The CSS Blog Network

The Myth of Accidental War

Image courtesy of Jak W!/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by the World Policy Blog on 28 September 2017.

As the rhetoric and warlike maneuvers of the U.S. and North Korea accelerate, the media are increasingly considering the prospect of “accidental” war between the U.S. and North Korea. But if war does start, it will not be accidental. It depends on deliberate choices by both sides about whether to escalate violence or pull back and reassess. Those choices are made by politicians, who are often swayed by domestic political pressures.

The myth of accidental war is a pernicious consequence of liberal international relations theory, which argues that since the consequences of war are so horrendous, no sane person would willfully choose war. Therefore, war occurs only when “madmen,” like Hitler, are in power, or when otherwise rational leaders miscalculate the consequences of their actions. My blog last week argued that the U.S. may be slipping into war with North Korea, but it is important to understand that if it does happen, it is not accidental. It is a product of choices being made now that people and leaders need to be responsible about.

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Clausewitz and the Crackhouse

Dangerous drugs

This article was originally published by War On The Rocks on 5 May 2016.

In 1834, the British Government could not have sent a worse person with the worst set of instructions to China.  The British Parliament chose William Napier, a Scottish lord, to be the Chief Superintendent of Trade in East Asia.  Lord Napier had no experience with Chinese culture or traditions, but was nonetheless sent to Canton to take-up residence as the King’s representative and to ensure unfettered access to the Chinese market.  However, setting up residence on Chinese soil without first visiting the Chinese Imperial court and kowtowing to the emperor was a violation of the Middle Kingdom’s laws. The importation of opium, something the British had been smuggling into China well before the arrival of Napier, was also illegal, and he ensured that it continued. » More

Interview – A Window into the Life and Mind of Mary Kaldor

A member of the Spanish contingent of peacekeepers in a devastated street in Mostar. Image: legio09/Flickr

This interview was originally published by Strife.

Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is best known for her seminal work ‘New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era’, now in its third edition. Professor Kaldor was interviewed for Strife by Melanie Daugherty. » More

Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

152-mm howitzer 2A65 «Msta-B» in Saint-Petersburg Artillery museum

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 11 January 2016.

Amid Russian air and cruise missile strikes, civilian casualties, proposed no-fly zones, air-to-air shoot-downs, and new surface-to-air missiles in Syria, relatively few news stories have discussed the introduction of Russian artillery into the theater. Though the introduction of artillery may seem less significant than aerial attacks, remember that Napoleon observed: “With artillery, war is made.” By reintroducing artillery to Syria to support combined arms operations, the Russians may have revealed something about the war they and the Syrians envision. Together with increased air attacks, the Syrians and their Russian advisors seek to revitalize combined arms forces, and artillery is critical to their vision of such forces. Artillery is particularly important for offensive operations, providing a continuous presence that current Russian air deployments cannot sustain. The Syrian ground forces are now taking and holding ground, fighting urban and village battles where they must, but posing a threat of encirclement and maneuver where they can.

The Syrian military was once a large, well-equipped, Soviet-model Arab army capable of executing combined arms operations. While not often victorious, it was usually competent. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was not then the principal internal guarantor of Bashar al-Assad’s regime — that was the responsibility of other military and security organizations. Primarily oriented against Israel, the conscript-based SAA drew on all sects and functioned as a key secular institution of a largely secular state.

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International Law and the Changing Face of Conflict

Global Justice and International Law. Image: geralt/Pixabay

On 20 May 2015, the ISN hosted an Evening Talk on “International Law and the Changing Face of Conflict,” which featured the University of Notre Dame’s Dr. Tanisha Fazal, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies there. Today, we feature 1) her presentation on the proliferation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and its unintended consequences, and 2) highlights from the subsequent questions and answers session, which was moderated by the ISN’s Peter Faber. » More

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