Title: The Obsolescence of Conventional War
Author: Major H. R. Gielow
Thesis: That conventional war is a thing of the past but that conventional forces remain
Discussion: The elemental nature of war is unchanging and consists of the use of force to compel another to one's will. The character of war, however, is determined by the historical and social setting within which it occurs. As the contemporary state system is a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of mankind, definitions of the nature of war which describe it only in this context are flawed. Moreover, contemporary developments indicate significant changes in the Westphalian system of sovereign states which are altering the character of conventional war. At the same time, technological advances make conventional forces increasingly vulnerable on the modern battlefield. The combination of the changing character of war and the increasing vulnerability of conventional forces to modern weapons calls into question the utility of these forces. Their utility will be determined by the ends to which they are applied and how they are employed.
Conventional war is becoming obsolete. This is due to an evolution in the rules which shape the character of war. By conventional war what is meant is a contest of wills by means of force governed by the following rules: that the ends sought are the maintenance or extension of the power or means of influence of the state; that the individual state is the sole authority in the control of that force; and that force is restricted to the use of military organizations in its implementation. The nature of war itself is unchanging and is defined by the use of force to compel another to one's will (@Footnote@Carl Von Clausewitz, "On War," Edited and Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1976, p75). The character of war in any particular historical or social setting is determined by those rules or conventions that define and restrict its legitimacy in regards to what it is fought for, who it is fought by, and how it is fought.
Those who write doctrine, as well as those who teach our future leaders, are struggling to redefine how military force can and should be used in the future. The immediate focus of this struggle is brought about by many factors. Fiscal constraints provide the near term requirement to refocus on doctrinal issues, as these constraints severely restrict the possible force structure developed from the accepted doctrine. Technological developments that provide significant leaps in threat capability against conventional forces provide the long range focus on emerging requirements to deal with those threats. These two elements alone are sufficient to cause considerable consternation as to how conventional forces will be used in the future.
Leaving these considerations aside, some would argue that the current and emerging nuclear threat environment, with as much as a fifty percent growth in the number of nuclear powers predicted in the next decade (@Footnote@Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, "The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate," W. W. Norton and Company, New York/London, 1995, p1), will, in and of itself, relegate the use of conventional forces to insignificance. The Army's efforts in the 1950's to develop techniques for the effective employment of military forces on a nuclear battlefield were an attempt to justify the relevance of these forces in a limited nuclear war. These efforts having been abandoned along with the fielding of tactical nuclear weapons, the question that caused them to emerge must be addressed in a different light. The question is rather, can conventional military forces be used in the current or anticipated expanded nuclear world with the potential risks of precipitating a nuclear response? Are there any conditions under which conventional forces could still be used in a substantially expanded nuclear world, or is the use of conventional forces made obsolete?
Last, but perhaps most significantly, a new form of warfare appears to be emerging which does not conform to our conceptions of how war should be fought. So foreign is it to our conception of war that it is not even called by that name, but is rather called Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) or Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW). Numerous professional articles have been written addressing these types of conflicts as the growth market in the future use of military power. In fact, many would argue that they have been emerging for some time and have already proven the inability of conventional forces to deal with them. If these conflicts are not war as we are wont to describe war, then defining what they are will be essential to our ability to combat them, for it is from our concepts of what war is that are developed the concepts of how it should be conducted. Defining the future character of war is an essential first step in coming to grips with these challenges. The central thesis of this paper is that conventional war is a thing of the past, but that conventional forces still continue to be relevant. This paper, being a critique of Martin van Crevald's book "The Transformation of War," will first outline his central arguments. It will then show that the current and anticipated expanded presence of nuclear weapons does not, in and of itself, make conventional forces irrelevant. Next, it will explore the impact of social developments on the evolving character of war. It will then assay the implications of this as they pertain to the continued relevance of conventional military forces. It will conclude by showing how conventional forces will maintain their relevance in future war.
Chapter I: Synopsis of Van Crevald's Key Arguments
Van Crevald's central argument is that modern forces are useless as a means of conducting war in today's environment. The two characteristics of this environment which he argues render conventional forces obsolete are the current and anticipated expanded presence of states possessing nuclear weapons and the increasing predominance of conflicts characterized by the use of force by non-state actors for other than state interests.
Van Crevald's treatment of the impact of nuclear weapons on the use of conventional forces is limited to that history which supports his conclusion. For example, he argues that superpowers have only been able to employ conventional forces in cases where vital interests were not at stake. Several examples are used to support this conclusion. Left out is any possible use of conventional forces in support of less than vital interests or any attempt to define when and why an interest may be considered vital to a particular state.
He also argues that the initiation of hostilities against a superpower or its allies borders on the ridiculous," and that superpower non-nuclear allies have historically been immune to conventional war. Where the historical record does not support his conclusion, as in the Arab attack on Israel in 1973, his analysis stops short of an explanation of why deterrence did not work or how the Arab use of conventional forces in that instance had no utility. In fact, Van Crevald's explanation of the impact of conventions or rules on the character of war contradicts his very premise as he clearly shows that is the rules which determine how wars are fought, not necessarily the availability of any particular weapon or weapons system.
His analysis of the rules of war and their impact on rendering conventional forces obsolete forms the major thrust of his work. He argues that changes in social norms have given rise to wars fought by non-state controlled actors for non-political ends using unconventional methods which creates an environment within which state controlled modern military forces are useless. His arguments rest on the past failures of conventional forces in dealing with such conflicts: the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Cuba in Angola, Syria in Lebanon, and India in Sri Lanka to list a few. His analysis falls short, however, in that it deals with only half of the transformation occurring in the character of war due to emerging social rules. He concentrates on the emergence of religious and ethnic strife and civil wars, but omits the equally important emergence of the collective use of force in support of an increasingly shared international system of values. Although the impact of the rules on the character of war is treated separately in his work from the nuclear issue, if rules of war do exist, it seems inconceivable that they would not also apply in some form to the most destructive tool in its arsenal. It is to the issue of the impact of these rules on the use of nuclear weapons that we will, therefore, first turn.
