The purpose of this essay is to analyze the arguments in favor and against the obsoleteness of the war particularly after the cold war. But before going in detail one needs to understand the concept of war that is advocated by the proponents of the Realist school of thought.
According to the Realists, war is essential for serving its interests as for war is mean to achieve their national interests. The institution of war has evolved with the development of state after the peace of Westphalia which gives state supreme power to exercise within its boundaries without inferring in internal matters of the other states.
According to Clausewitz war is a continuation of politics by other means. The industrialization played a vital role in promoting war by developing new weapons and revolutionizing the institution of war. It was in eighteen century when war becomes a proper institution which is equipped with modern weapons and tactics. Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that war almost always enlarges the mind of a people and raises their character.” Kenneth Waltz defines war as “The ultimate resort of states that can see no other way to have their interests met.” Moreover, War was used as a tool by states to expand its territory and area of influence since ancient times like Athens fight against Spartan to control them.
In the twentieth century, the fascination for war is declining especially after the experience of WWI and almost all the countries of the developed world committed to avoiding war between states. The deterrence was also used by states to prevent war by equipping them with arms to teeth to deal with the aggressive states.  However, this policy failed with the start of WWII but with the start of a cold war between US and USSR did bring stability by changing of international structure from multi-polarity to bi-polarity. Both powers avoided direct confrontation and the world was divided into two blocs. Kenneth Waltz declared Bi-polar system as a most stable system because both powers tried to balance each other power which reduces the chances of war.
Merits of Bi-polarity
Similarly, nuclear weapons also played a significant role in averting war as both powers acquired nuclear weapons. Kenneth Waltz called nuclear weapons as an effective tool to prevent war between US and USSR as the use of nuclear weapons after 1945 become unthinkable for any state due to its destructive ability. According to experts, Bi-polarity proved to be a more balanced system as it would not allow one state to dominate all other states of the world. Bi-polarity created a balance between two potential powers and brings stability at international level as both were equally capable of competing with other. Both states balanced each other power by created two blocs to check each other growing power at global level.
Arguments in favor of Obsoleteness of War
1- Economic Integration
The interdependence of economy is considered as a major development which is preventing the war, especially between states. For Instance, in the case of China and US despite their rivalry, there is less likely chance of war between both the states. War creates instability and disrupts the economy in a negative way by causing inflation. The international economic system has increased the dependence of states irrespective of their size. The economic integration among states is not allowing them for waging war because it is not cost effective for a state. In contemporary world war is undesirable and becoming a burden on the economy of the country.
In the case of China and US relations although they are competing with each other but they would not use war as a tool to increase their influence in the global arena. Since war is not a viable option to pursue their national interests. Similarly, China is suspicious of an American presence in the Asia-Pacific region and their growing ties with its neighboring states. One cannot say that they will be involved in direct confrontation with each other. Since economic interests of the both states are inter-linked and mutually dependent upon each other. China is the biggest trading partner of US and a major importer of Chinese products. In addition, globalization played a vital role in increasing the interdependence between the states by linking all states with the common economic system and its stability is dependent upon the cooperation among all states of the world. Globalization has transformed the world into the global village by inter-linking world trade.
2- Role of international organization
The role of the international organization is significant in preventing war between states by including all states into organizations to resolve their issues by using the dialogue process and building the mutual consent of all the states of the world. International organization provides a platform to resolve the contentious issues by negotiation rather going for war as a mean to sort out their conflictual issues between the states. Moreover, legislation of international organization is very effective in averting war between states as they punished those who are involved in crimes against humanity in the form of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Furthermore, international organizations are effective in ending conflicts between the states by providing a platform and giving importance to objections of the both parties. International organizations play a mediating role to resolve issues between states by hearing both parties and suggesting ways to sort the contentious issues between any two or more states. In addition, regional organizations have improved the regional integration by dealing the regional problems with regional players. For example, European Union is the most successful organization which has united Europe by resolving their issues internally and consider as a most stable region of the world. The European Union is an effective regional organization which makes it most peaceful part of the world as they sort their issues by discussing with each other.
3- Cost of WAR
The cost of war outweighs its benefits for the state as it long-lasting effects on its people. The advancement in modern weapons has increased the destructive abilities of war by causing infrastructure losses for the state. In contemporary world states prefer to avoid war due its interdependence on other states for trade and for proper functioning relations with its neighbors. Similarly, the human cost of war is another factor which is becoming a reason for preventing wars between the states. The use of chemical and biological weapons in modern warfare has increased the number of deaths of humans within the second that is mostly avoided by the countries.
