In his article “Give war a chance”, Luttwak considers the benefits of war and especially the disadvantages of external intervention. He claims that wars have the great virtue of solving political conflicts and leading to peace by exhausting one of the parts.
In his opinion, interventions permit combatants to build up their forces in order to prolong struggles. The author also believes that by not allowing nature to follow its course in former Yugoslavia, the level of suffering has been increased and real peace postponed. Moreover, multilateral organizations that pretend to be capable of stopping warfare and protecting civilians from violent repercussions fail to carry out their obligations. They send military-troops to control the area, but they fail themselves in controlling troop degradation, which ends up in dead, mutilated or tortured victims.
Humanitarian relief activities are also a smokescreen as the UnitedNationsReliefAndWorks Agency and NGOs perpetuate refugee nations that preserve their resentments, and additionally insert material aid into ongoing conflicts.
In order to support his arguments, Luttwak mentions wars from Rwanda, Lebanon or Gaza Strip. To conclude, he returns to his main point that the paradoxical logic of war should not be forgotten, underlying the commitment to let war bring peace.
This essay does not aim to deny all benefits of war, but show that violence does not always dissipate and struggles do not necessarily lead to a durable peace. In order to do this, I will present some real examples. Additionally, I will bring arguments indicating the unfavorable consequences of warfare at a national and international level.
The modern warfare
In this section I give attention to the changes in global security and the tight relationships between states that influence the character of wars.
According to Gasteyger(2006),global security is being increasingly determined by a rapidly shifting configuration of economic and technological forces, as well as by growing internal fragility and external dependence on vital resources. The predictability of action is also getting more and more diffuse. This reduces the possibility of rational decision-making, as more actors enter the stage with more tools of action at their disposal and more causes to fight over.
We observe that in the modern world, where states are in an interdependent system for satisfying their needs, a conflict between two or more countries indirectly affects the outsiders. Therefore, the main reason for the threatening aspect of contemporary world politics lies in the character of modern war.(Art,Jervis,2003)
Politics, diplomacy and interests
When talking about diplomacy or wars we should consider the interest of every country in providing for their own security. Diplomacy promotes this interest by peaceful means as words might play a more important role in determining policy-makers than continuous struggles.
Nevertheless, warfare can be justifiable when a state is confronted with a direct threat and has to defend the integrity of its territory. However, permitting the war to follow a natural course cannot be the best solution as losers and victims are less isolated and have allies, enabling them to receive help when exhaustion appears. Consequently, wars tend to bring deadlock rather than a genuine peace.
Nowadays war serves the interest of the elites who want to fight them. Sudan has been in a north-south war for most of the last fifty years, Kashmir and Sri-Lanka are in a continuous state of decline even if external meddling were rare. Columbia has had a civil war for over forty years and the drop in violence is not very significant yet.
We have seen that politics is all about the ability of promoting the self-interest which can sometimes be achieved by means of war. However, would the consequences be worth?
Wars and their fatal costs
This paragraph proposes to show the consequences of armed conflicts and a possible way of tempering them, as the price nations pay for going to war could be the loss of their identity.
Wars bring serious economic, political and social damages. Resources are wasted, innocent citizens die, women are raped or children are orphaned and not only. Treasures and historic sites are lost;castles and monuments are destroyed. Some peoples even lost their language because of being conquered. Therefore, these nations lose part of their identity and people remain with severe psychological sequels. During war, successive generations suffer from force displacements, attacks, and denial of human rights, deprivation or starvation.
After a war, the defeated part is forced to accept an inconvenient peace which cannot assure that frustrated people will never rise against their enemies. A fight to the finish can have more fatal consequences than a struggle stopped at the appropriate point.
There is also the case of ideological or religious conflicts that never come to an end and as the time passes, they become a danger to the entire world. According to Morgenthau, the variable that remains subject to desirable manipulation is the new moral force of nationalistic universalism. A revived diplomacy will have a chance to preserve peace only when it is not used as the instrument of a political religion aiming at universal dominion.
The problem of external intervention
In his work, Luttwak claims the incompetence of foreign intervention. Although this has been a problematic issue during past wars, I will try to bring into discussion some successful interventions and to argue that in some cases meddling cannot be avoided as states care for their national interests.
Competent foreign intervention has been effective as in the case of Northern Ireland, Central America, parts of the former Soviet Union or regions from Africa.
U.N.officials in places as eastern Angola, northern Sierra Leone, and the eastern areas of Congo face the fact that rebels fight not for victory but because fighting offers power and wealth.(Vieira De Mello,2000)
Moreover, considering the example of the E.U., if a member country enters a war, the other states are not willing to wait for its economic and military destruction because its reconsolidation will impinge upon their economies.
However, the inept meddling criticized by Luttwak exists. There is no excuse for the U.N. Security Council’s tolerance of Serb outrages in Bosnia, which discredited and demoralized U.N. peacekeepers trying to carry out mandates designed and approved in Washington and other key-capitals. Nothing explains the human consequences of the West’s refusal to act in Rwanda or its decision to establish refugee camps in Congo under effective domination of genocidal butchers. But these are not examples of “interventionism”, they are examples of incompetence.(Crocker,2000)
The purpose of this text is not to contradict the entire logic of Edward Luttwak’s article, “Give war a chance”, but to question whether war can play the role of a straight road towards peace or not.
Firstly, I dwelled upon the characteristics of modern warfare, which have been changed because of a rapidly shifting configuration of primarily economic and technological forces. I also recalled the interdependency between states which makes every war a source of danger for the outsiders.
The next paragraph deals with the main interest of a country, that of providing for their own security, showing that warfare is justifiable when a state has to defend the integrity of its territory .Nevertheless, I reckon with the fact that war serves the interest of the elites who want to fight them.
Further on, the severe consequences of a war were emphasized, illustrating the social, psychological and economic costs.
In the end I took a look at the problem of external intervention, neither disapproving with Luttwak, nor accepting all his arguments.
In conclusion, there is no exact solution to all wars, but, however, Luttwak’s suggestion does not seem very feasible in a world where there is such interdependency between states.
Art,Robert and Jervis,Robert. 2003.”International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues”.Longman
Crocker,Chester. 2000.”A poor case for quitting.Foreign Affairs 79.1
Gasteyger,Curt. 2006.”Global Security in Perspective”.Geneva.DCAF
Koogler,Jeb. 2007.Foreign Policy Watch.Available: http://fpwatch.blogspot.com/2007/02/should-international-community-get.html
Luttwak,Edward. 1999.”Give War a Chance”.Foreign Affairs 78.4
St.Jean,Chester.”The changing nature of “international security”.2007.Normaln Paterson School of International Affairs, 8
Vieira de Mello,Sergio. 2000.”Enough is Enough”.Foreign Affairs 79.1