Understanding War

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The picture featured on this website is a painting of the surrender of Vercingetorix to Julius Caesar. The proud Gallic warrior submitting to the quintessential Roman victor. The selection of this painting was not meant to communicate a nostalgia for imperialism or even militarism. This particular painting was meant to convey the fact that the enduring theme of conflict is asymmetric relations of power. It is common to use terms such as “modern war” to describe persistent low-intensity conflict, counterinsurgency, or to generally describe western interventions in developing nations. Terms such as “modern war” conceal the continuities of warfare by implying that something in our time is aberrant. Failure to grasp the asymmetries of power as a constant feature of warfare explains why creative adversaries are able to prosecute successful long-term strategies against a far superior enemy. The powerful actor may have more conventional strength, but where the powerful actor benefits from an asymmetry of capabilities the weaker power may benefit from an asymmetry of will. Such was the case with the Vietnamese, Taliban, and ISIS offensive against the Iraqi Army.

The purpose of this site is to interrogate such presumptions. The conflicts between powerful states, non-state actors, and weak states are the history of political evolution, and only by understanding the phenomenon of force in its most basic and visceral form, the struggle for power, can we begin to form adequate strategies for an order defined by peace and mutual prosperity.

This site is intended for students of American foreign policy, military history, strategy, and national security decision-making.


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