing the trinity she is at least tacitly admitting that the nature of war is enduring and only the character of war is changing therefore postulating that a new definition is necessary. But I think it is always good to debate this because the more discussion we have (even if we do not agree) the more people will have the opportunity to understand the nature of war and determine for themselves how it is defined. But in the end there will likely never be universal agreement on these ideas.
What is War? A New Point of View
by Jill Long
Journal Article | December 5, 2012 - 5:30am
The historical context of the term war has left an indelible imprint on the minds of strategic leaders and the general public. This imprint limits one’s ability to view warfare as anything other than armed conflict between nations. This paper attempts to open the aperture through which strategic leaders view the concept of war by reviewing the traditional definitions of war, analyzing the environment in which wars are fought today, and then offering a new, more expansive, definition of the term. This new definition encompasses the complex characteristics and nuances of war fought in a global society, a broader interpretation of who engages in war, and how wars may be fought and won in the future.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes war as “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, “war should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities.” On the first page of On War, Carl von Clausewitz defines war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” Most would agree that these are understandable and accurate definitions in the general context of what the average person thinks when they hear the word war. However, from the strategic perspective, these definitions are arguably too simplistic to convey the complexity of war and the many facets which contribute to national success in the international arena. Today’s strategic leaders need to conceptualize and define war in a broader perspective, and the following analysis will attempt to do so by offering an expansive definition for the term war. This new definition encompasses three attributes: the complex characteristics and nuances of war fought in a global society, a broader interpretation of who engages (or should be engaged) in war, as well as how wars may be fought and won in the future. But first it is necessary to examine why a new definition for war is applicable for today’s strategic leaders.
Many might say that the world changed with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States; this was certainly the case for the majority of the American public. Terrorism was no longer something that occurred at bus stops in Israel or in discos in Berlin. The world of terrorism became something tangible to America. It solidified in Americans’ minds that war can and will be conducted between state and non-state actors. This distinction is significant in the context of the traditional perception that war was fought between nation-states (or city-states as early as the Peloponnesian War). It also challenges the belief that war is governed by some form of decorum or rule of law, in which the belligerents agree to engage utilizing specific limitations and exclusions; whether the combatants have honored that agreement, is another discussion. From the battlefield engagements of the Clausewitzian era, to the formal rule of law and Geneva Conventions that nation-states operate under today, there existed a certain level of restraint. Terrorism and violent aggression conducted by non-state actors requires strategic leaders to rethink these traditional characteristics of warfare and the definition of war itself. War is no longer limited to “conflict between states or nations,” nor is it fought solely between political communities as the Global War on Terrorism has proven. As Joseph Nye illustrated, “in today’s global information age…more things are happening outside the control of even the most powerful states.” In 2006, “161 billion gigabytes of digital information were created and captured;” about “3 million times the information in all the books ever written.” This connectivity has driven globalization down to the individual and small group level; enabling non-state actors to think, act, and locate themselves globally; in some cases without ever leaving their home because of technology. Therefore, how we engage in this contest of wills must expand given this dramatic increase in globalization of the past two decades.
(Continued at the link below)
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