Article of the day: A new view on war

Today’s article is about soldier and military theorist Emile Simpson. Simpson is making waves in military theory by proposing a new theory of war, one that makes sense of modern conflicts in a way that von Clauswitz can’t.

His main insight is that modern wars are different to the state vs state wars of the recent past. In modern wars, “the ultimate object of combat is to convey a message; and to ensure that the message is understood, one has to understand the audience for which it is intended”. In Simpson’s view, conflict is about ‘strategic narratives’ and ‘strategic audiences’. He places understanding of narrative and culture at the centre of conflict; something that should strongly with the post-modern Left.

An interesting read throughout, with applications to politics in general.

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Excerpt: “Popular support can no longer be taken for granted. “The people” are no longer homogeneous and the enemy is no longer a single entity. Further, “the enemy” is no longer the only actor to be taken into account. The information revolution means every incident of the conflict can be  broadcast and received by anyone with access to the internet; including the men in foxholes.”

And: “Simpson follows Clausewitz in seeing war as “a continuation of politics with an admixture of other means”, but he divides wars into two categories: those fought “to establish military conditions for a political solution” and those that “directly seek political, as opposed to military, outcomes”.”

“The first are the traditional bipolar conflicts in which all operations are directed to defeating the enemy armed forces and compelling his government to accept our political terms. The second – those in which the British armed forces have been largely engaged for the past half-century – are those where operations themselves are intended to create the necessary political conditions. […] In the latter, operations are themselves political tools, used to undermine the adversary, deprive him of political support and if possible to convert him. The people firing on you today may be vital associates tomorrow.”

And: “The genius of Winston Churchill in 1940 was to devise a strategic narrative that not only inspired his own people, but enlisted the support of the United States: indeed, most of British military operations in the early years of the war were planned with an eye on that strategic audience. The great shortcoming of Hitler’s strategy was his failure to create a strategic narrative that appealed to anyone apart from his own people – and a rapidly decreasing number of them.”

Another great article courtesy of




One thought on “Article of the day: A new view on war

  1. Keenan wrote a book which seriously pulled Clauswitz to bits. A History of Warfare. Clauwitz only talking about a limited context specific warfare.

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