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Inconclusive Wars: Is Clausewitz Still Relevant in these Global Times?

Kaldor, Mary (2010) ‘Inconclusive Wars: Is Clausewitz Still Relevant in these Global Times?’ Global Policy 1(3).

This article argues that the core Clausewitzean proposition that war tends to extremes no longer applies in contemporary wars. Instead an alternative proposition is put forward that war tends to be long lasting and inconclusive. The article adopts the Clausewitzean method and derives this proposition from the logic of a redefinition of war. It also shows the relevance of many of Clausewitz’s central tenets if reinterpreted. Thus contemporary wars are about politics, not policy; they are instrumental and rational but not reasonable (in the sense of being in accordance with universal values); and they bring together a trinity of motivations (reason, chance and passion) but not a trinity of the state, the generals and the people since new wars are fought by a range of nonstate actors. In particular, international missions in crisis zones should take seriously what Clausewitz says about the importance of political control, the character of the commander and the crucial significance of moral forces.

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