Tag Archives: War

Wars are not won by military genius or decisive battles


The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, Author: Cathal J Nolan.

By Cathal J Nolan – War is the most complex, physically and morally demanding enterprise we undertake. No great art or music, no cathedral or temple or mosque, no intercontinental transport net or particle collider or space program, no research for a cure for a mass-killing disease receives a fraction of the resources and effort we devote to making war.

Battles also entice generals and statesmen with the idea that a hard red day can be decisive, and allow us to avoid attrition, which we all despise as morally vulgar and without redemptive heroism.

Whether or not we agree that some wars were necessary and just, we should look straight at the grim reality that victory was most often achieved in the biggest and most important wars by attrition and mass slaughter – not by soldierly heroics or the genius of command.

Winning at war is harder than that. Cannae, Tours, Leuthen, Austerlitz, Tannenberg, Kharkov – all recall sharp images in a word. Yet winning such lopsided battles did not ensure victory in war.

Hannibal won at Cannae, Napoleon at Austerlitz, Hitler at Sedan and Kiev. All lost in the end, catastrophically.

There is heroism in battle but there are no geniuses in war. War is too complex for genius to control. more>

War once helped build nations, now it destroys them


Voices from Iraq, Author: Mark Kukis.

By Mark Kukis – Organized violence – the term war boils down to – has long been a unifier of peoples.

Orchestrating raids on neighboring Nubian settlements took coordination among villagers, as did fending them off. Attackers and defenders alike had to marshal resources, make plans and build trust among one another in order to fight effectively. Cooperation, mutual dependence, trust – even in killing others – are building blocks of political order, the foundational elements of states.

Since the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), wars have tended to be mainly destructive forces for nations.

Countries amid the throes of war now seem to be breaking down rather than rising up. In countries today ranging from Libya to Myanmar, conflict is undermining governments, and threatening to undo nations much as strife tore apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In Iraq, a war initially launched 14 years ago by the United States to save the country has gone on and on, and become a source of the nation’s internal decay.

Meanwhile, South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is in a downward spiral of internal violence. The country won its independence from Sudan after more than two decades of fighting. Patterns in history suggest that South Sudan should have emerged from that ordeal unified despite the many challenges the country faced as a young nation. Instead, it essentially collapsed amid infighting upon independence, launching yet another war that has displaced more than 2 million of its 12.5 million people.

The experience of South Sudan is the new norm. more>

The Psychology of a Nuclear Standoff

By Tom Jacobs – The “nuclear taboo” has held for 70 years for two reasons, according to Jacques Hymans: “the enormity of the decision of use nuclear weapons,” and the unpredictability of the consequences of doing so. Nevertheless, he warns, these are dangerous times.

New nuclear states have always been highly interested in trying to use their weapons as means of compellence, i.e. threats to get some benefit. New leaders have also had such tendencies. This is understandable, because it takes time and experience to accept the counterintuitive reality that the biggest bomb in the world is mostly useless as a military weapon, and therefore also useless as a means of compellence. So, history teaches us that both the U.S. and North Korea at present are liable to try to push their nuclear luck. That makes for a dangerous situation.

The chances are higher that the U.S. will launch first. But this would be a terrible humanitarian catastrophe and the U.S. would lose Asia politically for a hundred years. more> https://goo.gl/CtHxCU

How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth


Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, Author: Peter Turchin.

By Cameron K. Murray – Turchin estimates that the total quantity of hours of human work and toil dedicated by the global workforce involved in the mammoth cooperative task of building the space station is around three-million people-years, or over 26 billion work hours.

The obvious next question is how this compares with the other great cooperative feats of history, like the 400,000 people-years required to build the Great Pyramid of Giza, or the 100,000 people years to build the Coliseum in Rome, and whether these long run patterns signal an increase in humanity’s ability to cooperate at a vast scale.

One of Turchin’s big ideas in the book, is that war between social groups is the mechanism by which cooperative behaviour develops “within groups.”

It is a fundamental evolutionary process happening between societies at a large scale. He elevates war as a selection mechanism for cooperation, and values it above many of the technological factors like domestication of plants and the advent of agriculture. more> http://goo.gl/lHekmS

A Global Security System: An Alternative to War


A Global Security System: An Alternative to War, Authors: Kent Shifferd, Alice Slater, Bob Irwin, David Hartsough, Patrick Hiller, Paloma Ayala Vela, David Swanson, Joe Scarry.

World Beyond War – Conflict management as practiced in the iron cage of war is self-defeating. In what is known as the “security dilemma,” states believe they can only make themselves more secure by making their adversaries less secure ..

Placing the security of one’s adversary in danger has not led to security but to a state of armed suspicion and as a result, when wars have begun, they have been obscenely violent.

The original idea behind national sovereignty was to draw a line around a geographical territory and control everything that attempted to cross that line.

In today’s technologically advanced world that concept is obsolete. Nations cannot keep out ideas, immigrants, economic forces, disease organisms, information, ballistic missiles, or cyber-attacks on vulnerable infrastructure like banking systems, power plants, stock exchanges. No nation can go it alone. Security must be global if it is to exist at all. more> http://tinyurl.com/nx2676a


When Is a War Over?

By Elizabeth D. Samet – Knowing when — and how — to stop is a problem as old as war itself. Ascertaining the logical limits of a campaign presents not merely a strategic but a psychological challenge to its architects and its participants.

Initially billing his campaign as one of Panhellenic vengeance against the Persians, Alexander united the Greek city-states, restored territories lost in the Greco-Persian Wars and liberated Greeks living under Persian control.

By the time his army mutinied in India, however, this goal — only partly the stuff of spin — had been accomplished while the initial clarity of the campaign evaporated. more> http://tinyurl.com/m3tbbfb

The Truth About the Wars


Why We Lost, Author: Daniel P. Bolger.

By Daniel P. Bolger – The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time.

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies.

We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. more> http://tinyurl.com/qhdfmaj

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama makes case for war

By Dana Milbank – This is how a Nobel Peace Prize laureate goes to war.

He admits his country’s own flaws, praises “the path of diplomacy and peace,” and asserts that lasting gains cannot be “won at the barrel of a gun.”

“No god condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.” more> http://tinyurl.com/qhpbnd7