Moreover, the signing of treaties by almost all states of the world to limit the number of conflicts is another factor to discourage countries from using force against any other country. In addition, war drains the economy of a country and creates dissatisfaction at the domestic level. For example, during the Vietnam War US had to stop war due to protests within the country against War due to its effects on their domestic economy. The economic cost of wars in the contemporary world has played a major role in preventing a war between the states. War is not considered as the viable option for states to pursue their national interests.
4-Use of non-military means
The use of non-military means by the states is another major reason towards decline war in 21 century. The states tend to use other means for instance; cyber warfare is widely used by China and US to keep a check on their growing power. The countries in contemporary world avoid using force against other states because it is not cost effective for them. Cyber warfare is not only cost effective for states but also a viable option to pursue their interests without heavy spending on its defence. Moreover, cyber warfare would cause more damage to the rival states without indulging in direct confrontation with the other states.
The hacking incidents in the past few years have increased and hackers usually hacked national websites to the country to get access to countries confidential documents and their assets to expose the ability of the state. Cyber warfare is cost effective mean used by countries to subdue their rival states. The modern technological advancement has increased the role of cyber warfare as all systems of the world are dependent on the digital means. Moreover, computer viruses are also used by almost all states to destroy the confidential projects of their rival states without much effort and violating international laws against the use of force at the global level.
5- Nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons have also played a significant role in preventing war between states because of its destructive nature and long-lasting effects on the humans and living beings. Nuclear weapons are considered as psychological weapons or political weapons that act as a deterrent to prevent war between the two or more states. The development of nuclear technological has changed the nature warfare to a greater extent by reducing chances of War Between the States. During cold war nuclear weapons prevented the direct confrontation between US and USSR. The use of nuclear weapons by either by US or USSR would ensure mutual destruction of both the states.
The use of nuclear weapons is not an acceptable norm at international due to destructive ability to destroy humans indiscriminately. It is considered as taboo by responsible states and international community because of its negative repercussions on the humanity. They are used prevent War among the States. International norms against the use of nuclear weapons have played the significant role in avoiding conflict between the states and acts as a deterrent to states.
According to some experts, war is not obsolete in the contemporary world rather it has transformed the old warfare. The institution war has become more organized and lethal. The modern technology has revolutionized the nature warfare by equipping states with modern weapons. The decline of war as an institution is not easy to achieve with growing insecurities of the states. States are facing security dilemma and in order to compete with other states every state is increasing their defense budget to ensure their security. Similarly, change in international structure from Uni-polarity to Multi-polarity is another reason why states are investing more to improve their military capacity to compete for more than one power at international level.
Moreover, experts are of the view that nuclear weapons are not preventing war instead they are increasing the military disparities between the states. The countries who acquire nuclear weapons after the 1950s are competing with P-5 by developing Tactical Nuclear weapons. They are also known as mini-nukes basically these low-intensity nuclear weapons which are increasing chances of war among the states. The accidental use of tactical weapons can start a war due to growing distrust among major countries of the world. For example, in a case of India and Pakistan, accidental use of tactical nuclear weapons can initiate a war between these two states.
If we analyzed arguments in favor of the obsoleteness of war are based on logical argumentation and empirical evidence. It would be plausible to say that institution of war is facing a decline due to growing awareness among general public and policy makers. War is not cost-effective and becoming a burden on economies of the countries. Similarly, modern weapon technologies have increased the defence budget rather spending this money to eradicate poverty and violence in the world. Moreover, development of nuclear weapons is also contributed in preventing war because the use of nuclear weapons can kill thousands of people within seconds especially after witnessing the example of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.
Despite differences among states they give importance to the process of dialogue to resolve their conflictual issues rather than going for war. The cost of war out weights the benefits of war if we assess the implications of war for humans it would be safe to claim that war cause more problems for people who have to face the consequences of war in the form of loss of their lives and displacement from their respective countries to neighboring areas. It would be plausible say that war between states is obsolete if not within the states. The conflicts within the countries are there but it can be addressed by using dialogue process and giving autonomy to minority groups in the countries.
