The Theory of Limited War

  • Lawrence Freedman
Part of the St Antony’s book series

Abstract

Until 1991 the theory of limited war was shaped by the experience of two critical conflicts — Korea and Vietnam. Korea was responsible for a concept geared to an east-west confrontation and dependent on the limitation of objectives in order to have any realistic hope of limiting means. Vietnam introduced a pessimism with regard to the possibility of limiting means, by drawing attention to inherent tendencies of escalation. By the time of the Gulf War, therefore, limited war was seen to require a commitment to controls on both ends and means. The consequence of this experience may be to loosen past restraints on the limitation of objectives in armed conflicts even while those on means are being tightened.

Keywords

Europe Shipping Syria Explosive Rosen 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    G. van Bentham van der Bergh, entry on ‘Limited War’ in Ervin Laszlo and Jong Youl Yoo, World Encyclopedia of Peace, Vol. I, (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1986) pp. 541–42.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
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  3. 5.
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  5. 6.
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  13. 9.
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  15. 11.
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    Representative Les Aspin, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, ‘The Military Option: The Conduct and Consequences of War in the Persian Gulf’ (8 January, 1991), reprinted in House of Representatives, 101st Cong., 2nd sess., Hearings before the Committee on Armed Services, Crisis in the Persian Gulf: Sanctions, Diplomacy and War (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1991) p. 916. The formal Congressional Resolution authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces explicitly related this to ‘implementation’ of the relevant Security Council resolutions. In a statement on the relevance of this resolution for War Powers legislation, Representative Dante Fascell observed that: The strength and wisdom of the War Powers Resolution is that it established procedures and a process by which Congress can authorize the use of force in specific settings for limited purposes short of a total state of war. We find ourselves in such a situation today where H.J. Res 77 [the Joint Resolution] authorizes the use of force under the specific conditions cited. It is not an unlimited, unconditional authorization of the use of force, nor is it a formal declaration of war. Representative Dante B. Fascell, Statement on War Powers, 22 January 1991. Reprinted in US House of Representatives, 102nd Cong., 1st sess., Report prepared by the Subcommittee on Arms Control, International Security and Science of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, The Persian Gulf Crisis: Relevant Documents, Correspondence, Reports, (Washington DC: US GPO, 1991), p. 134. To all intents and purposes the war was also localized in the Gulf area. It should be noted that on 21 January President Bush issued an Executive Order, stating that, as of 17 January 1991: I hereby designate… the following locations, including the airspace above such locations, as an area in which Armed Forces of the United States are and have been engaged in combat:Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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  • Lawrence Freedman

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