Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 08 March 2021


Abstract and Keywords

This article focuses on different dimensions of war. It offers to present in subsequent articles the perspectives of some of the most respected senior academics, policy-makers, and practitioners on two simple questions—how to avoid war, but if war must be fought, how to end it quickly. There is a need for war to be better understood, not just from one political, cultural, or technical angle, but from many other perspectives. The article describes at length the organization of the book. The book is divided into ten analyses of war such as the fundamental causes of war; the moral and legal aspects of war; theories on the practice of war; the strategic conduct of war; and non-Western ways of war.

Keywords: war, academics, policy-makers, practice of war, strategic conduct, theories of war

Only the dead have seen the end of war.


All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Edmund Burke

Orator, philosopher, and politician (1729–97)


Understanding change and continuity in the broad domain that is war is the mission of The Oxford Handbook on War. It is thus a study of a political, military, and social phenomenon that seems destined sadly to scar the twenty-first century, much as it did the twentieth. To consider war in the round, therefore, the book brings together some of the most respected senior academics, policy-makers, and practitioners to consider two simple questions that challenged the ancients, such as Clausewitz and Sun Tzu—how to avoid war, but if war must be fought, how to end it quickly? The Handbook is indeed a book of global scope and ambition, spanning scholars and practitioners alike. As such the contrasting traditions of thought apparent in the work are also reflected in the different modes of expression that can be found herein. That is a key strength of the volume and we have therefore made every effort to adhere as closely as possible to the style of expression sought by each author.

Whilst systemic war is happily absent from today's world the scale of contemporary conflict suggests that Plato was indeed correct when he said (or was purported to have said) that only the dead have seen the end of war. Indeed, if there is a core message from this book it is the following: war cannot be wished away but nor is it inevitable. War is unpredictable.

(p. 2) War will continue to be prepared for, but few states will actively seek it. However, when war starts the only consequence that is inevitable is the unintended. Still, there remains a fatalistic quality to war, even in the twenty-first century. Be it human nature so critiqued by Hobbes or the flawed international system of flawed states so analysed by the likes of Carr, Morgenthau, and Waltz, war is deep in the human psyche. Indeed, born of a potent cocktail of partnership, aspiration, friction, need, instability, and conflict, for all the post-modern will to wish war away it is still so often the dangerously classical reality that is war which prevails as the most compelling change agent in human affairs.

Therefore, the need for war to be better understood, not just from one political, cultural, or technical angle, but from many, pertains and persists. Thus, The Oxford Handbook on War purposely seeks to bring together many different and differing perspectives and experiences to consider war. As the American theorist Graham T. Allison once famously said, ‘Where one stands, depends on where one sits.’

The Handbook is divided into ten analyses of war: the fundamental causes of war; the moral and legal aspects of war; theories on the practice of war; the strategic conduct of war; non-Western ways of war; the military conduct of war; technology, economy, industry, and war; civil–military cooperation and war; war and society; and, finally, the future of war. Whilst contemporary war and its ugly sister conflict certainly inform the Handbook it deliberately takes a ‘helicopter view’ by seeking to identify durable and enduring fundamentals. As such, this is a reference work in which there is no central narrative, but rather a series of perspectives on key elements and aspects of war. Certainly, the Handbook is designed to be read as a book by those interested in the subject; but it can also simply be dipped into by the interested student as and when the need arises. The purpose of this Introduction is thus to offer the student informed vignettes of each chapter.

The Fundamental Causes of War

What causes war? The opening section of the Handbook explores the political, economic, and social drivers of war, as well as the ideological and systemic imperatives that create the conditions for war. The authors collectively consider how tensions become war, how power, threat, and interests are calculated, and the criteria for the launching of war. For Sir Lawrence Freedman wars of any length invariably lead to unintended consequences. Indeed, whilst war is on the one hand a purposive activity, geared to the demands of personal, group, and national identity and security, it also concerns the grim consequences of those purposes being followed to a destructive end. War has thus always been as much about conflict within states as between states. Moreover, there can be no war without acts of warfare. Hew Strachan reinforces the tenuous link between intention and consequence by suggesting that whilst the Age of Reason saw strategy more as science than art such ancient and often geometrical certainties contrast with a today in which science and art, strategy and tactics are often confused. Paradoxically and critically, strategy (p. 3) (of which war should be a most-considered part) is ultimately more important for those in decline who must match ends and means. For Strachan there is a profound contrast between those who seek strategy and thus war as an agent of change and those who seek stability to defend a status quo.