If we compare and contrast arguments in favor and against of war one can say that war is considered as the only option for states in resolving their issues with other states. The institution of war is facing decline after the conclusion of the two World Wars. War is not used by states to protect their national interests due to its heavy cost in the form of both human and material cost of the war. Globalization has also played significant role limiting the role of War at international level by promoting interdependence among all states of the world. Furthermore, war itself causes more problems rather than resolving contentious issues between the countries.
The increasing economic interdependence among states has decreased chances of war as their economic interests are interlinked. War is expensive for any state since it requires not only man-power but also the economic power to sustain the war for a long time. The countries having viable economies if they start a war consequently it will drain their economy and create issues within their states. The economic integration of regions has paved the way in preventing war between states by bringing stability and prosperity to all states irrespective of their relative power capabilities.
Social constructivism theory is presented by Nicholas Onuf, Alexander Wendt, Emanuel Adler, Friedrich Kratochwil, John Gerard Ruggie and Peter Katzenstein. According to proponents of the social constructivism international structure is socially constructed with interactions of human with each other. States objective goals in the form of security and economic development and subjective goals their international standing are created by their interactions with other actors of the world. States identities and interests are constructed from inter-subjective social structures because global actors interact with each other to formulate their interests by comparing them with other states. The identities and interests of actors are socially constructed by their interaction with each other.
According to constructivists anarchy is not given rather it is socially constructed with interactions of global actors. If all states are interacting in a peaceful manner then it is peaceful and if the country suspects each other intentions then it is conflictual in nature. In simple words, it depends on upon the interactions of the global actors with each other. Constructivist negates realist assumption about anarchy that it is given. It is constructed by an interaction of global actors and it changes the behavior of global actors. The interest of the states keeps on changing with a change in international structure as they are stagnant or permanent.
The international system is not given or present like the solar system. It is constituted by inter-subjective interaction among the people. The international system is constructed with the ideas that are not based on the objective reality. Social Constructivism is based upon the set of ideas, norms of people living in a particular area. According to the constructivists understanding the meanings of ideas and concepts is significant because it is based on interactions human with other by comparing them with each other.
In the case of relations with China and US one can say they experienced ups and downs with the changing nature of their national interests.  During the 1950s, the relations between both the states were conflictual in nature due to American involvement in Korean Peninsula and their support for Nationalist Taiwan. In the 1970s during Nixon Presidency, US tried to normalize their relations by visiting China and accepted People Republic China (PRC) legitimacy using Ping Pong by sending their table tennis team to China. The shift in relations occurred due to changing nature of their national interest and abandons the Nationalists of Taiwan. The US normalized their relations with China to curtail the Russian expansion in the region and increase American area of influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
If we analyzed the relations of the both countries using the Social Constructivists lens one can say China and US have experienced a period of strained relations and normal relations depending upon the nature of interests that are changing with a shift in the international system. It is either peaceful or conflictual in nature. Moreover, in recent past, the increased in economic interdependence has improved their relations with each other due to dependence upon each other for achieving their economic interests. Similarly, China and the USA are competing with other economically due to growing Chinese economy and rise as a major player at international level. China and USA are suspected of each other activities particularly in the Asia-Pacific region due to growing Chinese influence in the region.
The relations between China and US are largely driven by their distinct ideologies and identities. The foreign policy of both of these countries is dependent on their identities which are different from each other. The understanding of their respective identities is essential for making sense of their posture towards each other. States acts according to national interests that are based on their identities. According to Social Constructivism understanding of identities is required to analyze the relations between two states in detail. The role of identities is significant is determining the major policy decisions that are largely dependent upon the ideational factors of the state.
In the context of China and US, the role of the identity cannot be undermined because both give importance to their identities in their relations with each other. The in-depth understanding of the foreign policies of China and US is largely based on their distinct identities. The nature of the relationship between China and US is very complex due to the vital role of their respective identities in their major policy decisions towards each other. China gives importance to its identity in the conduct of their relations with US and rest of the world. In the same way, the US also promotes democracy at the international level that signifies the role of identity in their foreign policy.