Chapter II: Conventional Forces in a Nuclear Age
The first argument which Van Crevald advances as posing a threat to the relevance of conventional forces is the current and anticipated expanded presence of non-US aligned states possessing nuclear weapons. In order to determine what inhibiting or prohibitive effect this has on the use of conventional forces, it is necessary to understand what purpose nuclear weapons serve today and how they fulfill that purpose.
Nuclear weapons have never been used in an attack upon another state in a world in which two or more states had them. Although this is not proof that they will never be used in this manner, their current utility and use since World War II has been in deterrence and compellance. As deterrence has a negative aim, it is difficult to measure the absolute effect of the deterrent force; however, if deterrence is to be effective at all, it must rely on several factors. First, the deterring state must be perceived to have the ability to inflict unacceptably high punishment on the would be aggressor. Second, the deterring state must be perceived to have the will to deliver this punishment in retaliation for aggression. Third, those interests in support of which deterrence is applied must be sufficiently "vital" to make nuclear deterrence credible and clearly understood to be vital by the would be aggressor. Based upon these factors, if it necessarily follows that conventional forces would never be used against the interests of a nuclear state or, if deterrence failed and they were used, the nuclear retaliation threatened would necessarily follow, then a strong case can be made for conventional force obsolescence. We will examine this in some detail as it forms one of Van Crevald's principle arguments in favor of conventional force obsolescence.
The knowledge of a state's possession of nuclear weapons capability does not, in itself, prevent other states from attacking them, or their interests, with conventional forces. Although arguments will be advanced as to why this is so, historical evidence provides a surer indication. The October 1973 Arab Israeli War is one example. Israel's nuclear weapons capability was apparently known to Egypt as early as 1967. Their possible possession of a bomb was known in 1969 (@Footnote@Martin van Crevald, "The Transformation of War," The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, Inc., New York, 1991, p15). Still, a conventional attack was launched. The Gulf War Iraqi Scud attacks on Israel, whose nuclear arsenal was estimated at one hundred weapons in addition to long range delivery systems (@Footnote@Sagan and Waltz, p129), are a second example. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait itself, although not a direct attack on the United States, was a clear threat to US vital interests as evidenced by our response. The possibility that Iraq did not perceive this to be a threat to US vital interests made it no less a threat. Argentina's invasion of the British owned Falkland Islands in 1982 provides yet another example.
The examples cited indicate, as well, that certain conditions apparently must be met when using conventional forces in a nuclear world. Although not meant to sound trite about a serious subject, these conditions amount to a sort of rulebook for the conduct of modern war. It should not be surprising that these rules exist. Warfare has always been governed by rules, be they implicit or explicit, which have varied according to the circumstances associated with the historical setting in which they evolved. It may seem absurd to us today that armies would choose champions to represent their cause and accept defeat if their champion lost, but our incredulity makes this no less of an historical occurrence. How much more absurd it is to assume that norms and conventions would not be developed in a nuclear age where the destructive potential is unthinkable. The historical case presented allowed combat but limited its destruction. Contemporary conventions do the same, the following being a discussion of them.
When the objective is clearly limited, nuclear retaliation should not occur. The Iraqi Scud attack on Israel during the Gulf War fits this rule. Iraq's intention was clear: to draw Israel into the war and thereby destroy the coalition aligned against him. Additionally, the objective was necessarily and obviously limited. Large-scale destruction of Israel with Iraqi Scuds was impossible due to their limited numbers and inaccuracy. Chemical and biological agents were not used, although they could have been. Additionally, Iraq was obviously too occupied with other matters for this attack to signify a grander scheme against Israel.
Another example is the Libyan engagement of US fighters off the coast of Libya. Although the outcome was not in Libya's favor, a nuclear response would have been preposterous even had the engagement turned out otherwise. Libya's objective was clearly limited: the enforcement of their rights to extended territorial waters. Their intention to enforce this extended zone had been plainly articulated. The United States picked up the gauntlet expecting full well to be challenged. If a vital interest requiring a nuclear response would have been risked by doing so, this would have been, equally, clearly articulated before the challenge was accepted.
The last example points to another rule: if the attack is not conducted on a vital interest that has been clearly articulated, as well as, perhaps, tied to potential "disastrous consequences," nuclear retaliation should not occur. The Libyan's actions are one example. The North Korean attack of South Korea in June, 1950 is another, as it came only after South Korea was explicitly excluded from America's extended deterrent perimeter. Rationally speaking, however, what state would risk setting the international precedent of use of nuclear weapons over an issue that, one, could be resolved by conventional military or other means or, two, was of relatively little significance? This is not to say that the lives of military men and women are insignificant or that national honor and prestige have no practical value, but that there is, normally, a relatively unambiguous, sub-nuclear level of force associated with their protection.
When the intent of assistance or nonintervention by other states in the conflict is declared, and the conflict involves only one or no nuclear powers, conventional forces may be used. The British use of conventional forces in the Falkland Islands is one example of this rule. The United States indicated both its acquiescence in the British operation as well as its intent to assist them in some limited ways. The United States assurance of non-intervention in the Soviet Union's 1956 suppression of the Hungarian revolt is another example (@Footnote@Sagan and Waltz, p26). The use of conventional forces by the coalition against Iraq is the most recent example of this rule.