George-Henri Soutou is to the point; war, history, and the objectives of war are intrinsically linked because an understanding of previous wars (well-grounded or not) plays a powerful role in preparing for the next crisis and indeed future conflict. As Soutou poignantly says, ‘Wonderfully prepared for the last war’ described France in 1940 but could equally apply to many other countries in different places and eras and may be no less eloquent today in explaining why states seem unable to adjust effectively to change. Christopher Coker, on the other hand, emphasizes what for him is a dangerous disconnect between a ‘modern’ past and a post-modern future. For Coker war has traditionally reflected a fundamental Hegelian principle: the idea that man could become free through his own efforts. However, what is post-modernity if not a response to the unfulfilled promises and thwarted hopes of the modern era and thus recognition that there can be no final resolution to the dilemmas of life? War may thus still be necessary, but it is no longer redeeming. Therefore, in the collision between the modern and post-modern worlds war has become a potentially futile effort at the risk management of a global disorder that has become the norm.

For Yves Boyer alliances are diverse: at their most simple providing supplementary forces to balance a hostile power, to offer ‘a positive correlation of forces against the unknown’, or a formal coalition against an opposing country or group of countries. Alliances also exist across both strategy and geography, having shape as well as function designed to achieve diplomatic gains or successful military outcomes. By their very nature alliances therefore range in both scope and role, from mere entanglements to the most compelling of formal agreements (e.g. NATO during the Cold War). Alliances are at their most efficient when political preconditions and modus operandi reflect positive political will unconstrained by ‘any kind of unfriendly pressures’. Such ‘plasticity of the concept of alliance’ explains the duration of many pacts throughout history beyond the initial casus belli. However, the very efficiency of NATO has gradually led to the debatable notion that a shared belief in democratic institutions is as important to the Alliance as effective military organization. It is an evolution in the concept of alliance that is today proving increasingly and unexpectedly inconvenient to the allies.

Alfredo Valladão is the first author to take us beyond the concerns and concepts of the West and looks at war from the point of view of emerging powers. Such powers by and large lack the strategic culture that the heirs of Machiavelli take as read. For Valladão such powers are fundamentally defensive and essentially parochial, and only keen to make sure that international relations favour their national ‘emergence’. Still uncertain in the exercise of ‘influence’, their strategy is concerned primarily with the need to prevent any impediment to their ‘rise’. Instinctively conservative as international actors whilst the peaceful pursuit of power and wealth favours them, systemic war is seen by such powers as extremely dangerous.

(p. 4) The Moral and Legal Aspects of War

Is war ever justified or legal? The chapters on the moral and legal aspects of war consider the changing nature and perception of war. Can war indeed be just in the modern age and what is the state and nature of the moral debate on war? The section takes as its starting point the legal concept of war and the changing nature of legality and legitimacy in relation to war over time and in different states and cultures. Paul Schulte challenges the assumption that warfare is the most ruthlessly amoral of all human activities or a field of human endeavour in which, notoriously, everything is fair. Rather, he suggests that some ethically positive description of organized violence is fundamental to societies’ ability to accept war as a legitimate collective activity.

For Serge Sur international law and the UN Charter are perpetually at risk when rules and mechanisms are not able to prevent or control the threat or use of armed force by states, and ill-suited to dealing with new and unforeseen forms of conflicts. In implicit agreement with Coker, Sur questions the utility of traditional instruments in a new age. Moreover, the classical jus ad bellum, or right of a state to use armed force beyond its own borders, has been strongly reduced, and strangely reduced with their consent. Consequently, wars have not vanished but rather new types of conflict have emerged with the power to overwhelm and circumvent traditional legal prohibitions. Consequently, there is today revived interest in the jus in bello and the fashioning of law applicable to all forms of war or armed conflicts. For that reason Sur questions the continued relevance of the UN Charter and focuses rather on efforts to strengthen international humanitarian law, which remains weak.

