Clausewitz's description of war as a means to an end or, to use his own formulation, the continuation of politics by other means, must be interpreted against the contemporary intellectual background: the majority of enlightenment writers had regarded war as an aberration, an interruption of political intercourse, the point where human reason came to an end . This view can be said to have influenced the actual conduct of war in as much as most eighteenth-century commanders tried to make war in a cautious, civilised manner while minimising the damage to the environment . Thus, when Clausewitz insisted that war was simply one of the forms taken on by political intercourse, that it was a language of politics that should be formulated on the basis of carefully assessed cost-benefit analysis, he was making a new and important point.
[...] In addition, as has been noted, integral to the Clausewitzian account was the idea of the instrumentality of war that it should necessarily be a controlled, rational, political act. This is hardly applicable when it comes to the informal type of wars in question, which often as was the case in Rwanda, or Somalia, for example, entail the collapse of society and a descent into anarchy, with an indecisive outcome and the absence of regular armies or clear battle lines. [...]
[...] The changes brought about by these can indeed be regarded as political and, since these types of war are the most common and important being fought on the planet today, they could thus be said to represent circumstances under which war as a political instrument is relevant in the twenty-first century. However, although this type of warfare has come to be by far the most important or “relevant” instrument for bringing about what can be regarded as political change, the term “political” as conceived by Clausewitz did not, as has been made clear, relate to kind of relationship involving any kind of government in any kind of society”. [...]
[...] Another factor which relates to the question of the prevalence of circumstances under which the Clausewitzian notion of war as an instrument employed on behalf of, and by means of the collective functions of, a trinitarian state structure in order to attain certain substantive political goals can be said to be relevant today, is that it may be culturally specific. Nineteenth-century European war was a very formal business, with uniformed armies occupying clearly delineated territory, a decisive battle, and a precise way of determining winners and losers based on possession of the battlefield. [...]
[...] The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, 2nd ed. (Hampshire, Macmillan Press, 1995) Lipschutz, R. D. After Authority: War, Peace, and Global Politics in the 21st Century (Albany, State University of New York Press, 2000) Van Creveld, M. The Transformation of War (New York, Maxwell Macmillan International, 1991) Watts, B. D. Clausewitzian [...]
[...] In less developed countries, nationalism without democracy is quite common, but the state rarely has the capacity to control both the people and its armed forces: riot and civil unrest can be just as effective in influencing war aims as a democratic media and free elections. Hence, the idea that war can serve as an effective instrument of a policy carefully calculated by a government, is largely inapplicable today. A government that could otherwise have employed violence to attain certain political objectives, will often find its hands tied by public opinion. [...]
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