To conclude, war is obsolete particularly between the states in the contemporary as no major war is fought between states. The institution war is facing a decline due to its heavy cost paid the people. The countries prefer to use non-military means to increase their sphere of influence rather using force to get their interests. The phenomena of war are not fascinating for young people anymore as it used to be in past. The repercussions of war have far-reaching effects on the humans by disturbing them emotionally and mentally. Moreover, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are another factor which is vital for averting war among the states due to its implications for humans. The countries at international level do not promote war to solve their conflictual issues with each other. The international organizations are effective in ending the war between states by promoting peace and stability. Similarly, the role of effective civil society and epistemic communities cannot be undermined in preventing war at a global level. The epistemic community has played a vital role in stigmatizing the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Lastly, war is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century. Realist school of thought promoted war as tool or Lastly, no doubt war is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century. Realist school of thought promoted war as a tool or mean by states to achieve their national interests. In 21 century the role war is not vital due to increasing in economic interdependence between the states. The economic integration at the regional level is important in ending major conflicts among states of the particular region. War as an institution is not effective at international due to a shift of countries towards non-military means to subdue their rivals rather than indulging them in war or military confrontation with each other.
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Yan Xuetong, “The Instability of China-US Relations,” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 3, no. 3 (2010): xx, doi:10.1093/cjip/poq009.
Foreign fighters a ‘serious crisis’ in Libya
The 20,000 foreign fighters now in Libya represent “a serious crisis” and “a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty”, UN Acting Special Representative Stephanie Williams said on Wednesday, during the latest meeting under the country’s political dialogue forum.
Seventy-five people from across the social and political spectrum of Libyan society are taking part in the forum, aimed at establishing a transitional body that will govern the country in the lead-up to elections next year.
“You may believe that these foreigners are here as your guests, but they are now occupying your house. This is a blatant violation of the arms embargo”, said Ms. Williams, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
“They are pouring weapons into your country, a country which does not need more weapons. They are not in Libya for your interests, they are in Libya for their interests. Dirou balkom (take care). You have now a serious crisis with regard to the foreign presence in your country.”
Chaos, ceasefire and dialogue
Following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya descended into chaos, resulting in the country being divided between two rival administrations: the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the west, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), located in the east.
The sides agreed a ceasefire in October in Geneva, after mediation led by Ms. Williams. Provisions included the withdrawal of all military units and armed groups from the frontlines, and the departure of mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country.
The ceasefire paved the way for the start of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), with a first round of talks held in Tunis from 7- 15 November. The outcome was a roadmap to elections on 24 December 2021: the 70th anniversary of Libya’s independence.
Women participants also issued a statement outlining a series of principles and recommendations for improving women’s participation in the political process and governance.
The second round of talks began last week, with Wednesday marking the third virtual meeting of the parties.
Corruption, misgovernance and ‘political tourism’
Ms. Williams highlighted ongoing challenges in Libya, pointing out that some 1.3 million citizens are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January.
She also reminded participants of the country’s “terrible” electricity crisis, stating “I am not pointing fingers. This is a crisis in the west and in the east. You have a crisis of corruption. You have a misgovernance crisis, and now you have only 13 of 27 powerplants that are functioning.”
Although around $1 billion is needed immediately to avert a complete collapse of the electrical grid, she said “this is very difficult now because of the divisions in the institutions, and because of the epidemic of corruption and this kleptocratic class that is determined to remain in power.”
Meanwhile, human rights abuses are a daily reality nationwide, with reports of kidnapping, arbitrary detentions and killings, and estimates indicate that there are nearly 94,000 cases of COVID-19, though the actual number could be higher.
“While there is a lot of political tourism going to different countries and capitals, the average Libyans are suffering, and the indications of improvement for their situation are not there,” said Ms. Williams.
‘Time is not on your side’
For the UN envoy, the LPDF is the best way for Libya to move forward. Underscoring that there is “a direct cost for inaction and obstruction”, she warned participants that the clock is ticking.
“I know that there are many who think that this whole dialogue is just about sharing power, but it is really about sharing responsibility for future generations”, she said.
“This is my ask of you as we have the discussions today in going forward, because, and I will say it again, time is not on your side.”
The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific
Beijing’s overt expansionism in South Asia and the South China Sea (SCS) continues to threaten India’s maritime security. The rise of China as an Asian military and global economic power has also disrupted the inherent security and multilateralism of the Indo-Pacific region (IPR).