Theories on the Practice of War

How is war conceived and perceived? Is Clausewitz still relevant or does a post-modern alternative exist and if so to what extent is the theory of war evolving? Colonel Benoit Durieux asserts that theory is both descriptive and political. For Colonel Durieux, in the theory of war one can find both the very idea of war and the means for its prevention. Indeed, whatever form war takes it should only be thought of, prepared for, and anticipated precisely so that it can be shortened, and if possible avoided. It is precisely within that framework that Ambassador Alyson Bailes considers the strategic object of war. Specifically, she examines the extent to which both conceptually and practically Western powers are shifting their ‘strategic attention’ to ‘asymmetric’ threats that range from international terrorism to the illicit spread of mass destruction technologies, both of which she considers transnational phenomena par excellence and thus indicative of the current age in which the relationship between the size of an actor and its ability to inflict damage is changing. The result is a new doctrine which can loosely be described (p. 5) as Western extended self-defence. However, for such a doctrine to be remotely credible given the nature of the threat, new priorities and linkages must be established at the level of defence doctrine and macro-planning. This in turn will require national security strategies that demonstrably and publicly re-establish the essential relationship between cause and effect and critically between strategy, policy, capability, and cost.

The late Olivier Debouzy offers a sobering, modernist analysis of contemporary dangers. For Debouzy conventional war is a terrible reality. However, it is terrible precisely because such war is in and of itself one of the surest routes to a nuclear war which is being rendered more likely by the steady pace of nuclear proliferation. For those that seek such power short of war itself, intimidation and blackmail, supported, explicitly or not, by military means, were repeatedly used during the twentieth century by states aiming to challenge the existing international order either as a substitute for war, or more often, as preparation for it. Given nuclear deterrence is now a global phenomenon it is likely that Western powers will have to reinvest in armed force in all its forms, even in an age of austerity, if a credible balance between deterrence and defence is to be re-established.

Christian Malis considers unconventional forms of warfare and establishes three criteria. First, the target is not the conventional armed forces of the enemy, but rather its population, will, and resources. Second, the legal status of the ‘fighters’ has become (and is becoming) complex and unclear, be they irregulars, pure civilians, or criminals (or a possible combination of all three). This makes the twin notions of ‘enemy’ and ‘threat’ a challenge in itself. Third, the willingness of such ‘combatants’ to use weapons capable of damaging or destroying non-military targets blurs the traditional boundaries between war, conflict, and violence. It is this hitherto vain search of the West to define such actors and thus appropriate and proportionate response that Ambassador Robert Hunter challenges. For Hunter the term ‘terrorism’ has become one of the most common, overworked, and least well-defined and understood in the lexicon of war. Indeed, the phenomenon of terrorism, or more precisely the many different phenomena that comprise terrorism, are for Hunter too often lumped together under an injudicious and inaccurate single term that makes harder the understanding of the many forms, aims, and styles such actors adopt. Terrorism at root is about the stimulation of fear, in particular intense fear, and however unpalatable terrorism within warfare is, it must be seen as an essentially political act in which the element of deliberation is crucial.

The Strategic Conduct of War

How is war led, organized, and managed? This section examines the role, utility, and organization of war as a strategic tool and thus the relationship between power and effect. As such it considers how war is seen at the supreme political level, the role it plays in the formulation of foreign and security policy, and the relationship between the conduct of war and national strategy. For Julian Lindley-French, state war still concerns the achievement of national political aims and the organization of all national means (p. 6) to that end. Consequently, strategic leadership must remain above the fighting of war even if maintaining an essential distance is the hardest of political challenges for leaders unschooled in war. Too much interference in military strategy can result in disasters such as Gallipoli in which the military strategy underpinning ‘grand strategy’ was beyond the means and wit of the military. However, too little interference can also result in disasters, such as Verdun and the Somme, where the military gradually acts beyond the control and mandate of national strategy. Effective strategic leadership thus rests upon consistent and informed strategic judgements and a close and mutually reinforcing relationship between political leaders and their security and military practitioners.

