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    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Woodbridge, VA

    Default Political War and Woolly Thinking

    BLUF: does the statement “all war is political” add or detract from our understanding of the nature of “organized deadly conflicts” (aka War by any other name) or does the statement lead to sloppy analysis?

    As I understand it, this idea originates in Clausewitz’ Remarkable Trinity of the people’s primordial violence, hatred and enmity; the play of chance and probability; and war’s subordination to rational political policy (Reclaiming the Clausewitzian Trinity). There are alternative expressions of the trinity and it has been confused with other Clausewitzian tripartite ideas (the people, the army, and the state), but it appears to be the basis of the idea that all war is political.

    I have three general issues with the eternal linking of these three elements with the definition of War. First, it does not allow for the “primordial violence, hatred and enmity” to stand alone. There can be no violence without a connection to a political end. This seems very limiting to me. Second and closely tied to the first, it requires an affirmative political entity (or at a minimum and ideology). A religious or criminal motivation for organized violence is incomplete. Somewhere in the background there must be a political leader pulling the strings. Third, the idea of a “rational political policy” imputes the idea that the both parties to the conflict must be proceeding as rational actors advancing a specific policy. Once we define war as an instrument of policy we immediately attempt to see that policy in terms of our Western frame of reference. The natural outcome of this thinking is that we end up looking for the opposing force’s rational political purpose as well as the rational political actor to attack and/or negotiate with.

    This necessity to fit all wars into a neat political package has meant that we are required to paint all motivation as political. The most common problem created by this need is how to deal with religious wars. In modern times these wars have been based on the spread of Islam. The common refrain is that, unlike other religions, Islam does not allow for a separation of church and state. Islam is inherently political. Perhaps, but that does not mean that it is inherently rational.

    Continuing with the religion issue what about the Christian Crusades? Were they really motivated by ration political policy or sacred religious edict … or were they really just not war?

    The ultimate question is: “Does the idea that all war is political clarify the nature of war or does it force us into a thought process that limits our ability to analyze a problem and therefore potentially make us reach incomplete or erroneous conclusions about the nature of the fight we are in?”

    I have been playing with this for a while. I have put together some sophomoric attempts to organize an argument (that is only intended to open a discussion) but each time I do I go farther down the rabbit hole. So I open the question up to the Council.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 02-14-2014 at 06:08 PM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan

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