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PROBING THE QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

WAGING WAR WITHOUT WARRIORS' THE CHANGING CULTURE OF MILITARY CONFLICT By Christopher Coker, Lynne Rienner, $ 49.95

Despite being backed by the most sophisticated technology, Western warfare has not been significantly successful against stateless marginal groups like the jihadis, the warlords of Somalia and similar others. One of the principal factors behind this failure against the guerrillas is the fact that soldiers in the West are not willing to give up their life fighting. Christopher Coker grapples with this unusual problem in this book.

Coker writes that the present unwillingness of soldiers and civilians in the West to accept high casualties in war seems strange especially when one takes into consideration the history of warfare in Europe and the fact that the 20th century had witnessed two of the bloodiest wars in history. The author examines the changes in late 20th century that prompted these soldiers to shirk away from the battlefield.

Coker asserts that as a result of the radical technological innovations, warfare has ceased to be an existential phenomenon. A rigidly instrumentalist attitude, like that of the Americans who have the latest technology, has resulted in the psychological and emotional alienation of the warrior spirit. In the existential dimension of war, death has meaning. Violence is the moral essence of the warrior. It becomes an essential experience by which individuals of an industrially backward society liberate themselves from their low status and establish their identity. This dimension of warfare still exists in the non-Western world where religion and clan values give the jihadis, for example, the will to carry out suicide bombings. At the other end, the unwillingness to die forces Western governments to rely more and more on technology like stealth bombers, smart bombs and other devices.

Coker thinks Western armies are facing a shortage in man power because of a cultural change. But he neglects institutional factors like lax discipline in the militaries. One may also disagree with Cokerís bipolar division of the world into Western and the non-Western. It is questionable whether the US and west Europe could be categorized as an undifferentiated West. It would also be difficult to overlook the distinct characteristics of the non-Western cultures while addressing the issue.

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