As a former Chairman of British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Sir Paul Lever emphasizes the vital importance of sound actionable intelligence to the strategic conduct of war and the sound judgements that must necessarily inform such leadership. However seductive in their scope and reach, all sources of secret intelligence have their advantages and drawbacks and must be subject to constant and rigorous assessment. Ignoring intelligence indicators can be fatal for the conduct of war, but so too can reliance on intelligence alone. Moreover, the greater availability of intelligence in real time will pose increasing challenges for practitioners, as will the blurring of boundaries between war, conflict, and crime, which will itself promote the need for closer links between intelligence and knowledge.

For General Jean-Louis Georgelin, a former Chief of the French Defence Staff, it is precisely at the nexus between intelligence and knowledge where the vital shared vision must be established between political and military leaders. Military commanders must of course understand and support the political vision, but at the same time political leaders must understand the constraints of armed force. Indeed, in a communications age in which all conflict is apparently ‘strategic’ and at the same time intimate, the need for the operational level of war to be understood at the political level is all the greater. A former senior official at the British Ministry of Defence, William Hopkinson, takes this theme further when he considers the management of war. For Hopkinson future wars will probably not call for the management of all national means on the same scale as the great wars of the last century. However, major, complex, and successful modern war will require special and dedicated means to better assist political leaderships to arrive at appropriate, timely, and informed decisions, and to have those decisions implemented and consequences monitored, measured, and effectively reported.

Non-Western Ways of War

Are there different ways to fight wars? To avoid the Handbook marching in the linear(-ish) direction of Western forms of violent ‘rationality’ this section looks at non-Western ways of war. Whilst not in any way a scientific survey of the ‘other’ the section purposively seeks out different perspectives and this affords the reader a pause for thought. All the authors concerned emphasize the move away from a Europe-centric world into one in which Asian stability is the strategic hub around which much of global (p. 7) security in the twenty-first century will rotate. Major war, if it is to start anywhere, could thus well start in the Asia-Pacific region.

For Isabelle Facon the Russians’ belief in the fundamentally human nature of war leads them to reject the ‘over-technologization’ of war characteristic of Western thinking. Russian military specialists tend rather to emphasize their own national military experience in the post-Soviet era, which has been mainly that of counterinsurgency warfare and local conflicts in Russia's periphery (and beyond) and little resemble the high-tech ambitions of the US military, albeit ambitions which have been tempered by the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, Moscow's observation that other great military powers are also finding it difficult to deal effectively with asymmetric threats and irregular warfare despite their technological superiority seems to have ‘relaxed’ the Russian military leadership about their relative strength compared to that of the West. For Facon this could make it easier for sustained international cooperation to be established between Russia and the West, albeit cooperation that will always be both pragmatic and realistic given the underlying current of suspicion that remains in Russia about the motives and reliability of the West as a partner.

Chinese General Peng Guang Qian reminds the reader that whilst much of the West wallows in the semantics of post-modernism, much of the world beyond is decadently modern. He offers a survey of Chinese thinking about war both old and new. He also establishes the first principles of the Chinese way of war, which is to ensure the freedom of initiative in war. This goal is itself based on the belief that all wars must utilize China's many strong points to attack any potential enemy's weak points. Paradoxically, the Chinese way of war is thus essentially defensive and regional although military power can and must be used to further the aims of Chinese national strategy.

The contrast between General Peng Guang Qian and Japanese Vice-Admiral Fumio Ota's analysis is at times clear and sobering. Ota captures a Japan that is beginning to move beyond its post-1945 role, which emphasized regional self-defence, to consider Tokyo's wider role in the international community and alongside other democratic nations. Indeed, Ota skilfully captures the very essence of security globalization in this chapter as Japan firmly identifies its interests with those of other ‘Western’ states. Whilst Western countries (often involuntarily) have been expanding towards the east, into areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Gulf of Aden, China, India, and Japan have been expanding their activities towards the west into the Arabian Sea, Iraq, and the Gulf of Aden. However, the Japanese military posture remains fundamentally defensive, with the use of armed forces beyond Japan's borders reliant on a UN mandate and a clear humanitarian mission.

