Introduction be careful in examining definitions of war since

Introduction

The first issue to be considered
is what war is and what is its definition. A person’s definitions of war often
express his/her perception and the understanding of the war itself. Karl von
Clausewitz definition of war, “War therefore is an act of violence intended to
compel our opponent to fulfil our will”. Clausewitz also defines war as, “…is
the continuation of politics by other means” and “war is a mere a continuation
of policy other means” (Clausewitz, 1968, 119). War as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is, “a state of
open and declared hostile armed conflict between states or nations, or a period
of such conflict”. This captures a particularly rationalistic explanation of
war and warfare, i.e. that war needs to be clearly declared and to be between
states to be a war. Alternatively, the Oxford Dictionary expands the definition
to include, “any active hostility or struggle between living beings; a conflict
between opposing forces or principles.” The list of definition will go on and we needs to be careful in examining
definitions of war since its definitions are varied and often each definition
has its strengths and weaknesses but regularly is the result of the person’s
philosophical positions.

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Nature of War

As
human’s civilisation evolved, man has always fought and has always had weapons
either natural or artificial which is the deciding factor of the conflict.
Initially, primeval man utilised the weapons in their quest for food. As time
evolved, the objectives of war change and the more powerful motives of a war, the
more it affects the existence of the people (Clausewitz, 1968, 119). In
explaining the end and means in war in his book “On War”, Clausewitz stated
that a war campaign must comprise three general objects which are military
power, the country and the will of the enemy (Clausewitz, 1968, 123). He
further elaborated that the enemy military power must be destroyed, the country
must be conquered and the will of the enemy must be subdued thus ended as the
disarming of the enemies.

Understanding the nature of war is also important
especially to both political and military leaders. To answer the question of
war’s nature, Clausewitz’s stated that war has a dual nature i.e. an objective
and subjective natures. The objective nature of war includes violence, friction,
chance and uncertainty that all wars have in common. By contrast, the
subjective nature of war consists of military forces, their doctrines, weapons,
as well as the environments in which they fight. Under Clausewitz’s concept,
the objective and subjective natures of war interact continuously. As a result,
the nature of war cannot be separated from the means and the actors involved in
its conduct (Clausewitz, 1968, 134).

‘Causes’
of War

John
Garnet through his work, “The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace”  stated that, “Historians sometimes argue
that, since war are unique events, the causes of war are as numerous as the
number of wars and nothing in general can be said about them” (Garnet, 20). Some
scholars have come up with various theories to elaborate it and to study
the causes of war, we’ll explore it in three general ’causes’:

‘God’. ‘God’ can be interpreted as an ideology,
faith, belief or religion. There is much such recorded history of the wars that
were caused by ‘God’. Some ancient
civilisations worshiped the war god which promising them prosperity in the next
life. It will cause wars when it is believed that the gods like war and command
it (e.g. Greek’s and Hindu’s gods). Among civilised man, perhaps the fiercest
and most common causes of wars are those fights due to the differences of ‘God’ or religion.  Take the Christian’s crusaders for example; the
wide and fast spreading of Christianity throughout South America is through the
swords. The atrocities they committed against the South American’s natives are
far exceeding of those natives killed in war amongst them (Davie, 2003, 119).
In the contemporary war scenario, we can find the same ’cause’ that started wars especially those internal or civil wars.
It’s a similar rhetoric excuse when Coalition Forces, lead by US and her NATO
allies launched their war machines in Afghanistan in 2004. Coalition Force constantly
bombarded the world utilising their media influence announcing the reason behind
it i.e. to eliminate the seed or sponsorship of the global terrorism in the
country following the 9/11 incident. Their main ’cause’ (ideology, religion??) is to eliminate the hardcore and
extremist Taliban government to make way for the US kind of democratic government
in Afghanistan.

‘God’ also can be broadened up to wider
term such as races, clans, tribes or ethnics. World have witnessed the horrifying
ethnic wars that occurred around the globe. Local population were killed and butchered
because they belong to a different ethnic groups and nothing to do with their
politics ideology. That is what has been observed in the prosecution of the
Tutsis in Rwanda, the Kurds in Iraq, the Muslim in Bosnia and the Albanians in
Kosovo (Garnet, 36).

‘Gold’. Through
the evolution, man social interactions among them are improve and bonding
together to create early societies in form groups, clans and tribes. As the
group or society growth larger and increased in its size, the demand for basic
necessities i.e. foods, shelter and mates are creating clashes between different
groups more frequently. The struggle for existence has been carried on, not only
for individual but also the survival of his groups. So, the main cause of war
during early human civilisation is purely the competition of life or
survivability (Davie, 2003, 22).

