THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR

  • L.S. Mnyandu Faculty of Military Science, University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: a non-Clausewitzian perspective to 'modern' warfare, the bankruptcy of nuclear weapons and strategy, Karl von Clausewitz, the concept of a trinitarian war and a nontrinitarian war, low intensity conflict, the orthodox Clausewitzian view of warfare

Abstract

"A ghost is stalking the corridors of general staffs and defence departments all over the 'developed' world - the fear of military impotence, even irrelevance. ...As new forms of armed conflict multiply and spread, they will cause the lines between public and private, government and people, military and civilian to become as blurred as they were before 1648. ...One very important way in which men can attain joy, freedom, happiness is (through) war." (Van Creveld, 1991: 1,226,227) These are the words that open and conclude this book whose stated objective is to provide a non-Clausewitzian perspective to 'modern' warfare (p ix). In the first two chapters, Van Creveld perceptively addresses the bankruptcy of nuclear weapons and strategy, the declining utility of conventional armed forces and the resurgence of low intensity conflict as well as the resounding political outcomes accrued through such conflicts. Acknowledging Karl von Clausewitz as an outstanding military theoretician, Van Creveld not only delineates the historical context in which Clausewitz's writings were most relevant, but goes on to evoke the works of Colmar von der Goltz (Das Volk in Waffen, 1883) and Erich Ludendorf (Der Totale Krieg, 1936) in order to clearly distinguish the concept of a trinitarian war in comparison to those of a total war and nontrinitarian war (p 35, 42, 45, 49). "Involving the surgical separation of the state, society and the military, the trinitarian war is compatible with the Clausewitzian prescription and primary notion of war as a continuation of politics" (p 63). While total war appears to be an extreme and perverted form of trinitarian war - it plays a vital role in as far as it nearly obliterated society, facilitated the rise of totalitarian governments and even precipitated the Second World War. This openened the flood gates for the resurgence of nontrinitarian conflict in which individuals and individual societies (not established armies acting on behalf of governments) take up arms in defense of their lives, property and freedom. Adopting the orthodox label of low intensity conflict (LIC) Van Creveld postulates that LIC's are set to become the way of war in the future for which modern armies are not prepared and to which the orthodox Clausewitzian view of warfare and strategy is inapplicable.
Published
2012-02-10
How to Cite
Mnyandu, L. (2012). THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 28(2). https://doi.org/10.5787/28-2-220
Section
Book Reviews