Historical Background



The most influential theorist of warfare provided two famous definitions of war in his book On War that can readily be applied to stateless warfare. At first Clausewitz described war as analogous to a duel or a pair of wrestlers and defined war as ‘thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will’.1 Of course this definition could be applied to a gangland war between bands of gangsters, and without the force aspect could be used to distinguish ‘price wars’ from normal business competition between rival firms. So it is not surprising that Clausewitz also provided a more precise definition that can be applied only to force used by states or by groups seeking state-like, political goals. For some pages later he famously defined war as ‘the continuation of policy by other means’ and added that war is ‘a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means’.2 These other means are now commonly specified to be organised violence.3 And a contemporary Clausewitzian strategist has pointed out that even when warfare’s organised violence is motivated by religious fervour or other powerful non-political motives, its goals retain the political dimension that is characteristic of war.4


Military Activity National Sovereignty Foreign State Guerrilla Warfare Modern Warfare 
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© Paul Brooker 2010

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