It should be clear from the previous examples that conventional forces can be used in a contemporary nuclear world. Additionally, they can also be used against the interests of another nuclear state. Some would argue that this use cannot be against another state's vital interests. Without delving too deeply into how one defines what a state's "vital" interests are, however, it seems that the presence of both the interest and the articulation or conveyance of the idea that it is vital are both required. A post facto conveyance of the vital nature of the interest can be seen in the extent of a state's willingness to expend national blood and treasure in its defense as, "...In all cases, the costs and risks of US military involvement must be judged to be commensurate with the stakes involved (@Footnote@US National Security Strategy, "A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement," February, 1995, p13).
The definition of a free and independent South Korea as a vital US interest in the fifties was made after the fact of the North Korean invasion by the extent of the cost that the US was willing to bear. To argue after the fact that no vital interest was involved is both pointless and self-contradictory unless one is defining what might be considered vital in the future. The same may be said of the US leadership against Iraq in the Gulf War. Prior to Iraq's attack, the vital nature of US interests may have been ambiguous. The extent of our involvement and commitment in light of estimates of the casualties that could be expected, as well as national statements, conveyed the vital nature of our interests after the fact.
The nature of the interest involved is also important in determining a state's reaction in the case where nuclear deterrence has failed. As previously stated, for a nuclear deterrent to be credible requires that the interest be vital and that it be credibly conveyed as such. The value of nuclear weapons lies in their utility to deter or compel. Once deterrence has failed, their utility becomes much more limited. If the attack does not threaten a credible vital interest, the utility of nuclear retaliation must be weighed against the potential results of a nuclear exchange, given that both states possess nuclear attack capability.
Waltz argues that this is the wrong way of looking at the problem, and what should rather be questioned is the idea that the initial attack would ever occur considering the uncertainty, albeit nonetheless high cost, of the deterrent threat being carried out. None of the previous arguments are meant to suggest that a nuclear world, be it as it presently stands or a greatly expanded one, is a safe world. Nor is it intended to suggest that states always act rationally. The point is that conventional forces can be, and are, used in a nuclear world. More importantly, whether the conventions and rules are rational or not, rules and conventions, be they implicit or explicit, do exist. How war is conducted, the constraints placed upon its use, in fact what it is all about, are defined by the historical and social setting within which war occurs. Rules of war have always existed. To understand contemporary war, as well as to understand the future of war, one must understand the impact of social developments on these rules, for war is, if anything, a social activity. Although the nature of war is constant, its character is a reflection of the rules of war. It is to the impact of social developments on the rules of war and, therefore, its character that we will now turn.
Chapter III: The Changing Rules of War
The central argument under discussion is that conventional war is obsolete, but that conventional forces are still relevant. Before examining the impact of social developments on the rules of war and, therefore, its character, a review of what is meant by the terms war, and conventional war is useful. To begin with, regardless of its historical setting, war is, in its elemental form, a contest of wills by means of force. As such, it necessarily involves people, whether the conflict be carried out by individual champions representative of a collection of peoples or whether it be carried out by organized forces. To attribute anything else to war does nothing to alter its nature, but does define its character.
For example, to say that war is conducted rationally in the pursuit of self-interest defines a possible characteristic of war. Likewise, to describe war, in its elemental form, as a continuation of state policy describes, not its nature, but its character as carried out in a particular historical setting and social system. As the contemporary state system is a relatively recent development in the history of man, to define the elemental nature of war as a continuation of state policy is to discount any conflict which occurred prior to the existence of the state system as being war. The fact that these conflicts did occur and that we refer to them as wars makes defining war solely in the context of the state system irrelevant. Such a definition does, however, reflect contemporary social rules which determine the character, and allow a definition, of conventional war. In fact, an understanding of what is meant by the term "conventional" not only helps us define our terms, but also emphasizes the importance of social rules in shaping the character of war. A convention is "a general consent, or something established by it; precedent; custom; specifically, a rule, principle, form, or technique in conduct or art." (@Footnote@Britannica World Language Edition of Funk and Wagnell's Standard Dictionary). Combining the two definitions, conventional war is a contest of wills by means of force governed by rules. It is these rules which we will now explore to determine the impact of social developments on both the character and conduct of war.
The contemporary view that war is a continuation of state policy represents a social rule that the state should control the use of force. One aspect, then, of conventional war that must be analyzed to determine its obsolescence is the degree to which this rule is still adhered to. In order to do this, certain aspects of the state system must be understood. This system, which was established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, emerged as a result of the collapse of the medieval social system during the Thirty Years War. It created the basis for a decentralized system of sovereign and equal states. It is the concepts of sovereignty and equality within the state system that are central to our present discussion.
The principle of sovereignty as applied to the state - defined by a geographical border and controlled by a system of government - grants that state supreme authority to act within a particular sphere. It follows that, in a system within which more than one sovereign state exists, equality in their interactions is necessary or else the supreme authority granted them is meaningless. The conventional state system, as brought to us by The Treaty of Westphalia, admits of no power external to or above the state in that state's exercise of its authority. Also significant to our discussion is that the technological, economic and social developments of that era which increased the abilities of the governments to control and defend their borders were instrumental in the emergence of this system. The long struggle of the Thirty Years War and the devastation which it brought hardened the resolve to find some means to control it. Technological developments, such as interchangeable parts, gunpowder, and the matchlock musket, provided the tools which made border defense more possible and its attack more costly. The discovery of trade routes to the New World and Far East provided an influx of capital necessary to fund large, centrally controlled standing armies, which also contributed to the creation of large bureaucracies to facilitate this control. The increased centralization of power decreased the power of the independent nobility, and the pluralization of religion decreased the power of the church. The centralizing tendencies of all of these factors helped to provide the conditions under which the sovereignty of the state could be realized.
The rule of state control of the use of force means that each individually recognized state is the supreme authority in the exercise of a directing, restraining, or governing influence over the use of force in the protection or promotion of its interests. To the extent that this rule is no longer adhered to, then, this aspect of conventional war has changed. Two developments indicate the decreasing applicability of this rule to war today: the increased reliance on and influence of international norms in the use of force, and the legitimization of the use of force by non-state actors.
