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Is Global Peace A Realistic Possibility Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2777 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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According to Clausewitz’s definition of war, is global peace a possibility at all? Discuss. In order to assess the ways in which Clausewitz understands the relationship between war, peace, and politics in their whole entirety, it is first crucial to define war by the Clausewitzian standards and to distinguish between absolute war and total war, as at least a vague understanding of each is certainly necessary. Next, Clausewitz’s theories on war and peace must be evaluated separately from that of politics. While politics is unquestionably linked to matters of both war and peace, it is imperative that each be understood individually before one can fully grasp the concepts that Clausewitz puts forth and assess the strengths and weaknesses in his arguments. While many critics have argued against the validity of Clausewitz’s theories in the modern world [1] , after assessment of the relationship of war, peace, and politics, it will become clear that Clausewitz’s lessons are still highly relevant in the 21st century and we will be discussing these points.

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Here we are going to talk about what is war? To simply put the answer: It is an armed conflict, bloody and violent, where rationality is meaningless when in the conflict. For a layman this definition may be true and some military strategists and even some generals may also lean towards this, but the reality of war is quite different. Throughout the history of war historians, writers, politicians, generals, scholars & strategists have pondered the question of “what is war?” Only one man, Carl Von Clausewitz, in my opinion has come close to giving it a real meaning. Clausewitz defines war as “… continuation of policy with other means.” [2] Since the publication of Clausewitz’s book “On War” I would say a majority of the world’s military and defence academia or scholars and generals do agree to this definition on a whole, nevertheless the definition of war given by Clausewitz is continuously misinterpreted and the word War is continuously misunderstood in fact. I do not claim to have the right grasp of Clausewitz, perhaps no one does other than the one Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini who rivalled Clausewitz in his own time but also understood him the most, nevertheless here is my understanding of Clausewitz’s definition and if global peace was perhaps even a possibility at all.

War is continuation of policy with other means; this implies that the violence and bloodshed are the “other means” by which policy is carried out ‘further.’ This furthering of policy with unconventional methods is through War. If we agree to this then we have deducted “violence and bloodshed” as means of war rather than war itself. Instead we can categorize these two means violence and bloodshed as battle. War can be collection of battles, as it has been in most of the cases, leading towards single or multiple policy-goals as we see throughout history. Policy is directed to & by three components of state: The political leadership, the Operational Forces and the population [3] . As we can see Clausewitz sums up these three components as the “trinity”. The inclusion of political leadership & population proves that war is not just to do with “battles.” With the concept of trinity (political leadership & the civilian population alongside the armed forces), that all the elements are considered, Clausewitz has broken up the components of the policy [of state] not just into defence and a security policy but also into external or foreign policy, domestic policy, and financial or economic policy. With the graduation of time the scope of policies expands & newer ones join them I.e. technological policies in the late 19th & 20th century played great role in the making of the WW-I and II. The aims, objectives or the final goal(s) of war are attached to those policies meaning the aim of war can be to achieve internal political goals, as well as International political goals, to gain financial or economic goal, and in some cases defence and security goals also. [4] We can see here again more reference to political goal being achieved through the aims of war this is already giving us a strong impression On Clausewitz’s possibility for global peace.

According to Clausewitz war is not necessarily violent and bloody, but it has to be this was his personal opinion I believe not a theory as many perceive it to be. In fact Clausewitz, to some extent, did agree that war can be won without resorting to the ‘force’ or ‘violence and bloodshed.’ Thus War is not necessarily violent & bloody. Take for example the Cold War. The two super powers, the USA and USSR, never directly engaged in the “collection of battles” but that does not mean that they were not at war especially with the amount of covert operations and other goings on taking place. [5] On the contrary they were involved in the most dangerous war of all times as the goal was not single but were multiple (internal, external, economic, technological) and were under the umbrella of “Nuclear and Conventional Forces Politics.” With all bayonets sharpened on both ends, the USA and its allies won the Cold War without resorting to any direct ‘collection of battles’ against the USSR with no actual battle taking place. The means of war employed by the two sides were an arms race, arms control, Nuclear Politics of Massive Retaliation, Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) both of which translated into “Deterrence.” [6] In other words the Cold War was fought not with ‘collections of battles’ but by threat of use of force involving every weapon at disposal (mainly the nuclear weapons) while making sure they were never used. The end of Cold War & fall of USSR proved the theory of Sun Tzu right that wars can be won without battles (an important theory which filters out battles from war). This again is another relation to global peace however it is done through the theory of war without any direct battles a silent warfare as such but this is still not securing an idea of global peace as a possibility because of these actions taking place

According to Clausewitz “Strategy is the use of the engagement for the goal of the war.” The “engagement” may involve coercive diplomacy; economic, technological & military sanctions, threat of use of force & finally in the end ‘the use of force.’ [7] As Clausewitz believed; War by its very nature possessed its own escalatory dynamic or there exist explosive forces within it. This means that only the failure on behalf of all other means of war (coercive diplomacy, sanctions, threats etc …) ‘escalate’ to the use of force and resort to ‘collections of battles.’ Thus; use of force, violence, bloodshed (collection of battles) as means of War are the last resort – unless a belligerent wants to skip the ‘other means.’ We can see through this that War is always a last resort but however being a last resort, it is still there to be used which is showing that Clausewitz believed that war could happen at any time if the other means failed which again puts to question is global peace a possibility at all if its still a last resort to go to war.