The
struggle for live is essentially a struggle for food and as foods and other
necessities of life come from the soil, the struggle is to gain more pieces of
land or to acquire additional lands. In doing so, man will encroach into
other’s man land thus create hostility between them and will lead to war. Wars
of today are about a desperate scramble for scarce and limited resources which
keep increasingly depleting. The capitalist’s states find it increasingly
difficult to sustain their economic survivability due to shortages of essential
and vital minerals which starts to run out. If that should happen, advanced
industrial countries might face the harsh choice either the nation will
plunging down or waging inter-state war to secure supplies of essential
materials. To deny their industrial state’s supplies of essential materials is
to deny the nation’s survival and they will do whatever is necessary including
waging inter-state war to ensure the constant flow of those vital materials
(Garnet, 36). A quest and ‘hunger’
for natural resources is the cause why the Japanese Imperial conquered Korea,
China and Asia-Pacific nations during World War II. Even in the contemporary
world today, this fact is still a valid cause. Then, it might be true that the valid cause of the 1991 Gulf War by US-led
coalition fought to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and Operation Iraqi
Freedom in 2003 is to ensure a continuous flow of fossil fuel supplies to
western capitalist industrial states; same goes to the NATO’s intervention in
Libya.

‘Glory’. Men
like war and they often fight for the sake of thrill or glory. Primitives go to
wars because they like being praised or honoured as warriors by their women.
The women, as we all know, prefer men who are displaying valour, bravery,
prowess and heroism (Hindi’s movie!!). We don’t need to venture far out in
order to obtain the evidence of it. In Sarawak, the Iban and Dayak warriors are
admired and honoured by counting how many his nemesis’s skulls hanging in his
long house. It can be some sort of ‘trophies’
(pride, glory) for them (Davie, 2003, 76).

‘Glory’ can also be the other names for
man’s pride, national interest, personal greedy, idiosyncrasy and racial
supremacy etc. It’s a known fact that the Gulf War occurred due to Saddam
Hussein’s greedy of his neighbour, Kuwait and World War II was started because
of Hitler’s Third Reich glory and also his idiosyncrasy. Can we categorise the
same ’cause’ (idiosyncracy??) when US
military might under Bush’s father and son presidency invaded Iraq?

War Today

As world’s social,
political and economic environment transform rapidly, so as the war itself.
Today war’s trends indicate almost constant declines in the number of major
inter-state armed conflicts worldwide (Sarkees, 2003, 50). Some realist such as
Mearsheimer (1990), Huntington (1993), Holsti (1996) and Kaldor (1999) predicted
that a new pattern of conflicts in 1990s is intra-state conflicts which are a
confrontation or challenges to the state’s authority that include secessionists
movement, tribes clashes, ethnicity conflicts, which threatened the territorial
integrity of the states (e.g. Tamils in Sri Lanka, Kurdish in Iraq and Turkey,
Chechnya) (Sarkees, 2003, 52). And also, challenges to form up a centralise
government’s command and control which may also end up in the breakup of the
states with nobody in charge or have an overall control thus become a failure
state (e.g. Somalia). But, the decline of inter-state war does not explain the
rising incident of intra-state or internal/civil wars. The most basic reasons
why these wars have become common in many parts of the world sovereign which
state exercise within their territory is, states have lost its dominance and
authority to a variety of domestic groups/bodies i.e. tribes, ethnic groups,
terrorists, warlords, splinters groups or armed gang. When states lose their
control of in-house militia force, they can no longer control their territory
or their people. Old tensions, squabble and hatred in the form of different
ideology, ethnics or religion, which was previously contained, will emerge thus
lead to a violence acts.

