Week 1 14/01/2014 the issue of the utility of force and the nature of current conflict
1. What is the impact of the end of the Cold War? What does it mean in terms of the
use of force?
2. The differences between modern and post-modern conflict
3. Some of the characteristics of current conflict.
1. The impact of the Cold War
(a) Dramatically decreased defence budget in US. Countries getting nuclear weapons.
End of East-West opposition: world saw a huge decrease in armaments and defence
budget. First years of the 90s mantra was “peace dividend”. Trend of decreasing
defence budget was extraordinary. Europe hasn’t spent less in a very long time.
Defence ministries have become marginal in the setting of a government. Before
1990s, minister of defence was a major figure in a political landscape- not even
important anymore. In UK, all of them are junior representatives, in Germany it’s a
woman- completely changed. One of the largest transformations, as spurred on by
(b) Move to projection of forces. Classic heavy armaments have become largely useless
because they are very difficult to project 5,000 miles away. These capabilities are
only good for military power, cost a fortune to manage anyway
(c) Conscription no longer sustainable. Move to profit organisation as survival is no
longer at stake. Difficult to ask citizens to defend on the basis of choices and options
which lie far away- people won’t sign up for it unless its defensive for themselves.
From a political and technological point of view, if an army is efficient It must be
proficient- changed relationship between citizens and the army. Changed since WW1
where people signed up to go far away to fight for their country; changed in contract
between armed forces and the people.
2. The Differences Between Modern and Post-Modern Conflict
Organised violence by political units- mostly the state. War has been crucially part of the
creation of the modern state. War made the modern state and the modern state made war.
The practices of warfare brought about the modern state. Taxation was a device to get
resources to put soldiers on the line to defend a frontier- key aspect of the modern state.
Electoral expansion of the vote also part of it- after WW1 universal vote; reason was that you
couldn’t ask for citizens to give the ultimate sacrifice and in peace-time deprive that person
of the right to vote. No place in Europe where the traces of warfare is not for all to see.
France- entire coast has been designed for warfare. Same can be say for Germany,
Belgium. Luxembourg itself is a fortress. Function of the state is crucial. An artificial
construct. Africa- weak/failed states.
What Contributed to the Evolution of Warfare? (a)Technology. Invention of the machine gun, aircraft, sputnik, all fundamentally
changed warfare. But the most important part is the war as politics. Before the
Napoleonic warfare is was a matter of professionals, mercenaries, paid by the state
to fight. Few battles, recognition by the state of having won or lost, piece of territory
changed hands. Went on like this for centuries- civilians were not concerned by these
fights. Hierarchy stayed the same, the prince was just different- didn’t really concern
the people. Politics of warface changed when every citizen was asked to be part of
warfare, to defend the nation. The rise of Nationalism. The call for every citizen to be
part in the defence of the nation, projection of nationalist ideas. Marginal enterprise
before Napoleon, but crucial after. Changed the scale from professional wars by
mercenaries, it became a national issue. This lead to the world wars. Civilians
became casualties of war in massive numbers.
For the last 25 years there has been some tremendous change- the most important
being computerisation. Every soldier even of the lowest rank has a computer telling
him what the battlefield is about. Previously, these tactics were kept secret. All the
soldier could see were the enemy soldiers in the 100 metres immediate to him. Now,
the soldier is told through the computer the miles of battle going on- all of the
movements for miles and miles. The aircraft movement. Now the foot soldier has the
knowledge of the battlefield movements that a general could only dream of 50 years
ago. NCW- network centric warfare. All privates can call upon an aircraft to be fired
on a specific part immediately. 6-8 hours for a strike on demand during the Gulf War.
Now, this takes less than 30 minutes.
No longer need the private factor, the human impact. Need a drone flying above. Can
have a command in control anywhere in the world being able to strike anywhere.
Won’t need human intelligence on the ground. A drone with cameras will tell you what
you need to know.
Doesn’t mean that warfare has changed in significance. Humans aren’t obsolete, but
the technological advances has dramatically changed the way warfare is conducted.
(b) ContractorsMany private companies now used- cheaper, more efficient. Allows
government to focus on the fighting itself while protection for instance can be
organised by contractors. Some serious problems with this. (1) These companies
are not there to fulfil any superior duties- they are there to make money, they are
for-profit companies. Not the same logic as an official armed forces department,
whose task is to protect the nation. (2) Control and oversight of what these
companies are actually doing, potential abuses. Demands new legislation- a new
way for armed force community to work. (3) Decision making process is different-
profit in mind. Different than a General working for the armed forces. But these
companies are unavoidable.
(c) Fighting and the Media The relationship between the press and the act of war
has always been very tricky. The covering of war has always been a specific
activity. Journalists have to protect some information to protect the armed forces.
The relationship between a government and the landscape of information has
changed. Obama can’t call the NY Times and ask them not to keep something quiet in the same way Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis which was
kept quiet for 8 days. Idea of the government keeping a monopoly of the narrative
is gone, even though it may protect certain missions. And yet the media
landscape is as important as ever. Now, in