The supreme authority of the state in the exercise of force is becoming increasingly constrained by the influence of international norms of behavior. This creates a situation in which the ability of the state to pursue individualistic ends, whether through the use of force or otherwise, is problematic, calling into question the rules of sovereignty and equality. One of the significant developments which can be seen to be common to the emergence of the modern state system, as well as to its current apparent modification, is the ability of the individual states to control their own borders. The increasing integration and interdependence of today's world has a concurrent effect of decreasing the state's ability to control events within its own borders as well as the effects of these events outside their borders. As the impact of individual state actions becomes less restricted to their own state and, concurrently, of greater impact on the well being of other states, the absolute authority vested in the state by the rule of sovereignty begins to lose its significance.
An example of the restraining influence of international norms on state behavior can be seen in the case of the Nicaraguan complaint to the international court of justice of the illegality of US support to the military groups attempting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and the US mining of Nicaraguan harbors. The Reagan administration announced that it would not accept the jurisdiction of the court for a period of two years. The court determined to adjudicate the case anyway and denied the validity of US attempts to excuse itself. Although the decision in favor of Nicaragua was not reached for two years, the court did make an interim ruling ordering the US not to restrict access to Nicaraguan ports. To this, the US agreed to comply. Moreover, during the two year period of the courts proceedings, the US congress increasingly pulled back from its support to the Contras and, in 1984, cut off funding to the CIA due to revelations of harbor mining (@Footnote@Lynn H. Miller, "Global Order: Values and Power in International Politics," Westview Press, Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, 1994, p86).
The exercise of a directing, restraining, or governing influence over the use of force is becoming increasingly shared by collective international organizations of individual states. Consequently, the rules governing the purposes to which force should be applied are also being modified to correspond to a more pre-Westphalian, centralized, normative structure.
The UN system represents a clear departure from the Westphalian system by deligitimizing the absolute authority of the state in the pursuit of individualistic interests. States are no longer the absolute authority in the determination of the legitimacy of the use of force. Instead, the use of force is legitimized or condemned in as much as its use serves the ends of a particular set of absolute values. Although the rule governing what wars are fought about will be addressed next, it is important to note its root in the social determination of legitimate authority.
Legitimacy in the use of force pertains to its use in conformity with law or custom. This is highlighted by the definition of violence as physical force unlawfully exercised. The concept of the legitimate use of force is inextricably linked to the concept of legitimate authority. The use of force as a means of persuasion and dramatization of issues is called violence when its use is considered illegitimate. This determination of illegitimacy may be because force is not exercised by legitimate authority or is executed in contradiction to accepted laws and customs, as legitimacy bases itself on appeals to the past while justification relates to a future end. Legitimate authority, therefore, rests upon respect for the foundational basis of the authority of an individual, office, or institution, whether that basis be found in religion, law, reason, or simply tradition. It is the emergence of the social rule restricting legitimacy in the use of force to its direction by the state through and against military organizations under the authority of a system based on absolute values that Van Crevald overlooks. The rules governing by whom, for what purpose, and how force is applied, rules that shape the character of war, are in transition. In any transition, new rules vie for legitimacy. Although the continued utility of conventional forces will be addressed further, one critical as well as often overlooked use is in the reinforcement of the social rules which pertain to the distinction between force and violence, a breakdown in which leads to both contempt for established authority and the erosion of its legitimacy. If we consider the alternatives, this is of no little consequence. It is this transition in the rules which define legitimacy that produces the challenge to conventional forces.
A consequence of the erosion of the absolute sovereignty of the state is the justification of the use of force against that state which does not conform to the value system which is set up as the standard. Within the UN system, this justification applies to the collective use of force by member states against that state which has transgressed the norms. When the absolute authority of the state, however, is no longer maintained, legitimacy in the use of force against it is not restricted to outside forces. Its use by civil forces within the state which is in violation of international norms is also legitimized. The result is a breakdown in not only the rule of who or what organization should control the use of force, but also the rule of who or what organization should implement that force. A dichotomy in the system has, therefore, arisen within which the legitimization in both the control and implementation of force becomes a relative matter.
Within the UN system, a governing influence in the legitimization of the use of force is exercised by the international collective, the directing influence is exercised by the individual states, and the implementation of force is restricted to the military. Outside this system, meaning those states which are not members, those member states which have transgressed the norms, or non-state entities, distinctions break down. The classification of those engaging in war as freedom fighters or terrorists becomes relative. The barrier separating the military, the government, and the people in war is no longer clear. In fact, the ability of the state to govern at all comes into question as its legitimacy and authority erode.
It is this dichotomy in the system which produces the challenge to the utility of conventional forces. To focus on the enemy becomes complicated by defining who the enemy is. Defining centers of gravity of opposing forces becomes less quantifiable as militaries and peoples become intermixed in the struggle. Penetrating, outflanking or turning on the enemy's front becomes irrelevant when the enemy presents no front or rear. It is this type of war, normally referred to as Low Intensity Conflict or Military Operations Other Than War, that has been argued makes conventional forces obsolete. Its principle characteristics are defined in regards to: its location, as they tend to arise with greater frequency in lesser developed world areas; its force, a mixture of military, paramilitary, terrorist, and civilian groups; and its equipment which is normally not of the technological sophistication of modern conventional forces.
