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Getting the Next War Right

As the famous Prussian general once warned, the first priority is to ascertain what type of conflict is to be fought. Carl von Clausewitz’s seminal writings laid the foundation of thinking for modern warfare defined around the needs of the nascent Westphalian nation-state. His prioritization, his “wonderful trinity,” and his recognition that war is but “politics by other means” have served both strategist and statesman well during the conventional wars of the post-Napoleonic age.

The Cold War that followed would make the separation of policy and war more difficult as the advent of nuclear weapons blurred the line between military necessity and political reality. With the end of the Cold War-and especially since 9/11-we have been faced with a still more complex world. From Afghanistan to Mexico, irregular threats have replaced the classic nation-on-nation or bloc-on-bloc confrontations we had grown comfortable with. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia catapulted the United States and its allies back to irregular efforts spanning the gamut from the high tempo operations inherent to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to the seemingly more sedate but often no less intense commitments required for whole-of-government stability operations and nationbuilding.

Please click here to download the full article, which appeared in Prism, Vol 1, No. 3: Download file Getting the Next War Right