Uncomfortable Visions: The Rise and Decline of the Idea of Limited War

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This chapter interrogates strategy and warfare, in particular the themes of ‘limited war’ and influence. It argues that war is what we and our militaries make of it, paraphrasing Alexander Wendt’s constructivist version of anarchy in international society. The notion of ‘comfortable’ and ‘uncomfortable’ wars is explored. ‘Comfortable’ refers to the way societies and militaries accept the idea of war that is very violent and for national survival, or some other ‘necessary’ reason. In contrast, the idea of limited war with limited means as a way of influencing enemies and opponents proves to be ‘uncomfortable’ because it does not fit the prevailing intellectual and cultural template – to say nothing of the practical issues that many limited wars have faced, from Vietnam to the twenty-first century. That reinforces the constructed character of warfare and the salience of interaction and interrelationships, bounded by the realities of physical and social force
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Art of Creating Power
Subtitle of host publicationFreedman on Strategy
EditorsBenedict Wilkinson, James Gow
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherHurst & Company
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781849045810
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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