Conventional warfare is a form of warfare conducted by using
conventional weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more
states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are
well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the
opponent's military. It is normally fought using conventional weapons,
and not with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
The general purpose of conventional warfare is to weaken or destroy
the opponent's military, thereby negating its ability to engage in
conventional warfare. In forcing capitulation, however, one or both
sides may eventually resort to unconventional warfare tactics.
1 Formation of the state
2 The Clausewitzian paradigm
6 See also
8 External links
Formation of the state
Further information: State formation
The state was first advocated by Plato, then found more acceptance in
the consolidation of power under the Roman Catholic Church. European
monarchs then gained power as the Catholic Church was stripped of
temporal power and was replaced by the divine right of kings. In 1648,
the powers of
Europe signed the
Treaty of Westphalia
Treaty of Westphalia which ended the
religious violence for purely political governance and outlook,
signifying the birth of the modern 'state'.
Within this statist paradigm, only the state and its appointed
representatives were allowed to bear arms and enter into war. In fact,
war was only understood as a conflict between sovereign states. Kings
strengthened this idea and gave it the force of law. Whereas
previously any noble could start a war, the monarchs of
necessity consolidated military power in response to the Napoleonic
The Clausewitzian paradigm
Prussia was one country attempting to amass military power. Carl von
Clausewitz, one of Prussia's officers, wrote On War, a work rooted
solely in the world of the state. All other forms of intrastate
conflict, such as rebellion, are not accounted for because in
theoretical terms, Clausewitz could not account for warfare before the
state. However, near the end of his life, Clausewitz grew increasingly
aware of the importance of non-state military actors. This is revealed
in his conceptions of "the people in arms" which he noted arose from
the same social and political sources as traditional inter-state
Practices such as raiding or blood feuds were then labeled criminal
activities and stripped of legitimacy. This war paradigm reflected the
view of most of the modernized world at the beginning of the 21st
century, as verified by examination of the conventional armies of the
time: large, high maintenance, technologically advanced armies
designed to compete against similarly designed forces.
Clausewitz also forwarded the issue of casus belli. While previous
wars were fought for social, religious, or even cultural reasons,
Clausewitz taught that war is merely "a continuation of politics by
other means." It is a rational calculation in which states fight for
their interests (whether they are economic, security-related, or
otherwise) once normal discourse has broken down.
The majority of modern wars have been conducted using the means of
conventional warfare. Confirmed use of biological warfare by a nation
state has not occurred since 1945, and chemical warfare has been used
only a few times (the latest known confrontation in which it was
utilized being the Syrian Civil War).
Nuclear warfare has only
occurred once with the
United States bombing the Japanese cities of
Nagasaki in August 1945.
See also: Nuclear peace
The state and Clausewitzian principles peaked in the World Wars of the
20th century, but also laid the groundwork for their dilapidation due
to nuclear proliferation and the manifestation of culturally aligned
conflict. The nuclear bomb was the result of the state perfecting its
quest to overthrow its competitive duplicates. Ironically, this
development seems to have pushed conventional conflict waged by the
state to the sidelines. Were two conventional armies to fight, the
loser would have redress in its nuclear arsenal.
Thus, no two nuclear powers have yet fought a conventional war
directly, with the exception of brief skirmishes between for example,
United States and China in the Korean
War (1950-1953), China and
Russia in the 1969 Sino-Soviet conflict and between
India and Pakistan
in the 1999 Kargil War.
Conventional warfare, which is waged by the state, has become
something not worthy of a declaration of war. Instead, those capable
of fighting underneath the nuclear umbrella (supranational terrorists,
corporate mercenaries, ethnic militias, and so on) have now come to
dominate the majority of conflict in the post-modern era. These
conflicts cannot be explained under the statist system.[citation
Samuel Huntington has posited that the world in the early 21st century
exists as a system of nine distinct "civilizations", instead of many
sovereign states. These civilizations are delineated along cultural
lines (for example, Western, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Buddhist, and so
on). In this way, cultures that have long been dominated by the West
are reasserting themselves and looking to challenge the status quo.
Thus, culture has replaced the state as the locus of war. This kind of
civilizational war, in our time as in times long past, occurs where
these cultures buffet up against one another. Some high-profile
examples are the Pakistan/
India conflict or the battles in the Sudan.
This sort of war has defined the field since World
These cultural forces will not contend with state-based armies in the
traditional way. When faced with battalions of tanks, jets, and
missiles, the cultural opponent dissolves away into the population.
They benefit from the territorially constrained states, being able to
move freely from one country to the next, while states must negotiate
with other sovereign states. The state's spy networks are also
severely limited by this mobility not constrained by state borders.
^ Smith, M.L.R. "Guerrillas in the mist: reassessing strategy and low
intensity warfare". Review of International Studies. Vol. 29, 19–37.
^ Segall, Erica Fink, Jose Pagliery and Laurie. "Technology and the
fight against terrorism". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
"Changing Nature of Warfare". National Intelligence Council. 2004.
Archived from the original on June 15, 2006. Retrieved January 30,
Stathis Kalyvas (2003). "The Sociology of Civil Wars:
Armed Groups". Armed Groups Project. Archived from the original on
October 9, 2006. Retrieved Janua