As military professionals charged with the defense of the Nation, joint leaders must be true experts in the conduct of war. They must be individuals both of action and of intellect, skilled at "getting things done," while at the same time conversant in warfare. Every joint leader is expected to have a solid foundation in military theory and philosophy. Most have or should have studied Sun Tzu, Thucydides, Antoine-Henri Jomini, and Carl von Clausewitz. However, when asked, most would give differing definitions of war and warfare. The upcoming Joint Publication (JP) 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, will define war and warfare.
War is socially sanctioned violence to achieve a political purpose. History has demonstrated that war is an integral aspect of human culture and that its practice is not linked to any single type of political organization or society. The basic nature of war is immutable, although warfare evolves constantly.
Conflict is the normal state of global human relations. Thomas Hobbes stated that man's nature leads him to fight for personal gain, safety, or reputation. Thucydides said nearly the same thing in a different order, citing fear, honor, and interest as the precipitating causes for interstate conflict.
Nations, cultures, and organizations all have interests. Inevitably, some of those interests conflict with the interests of other nations, cultures, or organizations. Nearly all international and interpersonal relationships are based on power manifest through politics. Power and self-interests control the otherwise anarchic international environment. States exercise their power through diplomatic, informational, military, and economic means—they exercise statecraft. All forms of statecraft are important, but as conflicts approach the requirement for the use of force to achieve the state's interests, military means become predominant and war can result.
As an integral aspect of human culture, war has been defined and discussed in a myriad of contexts. As an element of statecraft, it has groundings in U.S. and international law and treaty. Classic scholars such as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz provide valuable perspectives necessary to a more complete understanding of the nature of war and both directly impact the manner in which the United States understands war.
Clausewitz believed that war is a subset of the larger theory of conflict. He defined war as a "duel on a larger scale," "an act of force to compel our enemy," and a "continuation of policy by other means." Distilled to its essence, war is a violent struggle between two (or more) hostile and independent wills, each trying to impose itself on the other. Simply put, war is a violent clash of wills. Clausewitz believed that war is characterized by the shifting interplay of a trinity of forces (primordial violence, hatred, and enmity) connected by principal actors that comprise a social trinity of the people, military forces, and the government. Clausewitz noted that the conduct of war combines obstacles such as friction, chance, and uncertainty. The cumulative effect of these obstacles is often described as "the fog of war." These observations remain true today and place a burden on the commander to remain responsive, versatile, and adaptive in real time to seize opportunities and reduce vulnerabilities. This is the art of war.
According to Sun Tzu, war is categorized as "a matter vital to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin." To assess its essentials, he suggests that we analyze the five fundamental factors of war: moral influence (will), weather (fog of war), terrain (friction), command (leadership), and lastly, doctrine (organization, command and control, and planning). He further posits that "what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."
War is a noun. Warfare, however, feels like a verb. It is the mechanism, method, or modality of armed conflict against an enemy. It is "the how" of waging war. Warfare changes as rapidly as the means to wage war and the societies that wage war—that is to say, nearly continuously. Historian John Keegan has offered that war is a universal phenomenon whose form and scope are defined by the society that wages it. The changing "form and scope" of warfare give value to delineating the distinction between war and warfare.
Understanding the changing nature of warfare provides the context in which wars are fought. Context helps combatants make the right choices as to such essential matters as force structure, force preparation, conduct of campaigns and operations, and rules of engagement. The United States delineates two basic forms of warfare: traditional and irregular. The delineating purpose of each is the strategic focal point of each form. As war is a duality, all forms of warfare have offensive ("pushing an adversary") and defensive ("resisting an adversary's push") aspects.
Traditional warfare is defined as a violent struggle for domination between nation-states or coalitions and alliances of nation-states. This form is labeled traditional because it has been the dominant form of warfare in the West since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) reserved, for the nation-state alone, a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The strategic purpose of traditional warfare is the imposition of our will on adversary nation-state(s) and to avoid their will being imposed upon us.
Irregular warfare is characterized as a violent struggle among state and nonstate actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s). This form is labeled irregular in order to highlight its non-Westphalian context. The strategic point of irregular warfare is to gain or maintain control or influence over, and the support of, a relevant population.
The military profession demands lifelong learning. Doctrine provides a common taxonomy from which to baseline one's knowledge. Shortly after the Gulf War, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf was asked, "What qualities does a 21st-century leader need?" General Schwarzkopf replied, "Competence and character." Competence starts with an understanding of what we do (war) and how we wage war (warfare). JFQ