The Military Conduct of War

How are wars fought? In 2010 US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the categories of warfare are blurring and can no longer be fitted into neat, tidy boxes. Gates argued that new tools and tactics of destruction are being employed simultaneously in (p. 8) what he called hybrid forms of warfare. Consequently, both the nature of warfare today and its organization and conduct are by their very nature complex. It is this theme of difficult operations in complex places that underpins much of the debate in this section. For Lieutenant General Andrew Graham, the former Director-General of the United Kingdom Defence Academy, contemporary and future military operations on all but the most limited scale and at the lowest level of intensity will almost certainly be conducted on a joint basis (i.e. air, land, and sea forces) and by coalitions. Exploiting the potential for coalition action as the instrument of necessity in the future international security landscape demands that the requirement to generate international resolve and support and foster unity of purpose cannot simply be left to commanders in theatre. Echoing Lindley-French, Graham emphasizes the vital importance of resolute political leaders willing and able to develop and maintain all-important political relationships, build trust, and engage with partners. Critically, an understanding of the complex dynamics and nuances of working in partnership with other nations and militaries is therefore essential for the successful conduct of war as an instrument of national policy in the twenty-first-century world.

Within that context the Dutch Chief of Defence Staff General Peter Van Uhm and Dr Ben Schoenmaker reinforce the essential and enduring importance of good and effective leadership, albeit at the military-strategic level. Indeed, the relationship between the political and military dimensions of conflict is the fundamental prerequisite for success. Moreover, the most essential element of combat power is competent and confident leadership, which in this day and age must also be established on a strong ethical dimension, because the reason for engagement is as important as the method of engagement. To that end, the relationship between the leader and the led must be established on mutual trust and respect. In addition the authors argue that in today's (and tomorrow's) amorphous conflicts military leaders must have the versatility of mind to adapt quickly to the constantly changing circumstances in which they operate.

The British Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards takes up this theme when he considers the complex relationship between contemporary leadership and field command. Today's field commander must deal with a range of actors—governments both at home and in theatre, international agencies, coalition partners, non-governmental organizations, and local people (to name but a few). The command task requires as much tact and diplomacy as classical command authority. Indeed, unable any longer to simply give orders in the manner of, say, an eighteenth-century aristocrat, today's field commander must influence, cajole, and coordinate, at the centre of an ‘entrepreneurial’ network in which he is more communicator than dictator. Influence is the critical element for a successful commander, with soldiers having to be prepared to play a political role outside their military mandate, particularly if no one else is prepared to perform such a role, and commanders willing to listen to the experience of the most simple of Privates.

Echoing Sir David's fusion of the classical and post-modern, Rob de Wijk suggests that so-called hybrid warfare is not as new as often suggested. Moreover, due to enduring asymmetries in strength between Western armed forces and their adversaries it will be the defining relationship in war and conflict for much of the twenty-first century. (p. 9) So-called hybrid wars will thus likely remain the norm for the foreseeable future. Certainly, in the absence of an existential threat to the Western democracies most of them will seek to avoid using excessive force, placing much emphasis on issues of proportionality of response. This runs counter to much of the thinking of the ancients but does chime with the idea of ‘just war’. This preference for minimum violence also creates a dilemma for leaders and commanders. Indeed, given the need to devolve authority to commanders in the field the democracies will constantly face a dilemma over the nature of force and its use, which will often be played out in domestic political debate.

