War

What is War Today? What Do We Mean By War?

By The Cove July 30, 2017


This video is a symposium that was presented at the University of Cambridge in 2016 by Professor Sir Hew Strachan and General Sir Nick Houghton.  In the video, Professor Strachan proposes 8 propositions/paradoxes about war that are fundamental in developing our understanding. The paradoxes are as follows:

  1. The purpose of war is a better peace
  2. War is a clash of wills
  3. War is a continuation of policy by other means
  4. War is an act of force, violence is at its heart
  5. War is costly and destructive
  6. War is the realm of chance and uncertainty - friction & fog of war
  7. War is fought by combatants, but the distinction between combatants and non-combatants looks increasingly hard to sustain
  8. War exists on a continuum, the moment it is fought it becomes experience and is part of the past

General Houghton proposes that human nature is primarily driven by selfish concerns.  He goes on to state that competition amongst human beings is a more natural state than peaceful coexistence and therefore a rules-based system must be imposed.  He suggests that the tyranny of information and sensationalism of media (among other things) has led to a declining appreciation of the utility of armed forces.  He concludes  that we must be future focused to cope with the increases in threat diversity. Watch the video to hear the detailed explanation of each paradox/proposition and let us know if you agree or disagree with the list provided and whether or not you would add to it.


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The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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