Three Wars of Ideas about the Idea of War
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Strategic debates have long characterized the discourse on military affairs. Three lively disputes concern: 1) Whether set “principles of war” can be codified and mastered; 2) The relative strengths and limitations of maritime and continental power; and 3) The potential for waging successful “short wars.” Carl von Clausewitz provided the sharpest critique of the principles of war, arguing that “friction” can overwhelm even highly refined military art. A.T. Mahan’s concept of sea power was challenged by Halford Mackinder’s theory of “heartland power.” Short-war notions animated by Moltke the Elder’s victories in the 19th Century German wars of unification, and expanded upon by his successors, were rebutted by Ivan Bloch. Each debate remains relevant: technological advances prompt reappraisal of principles of war; the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia as great continental powers challenge American naval mastery; and insurgents and terrorists continue to prove the value of “long wars.”
The article of record as published may be located at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01495933.2015.1017370
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