The Evolution of War and Military Thought


War and warfare have continuously shaped the history of humanity through civilizations to no end. As such, of the evolutionary and interactional aspects in man, war has been the denominator that shapes and defines the success or failure of societies. Successful wars have determined a lot in the areas of technology and other evolutionary aspects in humanity. However, it is like war studies, that we discover most of them had interconnections leading to their outbreak. In paying attention to their development, wars have always been a continuity of conflicts that prior, had unsettled elements. With time, such unresolved issues grew into grievances bringing about escalated conflicts. Unmanaged, these conflicts always lead to the onset of wars drawing their causes from the various aspects either from the resulting reasons as defined by the holistic approach in assessing the wars and their causes. The paper discusses the evolution of war and military thought through various elements including continuity and change. The focus remains on the contribution of the evolutionary changes witnessed in warfare from either military advancements or strategies applied during wars.

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The Change in Character of War

The evolution of wars since the last global armed warfare has seen much change in its different concepts. Drawing reference from the Cold war that placed the US and the Soviet Union on opposing sides, there has since been a state of reduced intensity in armed warfare compared to once witness in the two World wars. The characteristic low intensity in warfare starting with Cold war has set precedence in the mannerism of armed conflicts. The change in war character categorically lies between the elements of context, continuity, and change.

The character of warfare from a nonviolent contextual revolves around the politics of war where there has been the existence of nonviolent episodes of warfare. Since the Cold war, the nature of warfare has revolved on the subtle conflict-oriented manner, where conflicts rarely break into all-out military war. Instead, the alternative warfare tactics employed seek to promote warring sides’ interests. Among the used traits, there exists arms race, propaganda, threats of economic sabotage through sanctions, and bureaucratic systems that seek to undermine other countries efforts in realizing the contemporary warfare goals.

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With the continued nonviolent characteristics, there currently exists two arenas of warfare with both found in the African and Asian continents. The two continents have continued to witness states of armed conflict in a retaliatory manner portrayed in the forms of states and militia led civil wars at the margins of states. The character of the modern warfare continues to hold the element of incoherent parties involved in the conflicts especially those in Africa. Further, the regression in political involvement sees governments moved to limit human rights and freedoms. Such measures have borne corruption and bureaucratic tendencies with governments and their inaccuracies bringing about the increased unwillingness of global humanitarians such as the UN and the African Union in engaging the different countries.

The Continuity of Warfare

The characteristic of wars in Africa and Asia exhibits significant changes concerning the element of continuity as armed conflicts. The elements of continuity in the state of armed warfare see the conflicts rooted in a protracted situation of violent civil wars as a result of transitional government especially with democratic states seeking to address the aggrieved majority voices feeling oppressed by the minority rule. Secondly, the continued contestation of territorial boundaries as the case of Israel-Palestine boundary struggles over West Bank, and Gaza has seen repeated cases of conflicts that in essence caused destabilization of both states and often resulting in consistent armed sporadic violence. In Africa particularly, warring territories have their conflicts anchored on the element of recurrent civil wars as the cases of South Sudan and DRC Congo. The situations have seen the militia groups repeatedly hold the government of the day hostage through violent and armed engagements that create a cycle of continuous civil wars bringing about an element of permanency and a failure in all the dispute resolution mechanisms objectively enforced in attempt help solve the cycle of civil wars in these countries.

The part of governance forms the second continuity element that has been a proponent of the current world conflicts. Here, the conflicts in Africa remain largely affected with increasing cases of contested leadership resulting in transitional dilemmas. The common failure in these states has seen the growing militarization of African countries as states of lawlessness have allowed for the proliferation of arms from unstable areas of the continent. Both state governments and the outlawed groups have seen the African military budgets rise significantly from the turn of the Millennia. Such cases of arms and militarization have come amidst the consistent sabotage of electoral processes that intentionally subvert the will of the civilian majority and handing power to the minority. Such subversions have continuously led to violent demonstrations, as was the case in Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. The resultant protests and governments have continued regarded as illegitimate with populations seeking redress in international bodies such as AU and the UN.

The Relation between Change and Continuity

The changes in armed confrontations have been observable from the causative elements. While most of the past wars were much on territorial grounds, the current wars are much of resource based. The trends discoverable from studies conducted by different institutions including the UN Security Council and the UCPD categorizes today’s global conflict as resource-based with environmental changes and natural resources distribution playing the key role in the state of the conflicts. State-based conflicts have thus been on the rise instead of their decline drawing momentum from national demonstrations and protests on resource-based issues. Until 2010, the number of state violence had increased in most of the unstable countries in conflict areas such as Africa and Asia.  However, with the increased protests on resources came to the resurgence some of the militia groups especially in Sub-Saharan regions of Nigeria, Mali, Kenya-Somali, and Libya. Such elements of existent militia that had gone into dormancy especially the Boko Haram and the Al-Shabaab have seen the escalation of militarized warfare in areas of Northern Nigeria and the Kenya-Somalia borders.

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The change in the elements of militarized combat at global stage having moved from territorially based causes to related environmental resources has fed on the continuity factor of existing militarized groups in the forms of Al-Shabaab and the Boko Haram to intensify the resource-based warfare in the two regions. Further, in Asia, the Syrian war wedged on three fronts has seen the local conflict of governance and resource allocation propelled by the entry of the ISIS as a player leading to largescale military engagements between the militia, the government, and the civilians. Additionally, the conflicts have created the broader aspect of external actors in the intra-state conflicts from the involvement of larger peacekeeping missions’ deployment in the conflict areas. Such reinforcements have in the end created interstate engagements with the peacekeeping mission countries turning to be targets of the militia groups as the case of Al-Shabaab retaliatory attacks in Kenya and Uganda, while Boko Haram kidnaps in Mali and Chad. The elements of continuity and change in the internal state conflicts have seen the mentioned conflicts spun out of control into interstate conflicts calling for a change in strategy of their handling. As such, the approach applicable in these cases have seen a difficulty in their definition as the forces neither hold firm to political will or the urge for power. However, the events have envisioned a turn of military efforts and involvement to political rewards both locally and internationally.

How the future wars Might Include Continuity and Change from the Past

The future of warfare and military strategies remains best captured in the Carl Von Clausewitz theories and ideologies of war. In his conceptualization of war and military engagement, Von Clausewitz points that future wars ultimately shall borrow from both the continuity and change that formed past wars. Such is because in human nature and thus the nature of warfare, human under political motivation remains persuaded to improve on guesswork and that in the constant characteristic of war, conflicts are immovable but ever changing in their nature. As such, the distinction of every war shall remain the fact that they are wedged in various styles borrowing much from historical specificity hence the continuity.

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  2. Howard, Michael. 2009. War in European history. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (116 -172)
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  5. Williams, P.D. 2017. “The Struggle For Security in Africa: Continuity and Change in War and Conflict in Africa.”
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