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The present armed struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan have little in common with the major wars of the last three centuries. Nor does nation building in either place go forward in the peaceful conditions of the post-World War II reconstruction of Germany and Japan. Dr. Holliday gives the name Warfare to this poorly understood intermediate state between war and peace. Using Warfare’s characteristics, he identifies shortcomings in America’s Iraqi policy and, more controversially, advocates creation of new legal codes and practices more responsive to terrorist challenges. — JLA

by Sam Holliday

The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and a host of war’s philosophers since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia have thought of war and peace as dichotomous conditions. The current so-called ‘War on Terror,’ being neither traditional war nor peace, now forcefully calls attention to that fallacy. To be victorious in the struggle with terrorists, the United States must abandon the old duality and become adept at managing a new trilogy of war-warfare-peace. Properly understood, that new trilogy offers broad general principles for better managing and resolving conflict and cooperation, both within and between states.

Throughout history examples of armed violence distinct from both war and peace—warfare—have occurred. In the past, as at present, insurgents ignored both domestic and international law and used any means available to undermine those in authority within a state. Philosophers who regard that behavior as a “new kind of war”—or as a simple evolution of traditional war resulting from technological changes (Fourth Generation War)—make a serious error. The current struggle with Islamic terrorists simply enhances, with advantages drawn from changes in transportation and communications, the insurgents’ ancient methods of warfare. Formerly waged within the territory of a single state, that warfare, now associated with radical Islam, emerges here and there around the world.

Despite long experience and much study, little agreement has emerged regarding what to call such conflicts or how best to wage them. Many names have had recent, brief currency: unconventional war; revolutionary warfare; irregular warfare; internal war; insurgency; counter insurgency; civil war; subversive war; war within a population; revolutionary war; guerrilla war; intrastate war; insurrection; rebellion; revolt; internal security; internal defense; stability; law and order; nation building; state building; small war; peacemaking; peacekeeping; global war on terror; and now long war. Though repeatedly defined and redefined little of use has emerged from this terminological and definitional briar patch.

The time has come to escape the semantic dead end. War aims to gain territory or achieve a wider victory by weakening or destroying an opponent’s capacity to resist. An appropriate term for symmetrical conflict between the armed forces of states, thinking of all armed conflict as War, causes confusion, problems, inefficiencies, and ineffectiveness when applied to all forms of violence. Though air superiority often seems the modern prerequisite for victory in War, most often only “boots on the ground”—ground forces sufficient to overcome the armed forces of enemy states—can guarantee victory.

Peace, the alternative to chaos, depends upon a social contract between a state and its citizens. Among other things, that contract prescribes the ways of enforcing laws, questioning and detaining criminal suspects, and confining those deserving punishment. As long as the social contract is unchallenged, Peace exists. The prerequisite for Peace is a common sense of identity (typically sacred authority based on moral, ethical and religious beliefs) and a consensus rejecting the use of force as a means to resolve disputes. Peace endures so long as the structures and processes of governance (secular authority) have a monopoly on the use of force.

As a name for the condition that often occurs when domestic peace breaks down, this essay offers Warfare as a superior term for a protracted asymmetrical conflict between insurgents (non-state actors) and those in authority in a state. That usage should clarify that the prerequisite for victory in Warfare is communications superiority and that there cannot be victory until there is stability achieved through effective local security and local authority.

The resulting trilogy of War-Warfare-Peace recognizes three distinctive conditions on a continuum in the use of force. Each of these conditions has unique means, methods, strategies, tactics, and techniques. Warfare, as herein defined, includes asymmetrical, protracted conflict for influence over people. A “we” versus “they” struggle over values, attitudes, allegiance, and identity, Warfare therefore has much in common with peacetime political struggles. Set apart from politics by the use of force, Warfare continues until one side yields or collapses and the once armed conflict reverts to Peace.

In common usage “warfare” simply means fighting, conflict or the act and process of engaging in “war.” It consequently serves as a synonym for both conventional war and other forms of struggle—conventional, civil, and unconventional. Sometimes Warfare, as here defined, evolves into true War—civil war—if the insurgents gain control of part of a country, establish a rival government, and create armed forces symmetrical to the armed forces of the original government.

Gaining acceptance of the War-Warfare-Peace philosophy is difficult because the definitions of the words War, Warfare, and Peace impact many of the most fundamental aspects of political theory and politics. Liberty, authority, freedom, order, duty, responsibility, loyalty, identity, custom, tradition, law, and rights—all feel its influence. This proposed redefinition of warfare also faces the difficult challenge of modifying regarded as conventional wisdom for over 350 years.

Would a less ambiguous term than Warfare cause less confusion? Perhaps-if one existed. In this case, however, nothing works better. Moreover, giving an established word a new meaning that better fits reality simply illustrates how the English language has evolved.

Lessons from Iraqi Freedom
The confusion, problems, inefficiencies, and ineffectiveness evident in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, clearly illustrate the inadequacies of the old War and Peace dichotomy.