To have a better
understanding of the phenomenon of war, one must be studied the type or
topology of the war itself. War can be categorised as inter-state, intra-state
(civil) and extra-state wars (Sarkees, 2003, 60). Scholars such as Waltz (1979)
and Gaddis (1987) stated that post-Cold War era is relatively stable with a
decrease in inter-state wars. The interdependence among states and the benefits
of cooperation promoted through the international institutions are the reasons
for the decline in inter-state wars (Sarkess, 2003, 50). The two typologies of
war can be summarised as follows:To grasp a definite meaning of war today can be
sometimes mind boggling. John Garnet comes up with the ‘immediate’ and ‘underlying’;
‘permissive’ and ‘efficient’ causes of war (Garnet, 24). ‘Immediate’ is a proximate causes while ‘underlying’ is a fundamental or basic
causes of the war itself.  For example,
the ‘immediate’ reason for US being
dragged into World War II in Pacific was the attack on Pearl Harbour by
Japanese Imperial fleet under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the ‘underlying’ cause is US anxiousness and
unpleasant sentiment towards Japanese military aggression in her neighbouring
countries. So, the Pearl Harbour’s attack was a trigger for the war in Pacific
but US somehow rather will involve in the war sooner or later due to Japan
ambitious and aggressive territories expansion. He also stated the ‘efficient’ causes are connected to the
circumstances surrounding the wars while ‘permissive’
causes which relates to the international system, while not actively promoting
war, nevertheless allow war to happen. The ‘efficient’
cause of the Gulf War between Iraq and Iran was the desire of Saddam Hussein to
regain from Iran the Shatt-al-Arab waterway (Garnet, 25). In the context of ‘permissive’ causes, Kenneth Waltz noted
that in international anarchy with the absence of world government, states will
behave aggressively, and react in order to protect her interest since wars are
always lurking around the corner. Kenneth Thompson concurred with the argument
by saying, “…because they exist in a
system where others behave badly, doing likewise is the only way to survive”
(Garnet, 26). In the anarchic international system, states will care less for
the other states and pursue only their own interest. The ‘permissive’ cause of US-led coalition forces waging Operation Iraqi
Freedom is to change the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein for the sake of
Iraqi’s people; under UN mandate.Clausewitz conceived of war as a ‘means’ to political ends i.e. the continuation of politics by other
means and as a subordinate to the political reason. But, ethnic’s
wars are quite different from Clausewitz politically motivated conflicts where
the different ethnic groups which have some disagreement about something and
they might seek to resolve their disagreement by waging a war. Ethnic wars are
not about the quest of interest as normally understood. They are about
wickedness, cruelty and some evilness in it because sometime the military
action taken by both parties are beyond human moral values and rules as they
are unrestrained by any legal means (e.g. Tutsi’s genocide and Bosnian Muslim
slaughtered by their Serbian counterpart).Intra-state
wars would somehow affect neighbouring state security and regional stability.
The traditional views are that states have no business interfering in the
internal affairs of the other states. Although the idea of non-intervention has
become a basic principle of current international order, in recent years there
has developed a consensus that, in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort,
even military intervention may be justified, both legally and morally. For
example, when genocide is being practiced or there are gross violations of
human rights or when states are collapsing into chaos and there is a serious
threat to peace and security, in these extreme situations intervention is
deemed permissible particularly if it was approved by international
institution, United Nation (e.g. Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan). We have to
acknowledge that in an understandable sense, it is a ‘permissive’ cause of war (Garnet, 25). This is explaining the
United Nation mandated air strike by the NATO allies warplanes in Libya
recently; to avoid Muammar Gaddafi regime of slaying the uprising of Libyan
population. And, it might be repeated in Syria or Yemen soon? War
today also somehow derailed from the conventional wisdom that we have so far.
General Sir Rupert Smith stated, “The old paradigm was that of inter-state
industrial war. The new one is the paradigm of war amongst peoples. The
reality in which the people in the streets and houses and fields, all the
people, anywhere, are the battlefield. Military engagements can take place
anywhere, with civilians around, against civilians, in defence of civilians.
Civilians are the targets, objectives to be won, as much as an opposing force…”
(Garnet, 26). This
new hypothesis involves strategic confrontation among a range of combatants;
not all of which are armies. In today war, combatants not necessarily uniformed
armies and might be mixed together among civilians population. Armed
engagements may take place anywhere, not restricted in the battlefield as was
portrayed during pre-modern wars. Combatants use differing types of low-tech
and hi-tech weapons and usually confrontation uses military force collectively
with political and psychological influence (media war). Military operations
when televised worldwide delivering real-time pictures of the frontline battles
will become media events thereby may win a moral strength and boosting image of
the nations (e.g. US optimising CNN live telecast during Operation Desert Storm
and Operation Iraqi Freedom) (Hosmer, 1996). Another
term used was the total war. It’s describes the absence of any restraint in
warfare (Sheehan, 54). Total war would mean fighting without any restrictions
