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Role of the Bengali Military: The Liberation War in 1971

Types of War

Some wars may be messianic in the sense that these will bring about wholesale changes in the social orders in the conquered territories in terms of faith or privilege or power, and some others may be global involving major powers in the world and affecting different parts of the globe. Some wars may again be characterized as local or localized; others regional. There may also be internal or civil war (Margiotha 1983: 1040-48). The Crusades of the past (1099-1204), the ‘Master Race Theory’ in the recent past, and the very recent doctrine of war in the New World Order (NOW) signifying absolute supremacy of the U.S. in the global system are the expressions of the messianic philosophy. The First and the Second World War have represented the global variety.

The forms of war vary from time to time, place to place and situation to situation. There is however no universally accepted terminology for the various forms of war. There may be total war, involving the complete utilization of all resources available to a belligerent. The ‘totality’ involves the relevant nation’s economic, political and social resources completely mobilized, and war ends only when their opponents are forced to surrender. The limited war takes place when the belligerent employs only limited military means. Conventional war is fought without the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, although availability of these weapons may have some influences on the courses and outcome of war. In contrast, the general war involves the total engagement of military might including these days; nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Low-intensity war covers, military actions in the gray zones. It stands somewhere between peace and open warfare, and it includes military assistance to insurgents or to countries fighting insurgents, or reprisals by military means and often like “gun-boat type diplomacy.” The forces and methods used are strictly limited (Margiotha, ed. 1920: 1048). According to motivations of those who wage it, war can be of several types: wars of conquest, preemption and of missionary zeal.

Mens’ outlook and attitude toward war have changed many times throughout human history, and different studies have been made over time about the rules of war. (Brinton 1958: Walzer 1965; Pettee 1958; Johnson 1964; Sola Pool et al. 1963; Chamberlin 1952; Johnson 1962; Jouvenel 1962).

As organized collective violence or as an instrument of power or belief, war can be found in very diverse socio-political conditions, war can be found in very diverse socio-political conditions, ranging from the ritualized vendettas of tribal society to the military regimes of the recent times. Mediaeval wars have very little in common with those of the industrialized world and this is not just a matter of technology. During the feudal era, war was an integral part of political life. Sometimes wars have been an expression of a chivalrous ethic. Warfare during the early modern period has been closely associated with military might. Finally the concept of a total war, endangering the very existence of nation states, has become a reality; yet war is still regarded as one of the ways of conflict resolution when all other diplomatic means fail.

During the mediaeval period religion dominated all aspects of social life, including the conduct of war. The concept of Bellum justum i.e. the just war was a meaningful idea. But the stage for a fundamental change in men’s outlook in war was set by Machiavelli (Machiavelli 1950: 183-186). He was the first one to tear the fabric of morality from war as he did in his consideration of politics. He emphasized the “reason of state” in relation to war. In his own word: “when the very safety of a country depends upon the resolution to be taken, no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty nor glory or shame should be allowed to prevail” (Machiavelli, 41).

Writers like Clausewitz considered moderation in war and upheld the application of force only for the realization of a determined goal. When later writers justified war for reasons of state only, they did not exclude anything as the object of military action and included almost everything as object of attack. During the Age of Enlightenment, however the European states developed a theory which distinguished clearly between combatants and non-combatants. As an ideal, King Frederick of Prussia excluded the non-combatant civilians, villagers, hospitals, academic institutions, forests from the object of war. In war, the state itself has remained the main actor for a greater part of human history. When two Prussian provinces were occupied by French and Russian Troops during the 18th century, the inhabitants initiated a resistance movement against the occupied forces, Then King Frederick himself dissuaded them from getting involved, as it was the responsibility of the state to regain their rights and uphold the sovereignty of the state. The attitude prevailing during the 18th century can be gauged from a quotation from Rousseau’s Social Contract (Rousseau, 1964: 357): “War is not a relation from man to man, but a relation from state to state. Therein the individuals are enemies by accident only, not as human beings, not as civilians, but as military men.”

Modern war, however, has undergone profound changes since then, and has turned to people from the state in the sense that it is the people who make a state. Modern writers have advocated pro-people war and sometimes the idea of a people’s war. In the acclaimed and influential work of Clausewitz, politics/diplomacy is the central theme of war, and not people directly, He has emphasized that “war is nothing else than a continuation of political transactions” (Clauswitz 1992: 119). The political purpose of wars determines what methods the belligerents adopt to realize their goals. Sometimes the treaties that concluded a war did not become the source of embitterment, but were acceptable to both sides and succeeded in installing a more peaceful order in the societies, thus touching the lives of common people.

With the affairs of the state increasingly run by the representatives of people themselves following democratization, especially in Western Europe and North America, the objectives set forth by Clausewitz for waging war tended to become obsolete. Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States (1913-21), for instance, was not satisfied with the limited political aim as prescribed by Clausewitz. He set a new goal and that was “to make the world safe for democracy.” The First World War was to be “a war to end wars.” The masses around the globe were happy with this ideological slant and democratic tone. Thus a new age of just wars began and good wars were fought by the righteous and peace-loving people against vested interests.

The growing influence of the common people began to be felt during and after the Second World War. Modern wars require the active participation of the entire nations as well as their readiness to bear the burden and sufferings of war. The involvement of the common people in the war has moreover resulted in a qualitative change both in its context and content. The civilian population is not included these days as in the 18th century or earlier. It had been a part of the ethics of soldiery not to use arms against the unarmed for centuries, but the entire civilian population of an enemy country has become the target of naval blockades, large scale aerial bombardments and so on during the twentieth century. Even after the end of hostilities, the civilians in many cases find their property expropriated, their ancestral homelands forcibly taken away and sometimes, they are driven away. Thus war has intruded into the civilian sphere on an unprecedented scale in modern times, and civilians also have become militarized.

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