To classify conventional forces as obsolete as a result of these developments, however, is problematic. First, the dichotomy which exists in legitimizing the implementation of force nevertheless restricts its implementation within the UN system to the military structures. If obsolescence is determined by ineffectiveness in achieving the objectives to which force is applied, a breakdown in the collective system of state directed force would remove any enforcement capability, and therefore effectiveness, of the UN system. Second, the dichotomy has not resulted in the absence of threat conventional forces. What has resulted is the emergence of threats comprised of a mixture of conventional and unconventional forces. In states where the government maintains control over the use of force, conventional militaries still exist. The implementation of force, however, is not always restricted to the military. State sponsored terrorism using non military forces may also be used, either within a particular theater or exported in direct attacks against opposing governments or their peoples. The continued use of conventional forces, however, makes like forces necessary as it is these forces which constitute the focus of action through which the aggressor is achieving his aim and by which he hopes to achieve the decision. If that aim is the forceful acquisition of another state's territory, it is by means of conventional forces that it will be carried out. This example goes to the very heart of the matter, as the concepts of borders, fronts, and rears is inseparably linked to the concept of the state - that geographical area within which a particular government exercises control. In fact, it is in those areas where the state has lost control internally and is unable or unwilling to restrict the impact of this to its own borders that we see the greatest impact of the implementation of force by non state controlled actors. In such situations, the question that should be asked is not whether conventional forces are relevant in the application of force in these areas, but rather under what conditions they should be used and for what purpose. This will define their utility and relevance. The rules of the game still mandate respect for international borders. The change to reliance on a universal normative standard, however, modifies these rules in ways that will affect what future wars will be fought about and to what purposes military forces will be applied.
The third argument in support of conventional force obsolescence in the context of non-state controlled force relates to the inability of conventional forces to effectively combat components who are waging unconventional warfare. By unconventional what is meant is that it does not conform to the rules (conventions) of the game of war: use of terrorist tactics, guerrilla warfare, use of weapons of mass destruction, and attacks by non military units on military as well as civilian targets for example. Again, the problem lies not so much in the lack of utility of conventional forces as it lies in the purposes to which they are applied. What must be resolved is the question of to what purposes the collective application of conventional military forces will be employed and how they will achieve those purposes. To answer this question, it is necessary to first examine how the rules have changed in regards to the ends which the application of force is expected to achieve.
The contemporary view of the purposes for which wars are fought are an outgrowth of the conventions of the equality and sovereignty of states. Under such conventions, war as a continuation of politics means nothing more than that war is a tool in the maintenance or extension of the power or means of influence of the state. This is not to say that values or ideals have no place in the actions of states, but rather that the preservation and enhancement of state power is the ultimate social value. It is the value by which all other ends of the state are to be judged, for it is, itself, inspired by the moral principle of national survival for which purpose the state exists. To say that moral issues do not come into play in international politics is equally erroneous as saying that moral issues are the overriding factor in those politics. As Roosevelt said in a statement addressing the German violation of Belgian neutrality in World War I, "I take this position as an American who is no more an Englishman than he is a German, who endeavors loyally to serve the interests of his own country, but who also endeavors to do what he can for justice and decency as regards mankind at large. .." (@Footnote@Hans J. Morgenthau, "A Realist Theory of Intrnational Politics," in "The Puritan Ethic in United States Foreign Policy", edited by David L. Larsen, University of New Hampshire, D. Van Norstrand Company Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, New York, 1966, p74). Although moral issues have a place in conventional war, it is always a distant second to state interest, for while an individual may freely choose to sacrifice himself in a moral cause, the state, whose highest moral cause can only be served by its continued existence, has no right to do so. Conventional war between states in the state system, therefore, is nothing more or less than another means by which the state pursues its self-interest.
The second rule which has changed which makes conventional war obsolete is that which classified war as an extension of the politics of a sovereign state. War is no longer justified by its role in the extension or preservation of state power. Instead, war is justified inasmuch as it promotes a set of universal norms or values. Contrary to Van Crevald's argument, this makes war no less an extension of politics. Values have always had a place in politics as the basis for the authority of the organization conducting political discourse. It is the legitimization of an international system of norms as proper ends in the use of force, as well as the removal of the absolute authority of the state in the implementation of force, that provide the new rules shaping the character of war. These values include international commitments to the principles of national self-determination, human rights, and state sovereignty in their internal affairs-- principles that are not necessarily compatible.
The principle of national self-determination legitimizes the efforts of those groups of peoples who share a collective identity and sense of political destiny to form into the currently recognized form of political organization known as the state. Concurrently, the principle of state sovereignty vests each internationally recognized state with absolute authority within its own borders. As the state borders, as currently drawn, do not necessarily represent states with homogenous populations, either ethnically, religiously, nationally, or possibly all three, the predicament arises in which the nation attempts to become a state, the state attempts to become a nation state, or both occur simultaneously.
The legitimization of the use of force by non-state actors means that this process may proceed violently, although this is not necessarily the case as has been seen in the secession movement of Francophone Quebec. The violent forms of this progression, however, are much more numerous as is daily evidenced by the situation in the former Yugoslavia. The situation is further complicated, not only for the nations and states which are progressing through this evolution but also for the greater community of states, by the principle of human rights. As states are increasingly threatened from within by pressures from nationalist movements, measure are taken to enhance the internal security of the state. These measures may include violent suppression, exportation, or even what some have characterized as genocide of dissident or minority factions. At the same time, the greater community of states, committed to the principle of human rights as well as self-determination and state sovereignty, at least in their internal affairs, are placed on the horns of a dilemma. If they intervene, the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states is called into question, and who is to say that this new genie, now let out of its bottle, will not migrate to their shores? If they don't intervene, then the principles of self-determination and human rights become ideals with no teeth, and hardly principles of action at all. It is within this context that the importance of the connection of the concept of sovereignty with the ability of the state to maintain control of its borders is seen.
