Reconceptualising war

, by OpenDemocracy , KALDOR Mary


What if defeating the enemy was the justification for war, but not its real goal? What if its goal was a certain kind of power-brokerage? On, Mary Kaldor attempts a redefinition of war in line with contemporary developments:


"Clausewitz defined war as an ‘an act of violence designed to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.’ From that definition he derived his theory that war tends to extremes as each side tries to crush his opponent. I want to suggest an alternative definition. War is ‘an act of violence involving at least two organised groups framed in political terms.’ Defined in this way, war can either be a contest of wills or a mutual enterprise. If it is the latter, wars are likely not to be extreme but to be long and difficult to end."

"A mutual enterprise could be political or it could be economic or it could be both. Violence is a way in which groups win political power not through defeating the enemy but through mobilising support on the basis of fear. Such groups construct ideologies to explain deep-seated social frustrations – poverty, insecurity, lack of opportunity – and to place the blame on the ‘other’. They turn themselves into protectors by generating the insecurity from which people need to be protected. Defeating the enemy is the justification not the goal of war. Indeed the warring parties share a mutual need for justification and consequently, they may actually reinforce each other. Through war and violence, the armed actors transform themselves from marginal extremists into mainstream power-brokers. By producing fear and hatred, they construct exclusive ethnic or religious ideologies that underpin their power. Understood in this way, war is not about genuine grievances or ‘root causes’- it is about manipulating and instrumentalising grievance."

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