In response, New Delhi along with others has adopted the concept of the Indo-Pacific. However, over the last decade New Delhi’s orientation in the IPR has been particularly “Pacific-oriented”, resulting in a less than comprehensive approach to India’s maritime security priorities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
India’s Strategic Goals in the Indo-Pacific
China’s so-called “peaceful rise” has been betrayed by Beijing’s growing territorial designs in South Asia and the SCS; the ongoing buildup along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and China’s militarised outposts in the SCS are evidence to this. These designs have also been operationalised through economic measures under its predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the “silk road” is a challenge to India’s maritime security.
India’s strategic competition with China has provoked the expansion of national material capacity and foreign policy measures. These are aimed at developing and preserving collective regional security and multilateralism, in India’s primary and secondary interest areas.
However, over the years, New Delhi’s adoption of the IPR concept has witnessed a disproportionate emphasis on the eastern sub-region of the Indian Ocean (EIO) in terms of its maritime security priorities, resulting in a Pacific-oriented approach. A number of factors have brought about such an orientation.
A Pacific-Oriented Approach and the EIO
First, India’s strategic advantage along the “Indo-Pacific straits”. The “Malacca dilemma” gives New Delhi an edge over China’s energy supply-lines, and regional trade from the IOR to the western Pacific Ocean. This advantage is furthered by the development of material capacities, most significant of which has been the establishment of India’s first integrated command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command’s (ANC) surveillance and kinetic capabilities not only improves India’s own security status, but also signals its contribution in preserving collective regional security in the EIO, for example, through the India-Australia-Japan-US Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), or Quad.
Second, the origins of the IPR concept in the now famous “confluence of the seas” speech delivered by PM Shinzo Abe to the Indian Parliament in 2007. The mention of, “[a] “broader Asia” that broke away geographical boundaries…”, or Southeast Asia, highlighted the political locus of the IPR’s confrontation with an “assertive China”. The continued militarisation of the SCS, growing tensions in East Asia, and the US-China strategic competition, helps perpetuate Southeast Asia’s prominence in the IPR discourse.
Third, New Delhi’s continuation of the “Look East” policy as the “Act East” policy (AEP) in 2014. Building on historical ties with Southeast Asia, New Delhi placed ASEAN at the core of the AEP. ASEAN is also considered “central to India’s footprint in East Asia”. These foreign policy measures, focused on developing resilient trans-regional connectivity and supply-chains, flow past the EIO, from the Andaman Sea, through the Malacca strait, to Southeast Asia and beyond.
Fourth, and finally, India’s growing importance in the US-China strategic competition. China’s economic influence in Southeast Asia, along with its large military capabilities, poses a threat to the US’s position as an influential extra-regional power. The recently ratified Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been the latest in a list of disruptions to the US’s predominance in the IPR.
As India’s maritime goals continue to converge with that of the US and its regional allies – Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea – New Delhi’s interests will stretch further into the Pacific theatre, to the SCS, East China Sea and Western Pacific. In fact, some suggest that the idea of a military command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was in fact, first discussed by President Bill Clinton and PM P.V Narashima Rao as a deterrent against China in 1995.
Furthermore, the US defines the IPR as, “…the region which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States…”, thereby excluding the WIOR from its strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific theatre. This explains why the sub-region is understated in India’s IPR discourse.
While Indian Navy (IN) manoeuvres in the region have been generally limited to the IOR, the recent Galwan Valley clash saw an IN warship deployed to the SCS; coincidentally, during an ongoing US naval exercise in the area. There is also a growing call for the expansion of IN presence to the Western Pacific, beyond its mission-based deployments.
Reorienting New Delhi Towards the WIOR
This Pacific-orientation has resulted in the omission of the western sub-region of the Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) from India’s strategic approach to the IPR. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific straits” for those between the EIO and Southeast Asia, already exclude the sub-region from India’s strategic approach to the IPR.
A comprehensive approach to the IOR should obviously entail an emphasis on India’s maritime security priorities in both sub-regions of the IOR.
This in turn will allow New Delhi to realise its interests in the larger Indo-Pacific theatre.
The WIOR is physically a much larger arena, with different regional and extra-regional actors. However, it is a significant arena within the IPR for much of the same reasons as the EIO
The main obstacle of the WIOR, when placed within the IPR concept is that India’s approach to the region diverges greatly from its current IPR partners. Differing priorities, conflicting interests and historical contexts, for example with regards to Pakistan and Iran, have generally muted the region.
The decision to hold the second phase of the 2020 Malabar Exercise in the Arabian Sea is a welcome move in reinforcing the sub-region in India’s IPR approach. New Delhi’s reception of the recently signed Maldives-US defence agreement is also a sign of India’s slow reorientation to the WIOR.