A catalyst for the creation of the Westphalian system of sovereign states was the increasing ability of the rulers to assert control over their territories. Although not subjected to a detailed analysis, some of the many actors which contributed to this development have earlier been shown. As such, the concept of sovereignty, or a state's absolute authority within its own borders as well as its authority to determine its own conception of rights and to make war outside its borders, grew out of its capacity to control and maintain acceptable order of and in the state. As already noted, the change of conventions to a universal normative order has eroded the sovereignty of the state vis-a-vis their external relations with other states. In addition, modern developments have run counter to those of the seventeenth century in that they have tended to decrease the state's ability to control its borders.
Advances in communications have created a global network which is controlled through international agreements. Advances in transportation decrease the physical and temporal barriers of distance to interstate interaction and exchange. These both enhance and accelerate interstate economic activity which, coupled with the principle of free markets, decreases state control over its own economy apart from international cooperative efforts. As the means of production of goods and services becomes more internationalized, the political power of the state becomes more and more marginalized due to its decreasing ability to control the distribution of wealth within the state. Technological advances increasingly inhibit the state's ability to either protect its borders or isolate them from the influence of outside forces. Finally, the principle of national self-determination removes the state's absolute authority over its populace in those states which are not bound together by a sense of collective identity and political destiny.
These developments point to the causes of the predominant type of war today; religious strife, ethnic conflict and civil war. (@Footnote@Pauline H. Baker and John A. Ausink, "State Collapse and Ethnic Violence: Toward A Predictive Model," in "Parameters," Vol. XXVI, NO. 1, Spring, 1996, p19, "Of 31 major armed conflicts that raged in the world in 1994, all were internal in origin.")
Their ends are not an extension of politics in the sense of the extension of the power and means of influence of the state, but rather an extension of the political goals of non-state controlled actors. These ends may be equality, justice, individual freedom, or maintenance of tradition or culture. It is these conflicts to which we ascribe names other than war, thereby separating them from our concepts of war proper. They are really, however, war of a different character as they are shaped by new conventions or rules. The nature of war is not changing. It is the character of war that is changing to conform to the contemporary rules which shape it. Although additional factors, such as the inability of the state to ensure the basic survival needs and physical well being of its population due to economic, social, or environmental constraints or mismanagement may accelerate the spread of this "new" form of war, its genesis lies in the changed rules or conventions of war. Its occurrence is not necessarily contingent on many of these other factors.
A significant aspect of the emerging character of war is that its violence tends to be less limited. It fuses the passions of the people in the pursuit of absolute ends with the function of the implementation of force to achieve them vice limiting this violence by establishing military objectives in support of utilitarian political self-interest. The limiting force of the interplay of politics is removed, and violence is limited only by chance. As a consequence, war becomes less predictable, as actions can no longer be tied to a readily definable political purpose. Another significant aspect of war's emerging character pertains to the weapons that are used to carry it out. The rational arguments that are used to explain away the impact of weapons of mass destruction on future war deal with the problem from the viewpoint of the state system. As the war conventions developed by the state system are increasingly called into question and modified by the new conventions, the rational state actor argument is less credible. Non state actors with access to the technological know how and enough money are capable of acquiring this same capability. The impact of the diffusion of technology coupled with the removal of the dividing line between the passions of the people and the implementation of violence is the vastly expanded vulnerability of concentrated targets. The mere presence of weapons of mass destruction does not make conventional forces obsolete. It is the change in the conventions of war which makes their employment using conventional methods problematic. Their continued relevance will be determined by how well they cope with the transition to these new conventions.
Chapter III: Implications for Conventional Force Employment
The character of war is in transition. This transition is occurring because the rules of war are changing. Conventional war is becoming obsolete because the only part of that concept which can change, the conventions, are in transition. War proper, or its nature, is constant. The great challenge for today's military is in determining how to cope with this transition.
On the one hand, the old rules still apply as changes are resisted by those who hold onto tradition. The reactions of these traditionalists can be seen in the increase in fundamentalism, be it of the religious type as typified by some elements of the Islamic faith, or of the political type as represented by Western reactions which seek to regain an America which can be isolated and protected from the implications of an integrated and interdependent world. The reality is that national borders can no longer be considered as impermeable barriers. In this environment, the military must prepare for the future while being prepared, simultaneously, to effectively employ current systems against both like forces as well as emerging "unconventional" forces.
The scenario against which the military is most focused is the use of military force against similar conventional forces of opposing states to achieve clearly defined military objectives. Such scenarios typically involve large formations seeking as their military end the destruction of the enemy, his cohesion, and his will to fight. The focus is on the center of gravity, critical vulnerabilities, and critical capabilities of the opposing military force. Now these concepts mean nothing unless they are related to the intent of the enemy force. If he intends to attack, then that upon which everything depends is quite different than if he intends to defend. By like manner, the military objective of the enemy force is determined by the political objective of the state which they serve. This same reasoning can be followed in regard to both forces with one exception. The use of military force under the UN system is not about the pursuit of state interest. It is a means of enforcing the rules in cases where a state has transgressed them. As such, the tendency is for the military objective to be much less ambiguous and more clearly identifiable with the end to which the force is applied. Thus, one of the characteristic limitations placed on the tendency of war to proceed to the absolute is removed.
This does not mean that limits are not placed on the use of force. These limits, however, are not determined by individual state political interest. They are determined by the attainment of the objective of enforcement of the rule. As such, the weighing of costs in relation to the attainment of the ends of war becomes less of a factor in limiting force as the value of the end is considered as an absolute. Likewise, the weighing of gains is less of a factor in determining when hostilities should cease as once the rule has been enforced the ends have been achieved.