During the Iraqi Freedom campaign those thinking War applied techniques appropriate for War: military command and control; war-fighting forces; and the lessons learned during War. Those lessons include: (1) identifying the critical mass of the enemy and attacking it with overwhelming force; (2) finding the enemy forces, fixing them, fighting them, and finishing them; (3) using battlefield tactics that made the best use of firepower and maneuver; and (4) gaining an advantage with technological superiority. War fighters assumed that technological advances made millennia-old conflict realities obsolete, that machines could replace human beings, that “network-centric war” and costly systems and weapons could insure victory. From 20 March through April 2003, this War orientation produced impressive results. The War mission accomplished, however, violent conflict of a different sort and calling for different forces and methods continued. As illustrated by the years since the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s armed forces, War thinking has produced inefficiency and often ineffectiveness.

Those looking only to victory in War failed to provide stability forces (as contrasted with war-fighting forces) and to establish as quickly as possible local security and local authority of, by, and for the Iraqis. Great costs and limited benefits have thus plagued the search for Peace.

Those thinking that military victory in War meant immediate Peace mistakenly focused on: (1) creating the structures and processes of a central government; (2) establishing rights and democratic values; (3) excluding from political life everyone associated with the former regime; (4) repairing the country’s infrastructures; and (5) developing the nation’s economy.

In the wake of twenty-one days of War, however, came not Peace but Warfare. The focus should have shifted from War to ending Warfare by achieving stability as quickly as possible by establishing effective local security and local Iraqi authority. Only after victory in Warfare had occurred should the focus have shifted from planning for peacetime activities to accomplishing peacetime tasks. The dominance of the War and Peace duality prevented the appropriate focus and produced limited benefits and a waste of time, effort and money.

How would Iraq have fared if U. S. policymakers had anticipated that a War to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime would lead initially to a period of Warfare before the establishment of Peace?

Prior to March 2003 the Coalition would have built up stability forces in addition to war-fighting forces. When the latter had overthrow Iraq’s regime, the stability forces (United States, third country, or indigenous units organized for internal security) could have moved rapidly into provinces, cities, and villages to reestablish security at the local level as soon as the war-fighting forces had defeated the Iraqi Army. The Coalition should also have immediately reoriented the surviving Iraqi forces toward internal security missions, leaving reorganization and de-Baathification to a later date. That would have eliminated the vacuum that permitted insurgents to establish themselves. Foreign countries (preferably Islamic) could have provided military advisors to assist in the retraining and reorganization of the Iraqi Army.

With governing authority decentralized to the eighteen provinces, local customs and traditions would have guided the daily lives of the Iraqi people. A republic rather than a democracy would have served as a better model for interim government.

The international coalition should have played an early active role in the provinces to insure the rapid reestablishment of local security and local authority. Though provincial governments would select the leaders of the central government, organized as a weak confederacy, Baghdad would retain control of armed forces sufficient to defeat insurgents, hold territory, and prevent the secession of any province.

The focus would remain on Stability rather than: (1) determining the structures and processes of a central government; (2) establishing rights and democratic values; (3) excluding all those associated with the Baath regime; (4) repairing the country’s infrastructure; and (5) rebuilding its economy. While planning for those tasks got underway, their implementation should have awaited establishment of Stability. Too hasty emphasis on the tasks of a non-existent Peace resulted in the waste of time, effort, lives, and money.

Stability exists when the government has a monopoly on force within its territory. Establishment of local security and local authority requires the neutralization of all insurgents. Doing so rests, first, on creation of an effective intelligence system that permits rapid response to any insurgent attempts at intimidation or efforts by the citizenry to support them. When terror exists, a capability greater than that appropriate for policing ordinary crime must defeat it. Should the insurgent group gain control of territory (for example Falluja), authorities must temporarily employ methods appropriate to War in order to regain control: (1) identify the critical mass of the enemy and attack it with overwhelming forces; (2) find the enemy, fix him, fight him, and finish him; (3) make the best use of firepower and maneuver; and (4) gain an advantage with technological superiority. With the insurgents eliminated, the focus must return to the task of reestablishing local security and local authority (of, by and for the Iraqis) and winning hearts and minds—the principal tasks of protracted asymmetrical Warfare.

Stability requires effective local authority. This means leadership in provinces, cities, villages and countryside capable of solving everyday problems. This leadership must accomplish several tasks: remain alert for signs of problems; use initiative and flexibility to win loyalty and produce results; promptly counter acts of intimidation, violence and destruction; quickly provide the basic necessities (water, shelter, electricity, and food); and restore the educational system. For more information on achieving Stability, see Iraq File 02-05 at

Effectiveness in Warfare
To be effective and efficient in Warfare, of which the current protracted conflict with Islamist terrorists is an example, requires agreement on certain new principles and practices: (1) the surveillance and detention of insurgents; (2) aggressive interrogation techniques; (3) intelligence gathering methods and techniques; and (4) the communications campaign. The new principles should allow activities necessary for victory in a worldwide asymmetrical conflict between insurgents and authorities. This includes activities inappropriate for either War or Peace, activities often objectionable to pacifists, human rights activists, the “elite” media, and international lawyers. A time for new thinking is at hand.