India’s position in the WIOR gives it a number of strategic advantages. The Indian peninsula along with the Lakshadweep Islands and Laccadive Sea, offers New Delhi a unique edge in protecting and overseeing much of the world’s goods trade from the Atlantic Ocean, and energy supplies from West Asia to the Pacific Oceans. The development of material capacities in this arena will act as a springboard for the further enhancement of collective regional security.
The growing participation of extra-regional actors in the WIOR, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the EU, signals to New Delhi the need to include the region in its IPR approach. Pursuing mutually beneficial security and economic arrangements with actors besides its existing IPR partners will also help circumventing current contrasts in maritime priorities and geostrategic interests.
More importantly, China’s growing military and economic presence in the Arabian Sea, through the “string of pearls” and the “maritime silk road”, remains a threat to India’s traditional ties to, and its status as a net-security provider in the WIOR. The Chabahar Port in the Balochistan-Sistan province in Iran is one such economic interest that has seen much controversy; the recent exclusion of India from the Zahedan railway project, and the subsequent agreement of a $400 billion strategic partnership between China and Iran.
The WIOR is also of concern to India due to extant interests, such as maintaining a strategic advantage vis-a-vis Pakistan, enhancing trade with Afghanistan and East Africa, piracy/terrrorism in the Arabian Sea, and energy supplies from the Middle East.
To secure India’s maritime priorities in the IOR, but also consolidate its vision for the IPR, New Delhi needs to reorient itself, determine its strategic advantages in the WIOR, and develop national capacity and foreign policy measures equivalent to those in the EIO.
On the Universality of the “Logic of Strategy” and Beyond
Just like several other scholars, military strategist Edward Luttwak argues that “the universal logic of strategy applies in perfect equality to every culture in every age”.[i] This implies that there is indeed one logic inherent to strategic thought, which, according to Luttwak, “cannot be circumvented […] and must be obeyed”.[ii]Mahnken further underpins the idea of the universality of the logic of strategy with the argument that war is a human activity and human nature has not changed throughout time.[iii]When considering Colin Gray stating that “there is an essential unity to all strategic experience in all periods of history because nothing vital to the nature and function of war and strategy changes”, it seems rather natural to accept a certain inevitability of strategic conclusions.[iv]
It is therefore necessary to pose the question which implications the existence of a universal logic of strategy might entail. If such a universally valid logic is assumed to exist, those who understand – or rather master – it best and manage to uncover its underlying cognitive mechanisms will be the most successful actors within the international system as they will be more able to foresee and therefore counter the strategies of possible opponents.
Additionally, to investigate the notion of a logic of strategy is particularly relevant considering the prospect of future wars. If there is a logic of strategy, which is further universally valid, then neither the scenario of a militarized outer space, nor the invention of highly lethal, insuperable biological weapons or the increasing development of and reliance on artificial intelligence will have any substantial, altering effect on it. This thought is congruent with Colin Gray, who claims that it would be a major fallacy to fall prey to the assumption that the invention of ever more modern weapon systems might change the presumed continuity inherent to strategy.[v] In this respect, it must also be emphasized that a certain trust in a universally valid logic of strategy must be handled carefully and must not confine strategic thinking. Hence, the notion of a logic of strategy hints towards the very practice of strategy.[vi]
The term “strategy” itself evolved over time and certainly captured a different meaning before World War One than it does today. This caesura was introduced by Freedman, who argues that this experience led to a widening of the concept “strategy” and to several attempts of redefinition, thus diverging from earlier notions of the concept as provided by von Clausewitz and others.[vii] However, Whetham points out that the notion of strategy and its inherent logic already permeated pre-modern eras, even if it was not yet considered or referred to as such by the respective protagonists.[viii]Approaching the term from a contemporary perspective, Gray very prominently defines strategy as “the bridge that relates military power to political purpose”.[ix]Angstrom and Widen engage with the term similarly when they write that strategy must be viewed as a rationalist process that reconciles “the political aims of war and the military aims in war”.[x] The notion of strategy can therefore be boiled down to the combination of means, ways and aims.