Dealing with complexity is a fact of life for contemporary commanders but all military success is based on getting the right military capability to the right place at the right time. Indeed, even in the face of complex contingencies NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Lieutenant General Sir Richard Shirreff, argues for the importance of seeking to maintain a balanced military capability. Equally, at a time when defence budgets are under enormous pressure, a truly balanced capability is a luxury few can afford. Therefore, hard choices will have to be made, placing a particular premium on identifying and planning for enduring trends, itself difficult in a ‘kaleidoscope’ of conventional and irregular warfare, with terrorism, insurgency, and criminal activity all part of dynamic hybrid conflict. This places a particular premium on new approaches and partnerships. Partnerships between civilians and military in a theatre of war is not new but of increased and increasing importance.

Colonel Gian P. Gentile of the US Army reinforces the challenge and hard choices faced by both political and military leaders over the future shape and nature of armed forces when discussing counterinsurgency operations. He rightly defines counterinsurgency as a campaign in which a foreign government occupies the land of another government with full or partial support from the host nation and attempts to rebuild or build a state. Indeed, modern counterinsurgency at its heart is state-building. However, whilst the United States believes the future will involve the likelihood of more Iraqs and Afghanistans, future war also holds the possibility for major state-on-state war and that must not be forgotten in the planning of the future force. Moreover, after the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan few allied governments have the political stomach for more enduring engagements with little possibility of a clear and successful outcome.

In support of the Shirreff thesis that effective military operations normally involve putting the right force in the right place at the right time and ensuring they have the means to succeed in their mission, Matthew Uttley and Christopher Kinsey place defence logistics at the heart of fighting power. Indeed, Second World War US General Omar Bradley once famously said that whilst amateurs talk tactics, professionals study logistics. Helpfully, Uttley and Kinsey define fighting power as determining what military force can and must be delivered to an operational theatre, the time it will take to deliver such force, the scale and scope of forces that can be supported once there, and the tempo of operations. However, today logisticians face an array of challenges in matching military means to military ambition, the most obvious of which is often the vagueness of the threat and the uncertainty about scope and duration of operations that inevitably dominate the logistician's environment, particularly in contemporary conflict.

(p. 10) Military force is itself made up of distinct land, sea, and air components even if attempts are made to create a seamless or joint force. The late French General Antoine Lecerf emphasizes the strategic significance of land warfare, which has proved the key factor in the history of conflicts for two reasons. Firstly, the use of land forces demonstrates the determination of a society or state to achieve a decisive political objective. Secondly, only land forces are capable of capturing, occupying, and holding a position, thus maintaining a presence on the ground for as long as necessary. For Lecerf enduring military success will require adherence to three critical principles: freedom of action; concentration of effort; and economy of means—all of which place land forces at the centre of military strategy. Supporting the Lecerf thesis Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord of Britain's Royal Navy and a former Security Minister, contends that the purpose of maritime warfare is ultimately to affect outcomes on land. After all, the majority of human activity on the planet, economic and political, occurs within two hundred miles (320 km) inland from the coast because that is where most people live. Moreover, to seaward human maritime activity is generally confined to within two hundred miles of the coast. It is precisely this 400-mile corridor of land and sea where decisive outcomes in war will be achieved and must be planned for, in a zone that is increasingly characterized as the ‘seam’.

Air Commodore Frans Osinga of the Royal Netherlands Air Force flies a slightly different course. For Osinga current air operations in places such as Afghanistan sound a warning for the future conduct of operations, demonstrating both the advantages and dangers of rapid technology development. Redolent of the De Wijk thesis, Osinga argues that the need to create proper political and military strategic preconditions for the use of modern armed forces will be critical, with air power as the cutting edge of such efforts. Indeed, given the technology imperative that has so seduced leaders and commanders alike, the need for such preconditions are of ever greater importance if the relationship between strategy, technology, and military effect is to be safely understood and, of course, successfully applied.

Colonel Ton De Munnik of the Royal Netherlands Army moves beyond strategy and hardware to consider so-called ‘human software’ and the critical importance of effective defence education. The uncertainty of missions in fragile or failed states and the requirement to educate officers with civilian counterparts is leading to the acceptance by commanders of the need for a scientifically-based academic approach to defence education that goes beyond mere training. Knowing and knowing how to know is thus a vital piece of military ‘kit’, and defence and military academies must be reformed to serve such an end.