The example of Desert Storm shows this quite clearly. Few restrictions were put on the use of force by the coalition in the enforcement of the rule of non- aggression. The use of military force in the attainment of this end was swift and violent. Once the end was achieved, however, the continuation of the use of force to go beyond the end and proceed into Iraq was restricted. The possible utility to be gained by individual states in such an action were not of consequence as this had nothing to do with the objective of the war. In addition, continuation into Iraq would have, of itself, breached the rule which was the purpose of the action. The implications for the use of conventional forces is that they will be expected to maintain the capability to conduct decisive military operations against opposing military forces of aggressor states around the globe. Additionally, the unilateral use of force will become less likely as collective ends are increasingly accepted. The use of coalitions will be the norm.
Although the military objectives in such scenarios may be clear, the difficulty with this traditional force on force picture is that, while many potential threat states still maintain large conventional military forces operating under the control of the state, the diffusion of highly sophisticated, accurate and lethal long range fire capabilities make traditional methods of force employment difficult. Additionally, traditional sustainment methods also become less feasible as the entire battlespace becomes targetable. The result is that the ability of either force to employ large formations is severely restricted. Militaries necessarily must either develop equally highly sophisticated, and expensive, force protection systems or decrease both force size, and therefore sustainment requirements, as well as maneuver unit size and visibility without decreasing combat power. As current fiscal realities do not allow the former, (@Footnote@"American Defense Annual," editor Williamson Murray, The Ohio State University, Brassey's, Washington, London, p129, Estimate of defense funding shortfalls by the GAO are predicted at up to 150 billion dollars over the next 5 years, or one POM cycle), and are requiring the latter regardless, the emphasis should be on how to effectively employ much smaller forces and units. The technological comparative advantage of the United States must be utilized to bring our forces into the 21st century. We must modify the way that we gauge capability from estimates based on end strength to estimates based on ends such as sustainability, rapid deployability, mobility and flexibility, survivability, and lethality both in relation to the emerging threats as well as the high probability of coalition force employment. As the above scenario involves the use of military force under the control of an aggressor state in opposition to the world community of states, there is no reason to assume that their actions would be any less rational than other state actors concerning the first use of weapons of mass destruction. High technology conventional weapons present the largest threat. As shown, however, this is
not the predominant form of war today.
The changes outlined, as well as recent history, show that, by far, the predominant form of war today is that which we characterize by some other name such as Low Intensity Conflict or Operations Other Than War. It is not waged in the name of state interest, but in the name of religion, ethnicity, and self- determination. It is war fought by people who may or may not be affiliated with any military organization. Once begun, its violence is unrestrained and difficult to control. Such war presents traditional military organizations with unique challenges; challenges with which they have not effectively coped with in the past as evidenced by our experiences in Vietnam. In such an environment, although the military will be expected to maintain a capability to operate in scenarios such as previously described, they will also be expected, and required, to operate much more actively and frequently in the roles of peacemaking and peacekeeping.
The problem with such a dual requirement is that these two missions require different types of force structures, doctrines, equipment, and training. In attempting to maintain forces oriented towards the most prevalent, low intensity threats, the military risks sacrificing its capability to operate in the high intensity, major regional contingency role. Conventional wisdom says that, since fiscal constraints prohibit being prepared for both, the "most dangerous" scenario must be prepared for. Unfortunately, classifying the high intensity scenario as the most dangerous is problematic considering the character of non-state controlled war. The reality is that, depending on the scenario, low intensity wars can easily be seen to pose a much greater immediate danger considering their unpredictable nature, ideological basis, and the increased potential for the use of unrestrained, irrational violence. One coup d'etat or one civil war can make conventional deterrence strategy meaningless. The reality is that, although both scenarios must be prepared for, the United States cannot afford to do so unilaterally. As much as we may wish to retain a capability for independent action, the scope, complexity, and character of the threats, as well as the new rules which define legitimacy in the use of force, compel us, if only in our self interest, to seek multilateral, collective responses to threats which are increasingly viewed as common to the world community of states. This common perception of the threat is indicated by two factors: the recent and dramatic increase in the international use of military force in such missions, and the increasing integration and interdependence of the worlds communities.
Since 1988, the number of peacekeeping operations undertaken by the United Nations has equaled that of the previous four decades. Since 1990 alone, seven operations have been conducted at a cost of nearly 2.9 billion dollars. (@Footnote@Charles W. Kegley, Jr., and Gregory A. Raymond, "A Multipolar Peace: Great Power Politics in the Twenty-first Century," St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994, p222).
The rule under which these operations are carried out is embodied in Article I of the UN charter: "...to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace." (@Footnote@Kegley and Raymond, p221). As the rules define the ends, and the ends shape the strategies to achieve them, the characterization of these ends as prevention and removal of threats to peace is significant and will shape how the military is structured and employed to achieve them. These ends increase the likelihood of the collective use of military power in crisis prevention.
The ends which characterize these wars, however, make the use of military force by itself insufficient, as these situations must involve measures taken to resolve the underlying cause of the conflict, not to subdue an enemy state or compel him to our will. The use of military force in these situations involves more than the simple interposition of a third party between warring states. It involves the creation of a stable environment within the state which will facilitate measures taken by other organizations to resolve the conflict by non-forceful means. This will require a much greater degree of integration between civilian, governmental, and military organizations in both the planning and execution of such operations. Enforcement of reconciliation agreements and protection of civilian populations will be the military objectives. Whether these fit well into our conceptions of how the military should be used or not is a moot point as these types of missions will be the ones with which the military is increasingly tasked.
The criticality of such missions can be seen if we consider the implications of a failure in crisis prevention. The current transition in the rules of war is, in part, characterized by a breakdown in the state controlled use of force. The breakdown in the traditional separation between the military and the people infuses such wars with the emotion and passions of a people, makes them less predictable and, as a consequence, far more dangerous in today's world than in the past considering the implications of such a war within a state possessed of weapons of mass destruction. In such a situation, presuppositions about the rationality of state actors are meaningless. The increasing frequency of these types of wars also points to the fallacy of the argument of the stabilizing influence of a vastly increased nuclear world. We cannot assume that this form of war will be restricted to non-nuclear states. Prevention of nuclear proliferation must continue to be a priority for the world community. The enforcement of the community norm of nuclear non-proliferation is, therefore, also an important consideration in the future use of conventional military forces. Increased emphasis must be placed on shaping forces to respond to hostile regimes or organizations intent on acquiring nuclear or advanced conventional weapons systems in violation of international agreements.