The term “logic” shall in this essay be understood as a rational process of reasoning that is based on various premises and finally leads to the acceptance of a valid conclusion.[xi]Considering that the sub-discipline of strategic studies was traditionally occupied with the question whether and to what extent strategic action is subject to historical, economic, social and technological regularities and patterns – thus whether certain premises indeed necessarily lead to specific strategic conclusions – the assumption of a specific “logic of strategy” does not seem far-fetched. Therefore, this essay argues that indeed a universally valid logic inherent to strategy can be identified, having overcome the constraints of time and space. However, this logic is not the only one. Strategy further operates along the lines of a time- and space-bound, actor-specific logic, which is why strategy must be perceived through a multidimensional lens – and which finally makes strategy so difficult.
On the logic of strategy
When approaching the notion of a logic of strategy, it is necessary to emphasize two preconditions. Firstly, the utility of the use of military force as an important tool of statecraft must be acknowledged.[xii] Secondly, one has to consider the general overarching perception of international politics that widely underlies the field of strategic studies, namely the notion of an anarchic self-help system with independent states at its center, which are all armed to a certain extent and therefore find themselves in security dilemmas.[xiii] Within this framework we will now consider what might constitute the logic of strategy.
When elaborating on the question whether there exist “guidelines” that inform strategic thinking, Gaddis concludes that the fact that strategists do not always have to start from square one increases the likeliness of a certain logic of strategy.[xiv] According to Angstrom and Wilden, the logic of strategy unfolds as its design necessarily bases on three core pillars.[xv]Firstly, military and political ends are perceived as two distinct aspects that need to be put into accordance, the application of military means serving the political ends. Moreover, the actor being concerned with strategy does not have unlimited resources at his/her disposal. Therefore, the aspect of the scarcity of resources is to be viewed as a cornerstone or fixed determinant of the underlying logic of strategy. This is a crucial factor because, as Gray points out, examples like Imperial France, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union all demonstrate that the pursuit of political ends beyond one’s means is bound to fail.[xvi]Thirdly, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that the logic of strategy builds on the confrontation of opposing wills, which accounts for strategy’s interactive and consequently dynamic nature.[xvii] This component might be captured best by Beaufre, who approaches strategy as “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute”.[xviii] It is crucial to highlight that the “opposing will” belongs to an intelligent, capable opponent. These three elements that define the logic of strategy are further interlinked, leading to repercussions among them.
As strategy describes the use of military means for the achievement of political ends, several authors have thus attempted to categorize the possible ways to use force. For instance, Robert Art distinguishes four functions of the use of force: defense, deterrence, compellence and swaggering.[xix] Why is this categorization important when reflecting on the logic of strategy? This is because the possible ways to use force (independently of which form the specific “force” takes) are not time-bound. When for example thinking of deterrence, one might be tempted to assume that this specific way to use force is inextricably linked to the deterrence function of nuclear arms in combination with the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, as Lonsdale vividly illustrates, Alexander the Great already mastered the interplay of military power and psychological effects and made use of coercion and deterrence in order to expand and sustain the newly shaping borders of his empire.[xx] This demonstrates that the logic of strategy operates on the basis of a certain toolkit of ways to use force, which have persisted over time.
Another aspect which could be interpreted as part of a universal logic of strategy might be its inherent paradoxicality. This feature is above all emphasized by Edward Luttwak, who postulates that the whole strategic sphere is permeated with a paradoxical logic deviating from day-to-day life’s ordinary “linear” logic.[xxi] He underpins this notion by referring to the proverb “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, the idea of nuclear deterrence (thus the interpretation of one’s readiness to attack retaliatory as genuinely peaceful intent) or by providing specific examples.[xxii] In this sense he draws attention to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and claims that the Japanese were able to create a momentum of surprise only by neglecting crucial preparations.[xxiii] This means that within the realm of strategy, Luttwak’s paradoxical logic finds thorough application as the straightforward “linear” logic is viewed rather predictable and is therefore more likely to be punished.
In sum, the aspects outlined above could be perceived as being universally valid, throughout time and space. However, as will be argued, there is more to the logic of strategy that must be considered.
Going Beyond Strategy’s Universal Logic
In the following, the attempt should be undertaken to challenge the notion that there is indeed only a logic of strategy. One could firstly argue that strategy, bridging between military means and political objectives, is not only grounded in the specific universal logic as outlined before but that strategy is also always a choice among several available options. Then the question follows, if all options available would theoretically all be equally feasible, require the same resources and are similar in terms of effectiveness, which strategy would be adopted? One could argue that this depends on the involved actors, which, even if acting under the premise of rationality, are rooted in their specific historical, social and political contexts.
