War and Death

Fellow member of the School of Hard Knocking Rich Ganske comments on the General Theory of War:

Excellent summary. But I’m not convinced that no. 17 is entirely necessary:  violence (in varied form) yes, malice certainly, but death? Many are the varied interests that initiate conflict, as well as the means and ends that sustain and complete it, that the risk of life should not preclude such a case from inclusion to the scope of war only due to a lack of violent death.

In my wild youth, I favored a more expansive definition of war. I thought this broadening would bring taxonomic clarity to the muddled regions between war-war and jaw-jaw. Advancing into middle-age, I doubt my earlier inclusive generosity. Clarity comes through naming otherwise diffuse phenomena as exactly as possible, not stretching them. A term that encompasses everything encompasses nothing. This wat my motive behind number 17 i.e. “War is not war without the possibility of violent death.”

With a working assumption that “Violence is the power to change behavior through physical pain or physical annihilation”, this is my Schelling-lite taxonomy for dissecting violent power:

  1. Compellance is the possibility of violence for hostile political ends.
  2. Coercion is compellance with the focused possibility of physical pain through deliberate hurt.
  3. War is coercion with the focused possibility of physical annihilation through deliberate killing.
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About Joseph Fouche

L. C. Rees carefully selected the nom de guerre "Joseph Fouche" to profoundly irritate unnaturally rampant pro-Buonopartist sentiment at Skyline High School, Millcreek, Salt Lake, Utah, United States. The Corsican Ogre once claimed that he would have remained "Emperor of the French" if he'd had two men shot: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Joseph Fouche. SInce Rees bears no resemblance to a club-footed defrocked bishop, Joseph Fouche it was.

2 thoughts on “War and Death

  1. for a little topic drift: Cyber War and the Expanding Definition of War

    from above:

    In this post, I argue that Carr’s response misses a key component of Rid’s argument, that the debate between Rid and Carr is exemplary of an emerging debate over the definition of “war” more generally, and that the complexities of cyber conflict demand that we move beyond the kind of binary thinking exhibited in this debate.

    … snip …

    part of the debate:

    Clausewitz and Cyber War

    from above:

    The environment within which war is conducted has been permanently altered since Clausewitz’ time. Sun Tzu would have been a better choice because he at least considers the superior option of winning a war without fighting. But even within the parameters that Professor Rid has established, here are three examples that fit the Clausewitz test of being lethal, instrumental and political:

    … snip …

  2. This was the same vein in which my comments were made. Far from formulating an appropriate and complete response to JF’s excellent post, non-kinetics is becoming more and more the focus of operational planning.

    As an example, in her briefing to the Air Force Association regarding Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, the Joint Force Air Component Commander stated that her initial orders were to establish the Libyan no-fly zone utilizing ONLY non-kinetics. Had this occurred, certainly we would have still been at war with Libya despite no inherent risk of violent death.

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