Technology, Economy, Industry, and War

Can war be afforded? Central to the contemporary debate in most states is the affordability of war together with all its associated paraphernalia. The interaction between the economy, technology, and industry is, thus, carefully considered, with implications for wider society that go well beyond the needs of armed forces.

(p. 11) For Colonel Michel Goya of the French Army, technology demonstrates the paradox of Western military power in the contemporary world. With aging populations and failing economies it is technology that the West relies on to offset its relative weakness. One would expect such pressures, allied to the change in the nature of warfare, to lead to the reform and remodelling of Western military doctrine as it pertains to the use of technology. However, in spite of clear deficiencies there appears little appetite for such change, particularly in Europe, where the focus remains on success on the conventional battlefield. Urgent change is therefore needed to establish new military paradigms, and the first consideration should be the limits of technology in war.

Xavier Pasco takes that debate to a higher dimension when he considers the role of space technologies in war. For Pasco, throughout the recent history of space activity the link between space technologies and military activities has been based on the strategic needs at any given moment of the military end-user. Equally, since the end of the Cold War the military use of space has been constantly changing and under constant review, leading to new questions about the relationships between technology and legality and the very place and role of space in war.

In ‘Affording War: The British Case’, Chris Donnelly, Commander Simon Atkinson of the Royal Navy, and Julian Lindley-French confirm that the main linkage in affording war is the relationship between war and the economy, or rather the cost of war and the strategic investment in armed forces. It is a truism that has stood the test of time and yet is extremely hard to judge, particularly during times of relative peace when there are so many other claims on the national exchequer. Demonstrating the value of defence investment in peace—the mantra of Value for Money—is indeed akin to proving a negative—if war does not happen to what extent is it due to defence investment? Since time immemorial British governments have grappled with this question and just about managed to balance strategy and affordability. However, such is the severity of the financial crisis Britain faces that the strategic linkage could be broken for the first time in perhaps four hundred years. For Heinz Schulte this challenge is compounded by the relationship between industry and war which can be summarized thus: technological innovation is insufficient if it lacks a broad and robust industrial base; equally, a broad and robust industrial base is inadequate if it lacks technological innovation and inspirational input from non-military industry.

Former European Defence Agency chief Nick Witney deals with the critical issue of affordability head on. Governments need equipment, goods, and services for their armed forces—and generally aim, as in normal commercial procurement, to secure good quality, prompt delivery, and reasonable price. But procurement for war is bedevilled by the special circumstances of defence: secrecy, innate conservatism, vested interests (of politicians, industry, and the armed forces themselves), and introverted bureaucracies. The result is the litany of procurement fiascos and equipment deficiencies familiar in all the major military nations, which continue to occur despite repeated reviews and attempts at reform. Yet the effort to get better results through greater transparency, tighter discipline, and cultural change remains imperative; for the price of failure is ultimately paid on the battlefield.

(p. 12) Robert Bell, Special Representative of the US Secretary of Defense in Europe, looks at the procurement challenge from an American perspective and by and large agrees with Witney. Equally, for Bell there are positive developments: be it the traditional equipment manufacturing side of defence industries, or service and supply contractors, the cost overruns and bloated contracts that were funded by the taxpayer during the early 2000s are now a thing of the past. This is because governments on both sides of the Atlantic are demanding far more value for money as public finances face unprecedented pressures, which will likely lead in time to further consolidation and much needed competition.

Civil-Military Cooperation and War

Can civilians and soldiers fight wars and win peace together? A theme running throughout the Handbook concerns the changing and emerging relationship between civilians and soldiers on both the battlefield and beyond and the extent to which such civil-military cooperation is critical to success. Equally, the sheer complexity of moving the so-called civil-military relationship beyond the theoretical and rhetorical towards the practical and operational is also apparent. Paul Cornish suggests that civil-military cooperation goes beyond the merely pragmatic. The requirement for civilian control has its roots in the liberal democratic ideal that there should be a close and constraining relationship between the civil and the military. Traditionally the liberal model of civilian control has been based on three core propositions: a clear hierarchy; the effective organization of bespoke agencies and actors within the civil-military relationship; and exclusivity in the relationship between official civilians and the military. In the early twenty-first century, however, challenges to national security have become more complex and urgent and it has become progressively more difficult to define security narrowly, leading to the need for a more informal relationship between civilians and soldiers in war.