as described by General Erich Ludendorf, Chief of Staff, German Armies in World
War II. His belief is that war should be
characterised by total mobilisation of all the military, economic, and
human resources of the state. The enemy’s civilian population would be
deliberately targeted while own civilian population will suffer a similar
assault. In total war, states are demanding their citizens to serve in the
military or participate in the production of war materials (Sheehan, 56). Total
war is a 20th century term to describe a war in which countries or
nations use all of their resources to destroy another organized country’s or
nation’s ability to engage in war. The practice of total war has been in use
for centuries, but it was only in the middle to late nineteenth century that
total war was recognized as a separate class of warfare. The most identifiable
consequence of total war in modern times has been the inclusion of civilians
and civilian infrastructure as targets in destroying a country’s ability to
engage in war. The targeting of civilians developed from two distinct theories.
The first theory was that if enough civilians were killed, factories could not
function. The second theory was that if civilians were killed, the country
would be so demoralized that it would have no ability to wage further war.On
the question of whether China military rise will threaten super military power and
challenging the dominance of US unipolar thus initiating new kind of Cold War,
many scholars have heated argument and discussions on this matter (Glaser,
2011). But, analysing the current trend of China military power emergence in
term of her acquisitions and building of new military assets, we can say that
her action is only a reaction towards China’s concern of her safety and also to
safeguard her vital national interest. Furthermore, China has declared during
her admission in the World Trade Organisation (WTO); she will ‘rise in peace’ and
become a manifestation of her foreign policy. With the globalisation and
interdependence among states in the world’s economy, China cannot be effort to
scarify her economic booming currently and to be lagging behind other
economics’ giants. On that score, we can foresee that China will maintain her
present status quo in near future unless her Communist leader’s idiosyncrasy
acts otherwise. The
next question is what about war in Afghanistan? Where it will lead? The war inside Afghanistan which was identified as a
war on terror by the US, is another form of a revolutionary war that is being
fought for the sake of political power within state. The war inside Afghanistan
has a religious colour because the Taliban are linked with the idea of a
radical Islam. But what the war is really about is an ethnic class-based
struggle to demand a share in the distribution of the political power in
Afghanistan (Blank, 2011, 159). As historical records of
Afghanistan’s conflict showed, no major powers from ancient till today to
totally conquered and have a full centralised control of the nation itself. One
thing that all the Afghanistan’s conquerors never learned from the previous
major powers i.e. from the Greeks up to Soviet Union are the country are
diversely separated according to varieties of local tribes with different
cultures, traditions and values (Blank, 2011, 158). Even the mighty military
power of Soviet Union tried to install the ‘puppet’ government in Afghanistan
but to no avail due to her failure recognising the cultures of local tribes.
Afghanistan conflict should be left to Afghan’s people on how they want to
resolve their own issues because every nation has their own way of doing
things. If the US and its
allies hope to win the war on terror, they must understand the nature of war in
Afghanistan i.e. the political balance of power and local traditional way of
doing thing, which then they can influences the military strategy designed to
attain the political aims of war. You cannot force and impose
your values to the others; as you cannot force tiger to be a vegetarian!! Conclusion From
the five assigned reading on the topic of war, I can conclude in the new
millennium with the rapidly
spreading and intensifying effects of globalisation, war remains essentially
Clausewitzian in nature. The nature or identity of war itself
didn’t change i.e. the war is about national (occur between ‘states’), rational
(reasons which involved the process of calculation and planning) and
instrumental (serve certain purposes to certain peoples). The end of Cold War
has seen the emergence of US military power dominating as a unipolar power. The
possibility of another super power i.e. China rising to challenge the US
domination is still a questionable one. Many views the emergence of China will
not create the second Cold War front in the world. The basis of the theory is
the economic interdependence and the abundance of benefits from the cooperation
initiatives through international institutions are too great to resist by
everybody and any major war today is too expensive to be shouldered by any
states. Even though inter-state or major wars are rare, the states are still
sees the relevancies of keeping a modest military power as their security
guarantee for the bad days.  

            The world today also very much affected
by the intra-state wars that are fuelled by the racial, ethnic and religious hostilities
hence, the terrorism remains a major threat. This new
kind of war or extra-state war by the non-state actors required new kind of
strategies and methods in tackling it. Finally, globalisation means that if
there is a war, opponents can now fight each other across global distances, in
new dimensions and with a broader array of weapons including media. It remains
to be seen whether information technology will reduce or exacerbate this
expansion. Certainly, skillful commanders and well-trained soldiers still
matter.

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