In addition to the historical evidence, the growing integration and interdependence of the world community also points to an increasing role for the militaries in peacemaking and peacekeeping. This integration indicates the current possibilities for international cooperative action that exist today. The ends which governments seek to promote are increasingly shared. The diffusion of democracy and democratic values, and the attendant commitment to free market capitalism and trans-societal normative values such as human rights, global inequalities, and the rule of law have been dramatic. Additionally, there is more international commonality in perceptions as to the threats to common ends: fear of a rise in protective barriers to free trade and regional instabilities which threaten that trade, fear of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism, and fear of a backsliding in the progress of liberal democratic institutions of government. The perception of the possibility of effective unilateral action in the pursuit of statist ends is also low. The growing awareness of the integration and interdependence of the world's economies has created pressures for common policies and procedures to coordinate actions that were, in the past, considered as purely domestic concerns. Unilateral action is increasingly constrained by global norms of behavior which, coupled with the transparency and awareness created by the modern media, threatens to erode the political influence and authority of the state transgressing these norms. Additionally, the monetary costs of independent actions to address many of today's threats are insupportable. This environment, coupled with the instabilities created by the changing rules of war, necessitates international cooperation to prevent the emergence or spread of conflict, the effects of which can no longer be contained. Additionally, the complexity of the problems which lead to the use of force to settle conflicts will require multifunctional and cross-organizational approaches. Military force alone is insufficient, but nevertheless necessary. Far from making conventional forces obsolete, the obsolescence of conventional war makes these forces more necessary. What must occur, however, is a dramatic change in the way this type of force is employed, integrating multilateral efforts in political, economic, social, and organizational efforts with the use of military power to prevent the conflicts which are brewing around the world from developing into war, the consequences of which affect us all.
This paper was about the impact of the changing rules of war on its character and the implications of this for the relevance of conventional forces. The key issue that has been addressed is that conventional war is becoming increasingly obsolete due to a transition in the rules of war, but that conventional forces remain relevant. The significance of this transition lies in its impact on military force employment, the effectiveness of which will be determined by the development of a strategy that marries current and future force structures, doctrine, training and equipment with the ends of enforcement, crisis prevention, and conflict resolution missions.
Enforcement of the rule of non- aggression requires the maintenance of a force structure capable of decisive military action against opposing conventional forces. The proliferation of sophisticated technologies, as well as the requirement for rapid response, necessitates that these forces be light and highly mobile, yet capable of concentrating decisive combat power against potentially numerically superior forces. Doctrine and training must continue to stress a warfighting philosophy which exploits the human factors required to achieve a high operational tempo within a greatly expanded battlespace. These include boldness, initiative, and imagination at the lowest levels of command focused and energized by the vision and sense of urgency provided by the commander and a commitment to self-sacrificial service and cooperation at all levels and across functional organizations. These provide the moral elements required to apply our strengths against the enemy's weaknesses.
Additionally, doctrine must support, not only cross-functional organization and integration within and between services, but the capabilities necessary to do so with coalition allies as well. Training must emphasize establishing and enhancing the organizational and system improvements that will allow this integration.
The tasks of crisis prevention and conflict resolution, due to the complex and varied nature of their underlying causes and, therefore, solutions, require a new way of thinking about the application of force. The simple interposition of military forces between warring factions does nothing to solve the problem and puts forces at risk to no purpose as our most recent experience in Lebanon has clearly shown. Additionally, the increasing frequency of intrastate instabilities requires that cooperative, multilateral efforts be undertaken to resolve them. The criticality of timely and accurate information, both in facilitating rapid response as well as in developing an understanding of the underlying cultural, economic, and political contributing factors, emphasizes the need for cross organizational approaches in these types of missions. Although military force is essential, its application must be carefully controlled in support of the larger effort of reestablishing legitimate structures of authority and control, without which force is of only limited use.
If current trends are any indication of the future, the interposition of our military forces in the internal conflicts of other states will continue to be a situation with which we will be faced. Interdisciplinary approaches must be taken in the study of past interventions to discern those practices which were effective in resolving them. The tendency to base solutions on singular solutions to complex problems must be avoided. Awareness of the interplay of the cultural, political, and economic factors that are specific to each situation must be enhanced if effective intervention is to be accomplished.
The transition in the character of war is an evolutionary process. New rules in any game are resisted. The degree of resistance is affected by the stakes of the game. As the stakes in war are high, it is not surprising that its character should change slowly. The pace of change, however, is increasing. Quebec, Yugoslavia, Taiwan, and, perhaps, the "Nation" of Islam are just a few examples of the quickening pace of change which can be heard on the nightly news. Future war will break down our neat lines on the map which correspond to our current perceptions of the world. Instabilities will continue, hopefully pacified by the diffusion of democracy and structures for peaceful change. Militaries will become merged as coalition warfare becomes more frequent. This merger will take the form of global sourcing of military functions as systems become more specialized. The sizes of national militaries will continue to decrease, not so much due to fiscal constraints as to the requirements for dispersion necessitated by technology as well as the enhanced effectiveness of such forces which this same technology enables. The implementation of military force will, more and more, be conducted in concert with civilian and governmental organization's efforts in peacekeeping and peacemaking. Consequently, there will also be a fusing of these organizations to some degree. Conventional war has already passed into obsolescence. The ability of the military to adjust to the new rules of war will determine its effectiveness in the future.
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