Julian Lindley-French, Paul Cornish, and Andrew Rathmell in a sense demonstrate the truism of the Cornish thesis in their analysis of civil-military operations. In essence, if such cooperation is to work (and the jury is still out) the efficient generation and use of required resources and political will is critical. Strategic patience will also be vital. However, such cooperation could well fail if essential relationships with ‘unofficial’ civilians are not matched by the necessary flexibility and aptitude to adapt to new ways of fighting wars and winning peace. US National Defense University's Hans Binnendijk and Jacqueline Carpenter look at civil-military cooperation from a novel civilian angle. The consensus in the US government and across the NATO Alliance is that most future conflicts will resemble those of the past decade, requiring close civil-military planning and cooperation. However, whilst the United States has established policies and doctrine to address the need for a civilian ‘surge’ in line with and supportive of the military effort, (p. 13) Washington still struggles to turn these decisions into actionable operational concepts and genuine capabilities because there simply are not enough civilian specialists. This problem is even more acute for the European allies where the concept of a civilian surge is more theoretical than actual.

War and Society

Are modern societies able to fight wars? The climax of the Handbook is a discussion about the changing nature of war and the changing nature of society and the very changed relationship that is already apparent between society and war since 1945. If war is an act of elemental violence, as Clausewitz would have it, war is also an act of societal violence. The relationship between war and contemporary societies thus essentially concerns the extent to which war is understood by wider society, society's resiliency in the face of war, and the way that the story of war is told. Radha Kumar points out that whilst the impact of war on populations can be extreme, the impact of populations on war can be equally profound. The changing scale, nature, and needs of populations is such that managing systemic change will be vital if human need is not to drive conflict in human security and lead in time to systemic war. The fate of the individual and the state are thus ever more closely bound together.

NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General Jamie Shea, with long experience in NATO of managing the official narrative of war, pulls no punches when he says that even the most successful and justifiable of military campaigns requires more and more hard sell to an ever more sceptical society. Effective ‘strategic’ communications are thus vital. Indeed, no contemporary war effort is today complete without its Media Operations Centre, staffed by dozens of specialists working on the Events Grid, the Master Messages, Scripts, and Rebuttals. Making war is thus not just policy by other means, but today military campaigning looks ever more like political election campaigning. Indeed, no daily news cycle takes place without its crop of news briefings, backgrounders, or embedded press tours ably directed by spokesmen and ‘spin doctors’ often drawn from the advertising or PR industries when not from the media itself.

Caroline Wyatt, the BBC's Defence Correspondent, looks at the narrative of war from the journalist's viewpoint. She eloquently captures the relationship between narrative and identity, or rather between what ‘we’ do and say and who ‘we’ are. For Wyatt war tells stories about values, national identity, and the place of peoples in the world community. The conduct of war—and how it is reported—can define the very vision a people/nation has of itself, or undermine and destroy that vision. It is for those very powerful reasons that those who fight wars are so keen to keep the chroniclers of conflict and the public onside, whether by use of propaganda, public relations, or media operations. War is after all a drama in which strengths are reflected as are the many weaknesses and foibles to which all societies are subject.

(p. 14) Does War Have a Future?

Does war have a future? Director of the Royal United Services Institute Michael Clarke answers with a sad but inevitable yes. Defining and assessing modern war is certainly not straightforward. However, the intuitive concept of ‘war’ is alive and well in the contemporary international system and likely to remain so. As Clarke rather succinctly puts it, ‘For the powerful, and their allies, therefore, war in the present era is not a declared state of belligerence but a level of organized violence in which they engage, or for which they plan. They do not generally anticipate fighting war, but they nevertheless engage in frequent military operations.’

Only the dead have indeed seen the end of war.