Many consider war as ‘not the continuation of policy with other means’ and see it as irrational. It is not so. War is very much rational. It makes sure that use of force is the last measure or resort rather than the first step. It attempts to regulate the battles by directing them towards policy goals. Without war there would only be meaningless violence and bloodshed which would be seen as a barbaric tradition.

As the threat of war was constant in his time, there is very little mention of peace in Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War. [8] Though, much like Niccolo Machiavelli’s theory that peace should only be viewed as ‘breathing time’ to prepare for the next military plans, [9] Clausewitz is of the opinion that long periods of peace may alter the state’s ability to defend itself in the future, and that instances of peace should be well spent by exercising the military. In addition, allies that have recently been involved in war should be made during peacetime to share lessons and experiences from different types of warfare. Whereas Michael Doyle, the author of Ways of War and Peace, criticizes Clausewitz for ruminating that war is a constant and never gives an explanation as to how to eliminate war entirely, it would seem that Clausewitz never set out to eradicate war but to theorize on how to be successful in war. [10] To Clausewitz, there are no special tactics for peace. War is a never-ending cycle, and as Clausewitz notoriously wrote, ‘To secure peace is to prepare for war.’ [11] In what Clausewitz refers to as the theoretical concept of war, he outlines three objectives for success. First, the armed forces of the opponent must be destroyed. Second, the country must be occupied. Third, the will of the enemy must be broken. In theory, peace simply cannot be achieved until all three objectives are met; however, the complete defeat of an enemy would be a ‘mere imaginative flight.’ War, ‘… the hostile feeling and action of hostile agencies cannot be considered at an end as long as the will of the enemy is not subdued.’ In addition, the government and its allies must be forced to sign a peace treaty, for otherwise war could potentially start fresh with the assistance of the allies. Though Clausewitz admits that war could begin again directly after the peace, he argues that it only serves to prove that war does not carry in itself elements for a final settlement of peace. War, though not always constant, is continual. According to Clausewitz, war is always limited by ‘friction’ uncertainty, chance, and inevitable logistical or organizational misfortunes. Also mentioned is the notion of ‘rational calculus,’ that states intrinsically use violence to achieve a desired end. [12] The less controlled the use of violence is by one side, the lengthier the war. So we see from these statements that Clausewitz always believed that peace could only be achieved through war this is a very important statement and shows the way in which the times were when he was writing his ideas.

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Throughout On War, Carl von Clausewitz, continually refers to a ‘remarkable’ or ‘paradoxical’ trinity which drives real war, composed of 1) primordial violence, enmity, and hatred 2) chance and probability, and 3) the element of war of subordination to rational policy. [13] The trinity serves as a magnet to balance the three forces of war – the people, the military, and the statesmen. Clausewitz argues that the passions that kindle war must be innate in the people, the courage and talent of the commander and army plays into the realm of probability and chance, but the political aims are only the business of the government alone. Though, without the three branches working in harmony, war cannot be successfully waged. Above all, Clausewitz emphasizes that war exists in the realm of chance. The most certain idea about war lies in the uncertainty of it. [14] Chance acts in a way that makes all of the elements of war more uncertain and can ultimately alter the course of events. ‘Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.’

While Clausewitz warns that politicians must not attempt to use war as an instrument through which to achieve purposes for which it is unsuited, it is evident that war is a tool of policy and that state policy is truly ‘… the womb in which war develops.’ [15] I believe Clausewitz contends for the superiority and self-sufficiency of the military, and to some extent this is true as he insisted that the general should be both independent of political decisions and in a position to influence them.

In the way that Clausewitz understands the relationship between war, peace, and politics, his work remains the most comprehensive and, in some instances, modern contribution to political, military, and strategic thought as it stands. The main strength in On War lies in that Clausewitz never attempts to impose a set solution. Clausewitz’s theory is descriptive of ‘human-on-human strategic problems,’ I believe and endeavours to ‘develop human capital… to help the reader develop his… own strategic judgment in order to deal with the ever-changing strategic environment. Another hole in Clausewitz’s work can be seen in his case for the aforementioned three imperatives of war (the destruction of the armed forces, occupying forces, and the broken spirit of the enemy). While Clausewitz himself recognized that these standards were next to impossible to meet in reality, both the possibility and the impossibility have increased exponentially with new technology. First, though Clausewitz could not have foreseen the possibility of nuclear weapons whilst living in the 19th century, with the advent of nuclear bombs and the like, his theory of absolute war could, in fact become a reality in the 21st century. However, in the present day, an opponent cannot feasibly disarm a nuclear-armed superpower, as mutually assured destruction (MAD) ensures this. While the issue of whether much of Carl von Clausewitz’s work is obsolete with the advent of nuclear weapons is still highly debatable, and it is evident that the text of On War is not relevant in the exact context in which it was written, the tactics and the relationship between war, peace and politics promoted throughout the literature has influenced warfare and politics alike since its conception. With tactics from On War used widely as military doctrine and foreign policy around the world based on Clausewitzian theories such as the paradoxical trinity and the centre of gravity, it is apparent that Clausewitz’s lessons live on. Because of this continued application to the modern world, even over 150 years later, it is difficult to disagree with Clausewitz and the concepts of war, peace, and politics set forth in his work. Though there are clearly some contextual issues, given that he gained influence from the political atmosphere of the early 19th century, in the end, Carl von Clausewitz is the war theorist to consult when advice is necessary on war, peace, and politics.


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