Understanding Warfare and its needs requires reconsideration of the long-standing ethical and legal limitations imposed by the War and Peace traditions. Effectiveness in Warfare requires understanding it anew and acting with an open mind. Failing that, defeating the insurgents will become very protracted and inordinately costly. Surveillance and detention during Warfare cannot succeed by focusing solely on those committing or suspected of planning or committing a crime. Governments must have authority to deal promptly and effectively with all private individuals using force for political purposes as well as those who give them essential support. Preventing terror attacks must take priority ahead of obtaining convictions for criminal acts.

In Warfare each of the following must become ethically and legally acceptable:

o Profiling
o Detention of enemy combatants
o Surveillance of likely insurgents and their supporters
o Neutralization of any religious and humanitarian organizations used as fronts for insurgents
o Incarceration of insurgents before they commit a “crime”
o Military tribunals capable of rapidly reaching decisions
o Deferring the application of “innocent until proven guilty” until after charging an insurgent with a “crime”

Warfare also requires the use of aggressive interrogation techniques—which those who oppose such techniques often misdefine as torture. Properly understood, torture includes only sadistic torment or the inflicting of severe pain often resulting in lasting physical injury. Lesser actions aiming at achieving intelligence fall outside that definition just as the insurgent’s legal status falls outside of the Geneva Conventions. Those with experience in the interrogation of insurgents can gain intelligence from use of techniques denied law enforcement in periods of Peace. Interrogation methods appropriate to Warfare might also violate international agreements that apply to prisoners captured during War.

Rather than an emotional rejection of Warfare’s methods, the international community should give attention to interrogation techniques appropriate to individuals seized in Warfare, individuals who themselves have accepted no treaty limitations on their own conduct and who systematically violate the existing norms of both Peace and War.

Who is permitted to employ Warfare’s aggressive interrogation techniques also requires definition. Regular combat forces, to avoid undermining their morale and morals, should continue to adhere to the Geneva Conventions even as intelligence specialists within designated and highly trained organizations use aggressive techniques appropriate to Warfare.

As part of the struggle to reinforce or weaken wills, communication superiority becomes a prerequisite for victory in Warfare. That battle for communications dominance takes place in the realm of the terror, intimidation, media manipulation, propaganda, “fifth columns,” improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, the knife, and more than anything else radical ideology. The communication campaign includes public diplomacy, psychological operations, covert operations, and a shift by journalists and politicians from behavior traditionally associated with Peace to what must become appropriate for Warfare. The communications campaign uses information (and what critics might call propaganda and disinformation) to inform, influence, and motivate friends and discourage enemies. Governmental policy debates must remain as private as possible, and public discussion and news media reports should avoid giving aid and comfort to enemies. Success in Warfare requires a loyal opposition, one not given to undermining efforts to neutralize the insurgents.

Individuals in authority often take a long view; whereas the public usually takes a short one. That distinction creates a major challenge for the communication campaign. The people dislike toil and danger; they seek ease, security, comfort, and peace—now. To insure success in Warfare, leaders must help the public realize that ultimate safety, security, peace, and happiness can only be secured by a willingness to accept immediate discomfort and danger.

The communication campaigns of Warfare become struggles for hearts and minds. Secularists often seek that victory in the wrong places. Economic benefits, political rights, or material objects change hearts and minds very slowly, if at all. They are better changed through appeal to moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. Though now undermined by postmodern thought, such beliefs once shaped Western Civilization. In efforts to escape the scientific, rational, judgmental, masculine thinking of modernism, the postmodernists have rejected the necessity of making judgments and embraced moral relativism. In Warfare, those motivated by God’s will and the ecstasy of belief will sooner or later defeat intellectuals, materialists, and hedonists who believe they live beyond values, beyond right and wrong. In Europe and the United States secular intellectuals, the secular media elites, and secular human-rights lawyers have turned successes into failures, and they could turn victory into defeat.

Should the terminology presented here become commonly used and guide policymakers? Yes. It accurately describes reality, is easy to understand, and makes effective and efficient action more likely whether the condition be Peace, Warfare, or War. Understanding the War-Warfare-Peace philosophy would have made the Iraqi Freedom campaign more successful, sooner, and at a lower cost. The trilogy’s future use will improve the West’s effectiveness in the current protracted conflict with Islamist terrorists.End.

Copyright © 2006
Armiger Cromwell Center, 1035 Fearrington, Pittsboro, NC 27312. REPUBLISHD BY PERMISSION


Sam C. Holliday is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned a doctorate in international relations at the University of South Carolina. Dr, Holliday is now retired in North Carolina.. 


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