Strategy is therefore clearly not designed within a vacuum. The contents of strategy do not only derive from what was described above as composing the universally valid logic of strategy. If we return to the definition of “logic”, the term was understood as a process of thought, which leads from several given premises to a valid conclusion under the condition of rationality. Therefore, also the given time- and space-bound circumstances under which a certain strategy is formulated could be considered as forming their own logic. Angstrom and Widen summarize these circumstances as strategic context, which unfolds along the lines of six dimensions of politics (without claiming to be exhaustive): geography, history, ideology, economy, technology and the political system.[xxiv] Instead of treating them as mere contextual factors, it is important to consider the respective as constituting their own logic, along which strategy is aligned. However, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that these actor-specific factors only bear limited explanatory power and that it is difficult to assess to what extent these factors influence the design of strategies.[xxv] This, nevertheless, does not invalidate the notion that these actor-, time- and space-specific circumstances should be considered as another logic by itself. Acknowledging the existence of more than one logic of strategy penetrating the realm of strategy would further emphasize the importance of the specific embeddedness of strategy – without undermining the significance of the above identified universally valid logic of strategy. One would consequently accept that when it comes to strategy, one encounters several logics in action.
When returning to the initial question, which implications the existence of a logic of strategy would have, specifically regarding the prospect of success, it is worthwhile to consult Richard Betts, who asks “Is Strategy an Illusion?”.[xxvi] He argues that effective strategy is often impossible due to the unpredictability and complexity of the gap between the use of force and the aspired political ends.[xxvii] However, it is indeed because of this overwhelming complexity in which strategy operates that its underlying logics should be reflected upon. Gaddis refers to the universally valid features of the logic of strategy as a “checklist”, which shall be considered to contribute to the design of a successful, effective strategy.[xxviii] As was demonstrated above, it is nevertheless also crucial to consider the additional specific time-and space-bound logic of strategy. To understand the strategy of potential opponents, it makes sense to deconstruct its logical foundation, to consider the universally valid logic of strategy but also the respective underlying actor-specific logic. Strategy thus operates along a multidimensional logic, both universally valid and time- and space-bound. This is what makes strategy difficult but acknowledging this conceptual aspect might notwithstanding contribute to its further mastery.
[i]Luttwak, Edward N., The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2012), vii.
[iii]Mahnken, Thomas G., The Evolution of Strategy… But What About Policy? Journal of Strategic Studies 34 no. 4 (2016), 52.
[iv]Gray, Colin S.,Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1.
[v]Gray Colin S., Why Strategy Is Difficult. JFQ (1999), 8.
[vi] Cf. Lonsdale, David J. and Colin S. Gray (eds.), The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011).
[vii]Freedman, Lawrence. The Meaning of Strategy: Part I: The Origin Story. Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (2007), 90-105.
[viii]Whetham, David, The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Edited by John Andreas Olsen and Colin S. Gray. War in History 21 no. 2 (2014), 252.
[ix] Gray, Modern Strategy,17.
[x]Armstrong, Jan and J. J. Widen,Contemporary Military Theory. The Dynamics of War (New York: Routledge, 2015), 33. Original emphasis.
[xii]Art, Robert J., To What Ends Military Power? International Security 4 no. 4 (1980), 35.
[xiii]Gilpin, Robert G., No one Loves a Political Realist. Security Studies 5 no. 3(1996), 26.
[xiv]Gaddis, John Lewis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy. The National Interest 8 no. 10 (1987), 29.
[xv] Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 46.
[xvi]Gray, Why Strategy Is Difficult, 10.
[xvii] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory.
[xviii]Beaufre, André, An Introduction to Strategy (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 22.
[xix] Cf. Art, To What Ends Military Power?
[xx]Lonsdale, David J., The Campaigns of Alexander the Great. In: John A. Olsen; Colin S. Gray (eds.). The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011)33.
[xxi]Luttwak, Edward N., Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2.
[xxiii] Ibid., 6.
[xxiv] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 36-43.
[xxv] Ibid., 42-43.
[xxvi] Cf. Betts, Richard K., Is Strategy an Illusion? International Security 25 no. 2 (2000), 5-50.
[xxviii] Gaddis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy, 38.
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