- Class Number 7295
- Term Code 3260
- Class Info
- Unit Value 6 units
- Mode of Delivery In-Person and Online
- Liam Kane
- Liam Kane
- Class Dates
- Class Start Date 25/07/2022
- Class End Date 28/10/2022
- Census Date 31/08/2022
- Last Date to Enrol 01/08/2022
This course is concerned with the conduct of war. It will examine the theories developed to guide the use of organised violence in the pursuit of political objectives, and how the application of those theories has shaped the experience of war for those involved in it. While the course’s staring point is the texts held to constitute the ‘classical’ foundations of military thought, such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Clausewitz’s On War, and Jomini’s The Art of War, its emphasis will be on reciprocal relationship between the development of military technology and the evolution of military theory from the mid-19th to the early-21st centuries. Students will thus explore ideas about the conduct of war on the sea, on the ground, and in the air, as well as the rapidly emerging operational domains of space and cyberspace, and efforts to produce joint theories of warfare that unite activity in all these spheres. The course will challenge the Eurocentrism of much of the writing about the evolution of military thought by embracing non-Western theories of war and critically examining the notion of culturally-defined approaches to warfighting.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Describe the tenets of the major military theories from the mid-19th to the early 20th Century;
- Relate the origins of the major military theories of the mid-19th--early-21st century to their cultural, technological, political, and philosophical contexts;
- Evaluate the practical application of he major military theories of the mid-19th--early-21st century through the medium of historical case studies;
- Critically examine historical sources and commentaries; and
- Express the results of analysis coherently, concisely, and confidently in both written and oral forms.
Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
- written comments
- verbal comments
- feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc
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|Summary of Activities
|War's Nomenclature (28 July 2022)
|WARS2001 – Theories of War is the compulsory second year course for the War Studies Major/Minor. It is also open to enrolment for students from other programs. It is critical that all students begin the course with a common understanding of foundational ideas and be aware of the technical language of warfare. This session will provide a working definition of ‘warfare’. It will then introduce students to the basic nomenclature associated with warfare. By way of conclusion, this session will address key difficulties related to theory-building in the context of war. Keep in mind that we shall be revisiting many of the ideas raised in this session, so there will be plenty of opportunities to revise and refresh one's understanding throughout the course.
|Foundation theories and theorists: Asia (4 August 2022)
|China has the longest continuous tradition of military literature of any culture, dating from around 500 BCE. India also has a tradition of political and military literature stretching back beyond the beginning of the common era. Classic Chinese and Indian works are supposed to embody an 'Oriental' or 'Eastern' way of war that emphasises guile, deception, and an indirect approach to avoid major force-on-force contests. This session will explore the ancient works of Chinese and Indian military theory to start adding breadth to our survey of international thinking about war and lay the ground for later critical reflection on the notion of culturally determined approaches to warfare.
|Foundation theories and theorists: Europe (11 August 2022)
|In this session, we shall examine two of the most influential thinkers in the ‘Western’ tradition of writing on war: Carl von Clausewitz and Antonine Henri de Jomini. These men—both active in the era of the Napoleonic wars—were not the first Europeans to think and write seriously about warfare, but their ideas—particularly those of Clausewitz—are probably the most enduring. This session places Clausewitz and Jomini in their historical context, attending to their military experiences and the surrounding intellectual and political climate. Most of this session is dedicated to exploring and comparing Clausewitz’s unfinished masterpiece On War—edited and published by his wife Marie von Clausewitz in 1832 and his sudden death—and Jomini's The Summary of the Art of War (1838). These were rival works. While On War and The Summary of the Art of War converged on some matters, we shall see that they diverged on very significant issues, perhaps most seriously on the relationship between theory and reality.
|War at sea (18 August 2022)
|The oceans cover approximately 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface and, as both a means of travel and a source of resources, have historically been of great strategic significance. They remain so. The evolution of naval warfare in the 20th century was heavily influenced by several sea power theorists writing around the turn of the century–Alfred Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett being foremost among them. Corbett’s writings in particular presaged the type of combined (joint) operations that would characterise campaigns in the Mediterranean, on the Normandy coast, and throughout the Pacific during the Second World War. This session will examine the work of the classical sea power theorists and compare it to more contemporary theories to gauge the influence of naval technology upon the conduct of operations on the sea.
|Land warfare (24 August 2022)
|The stalemate and horrendous casualties of the Western Front during the First World War cast a long shadow over subsequent theorising about land warfare. Concepts of mass and attrition became bywords for slaughter and exhaustion and the quest for theorists of land warfare was to ensure mobility on the battlefield, which was widely held to bring with it less costly victory. This session will examine the development of theories of land warfare during the 20th century, critically examining the role of mass, manoeuvre, momentum and attrition in them.
|Aerial warfare and future warfare (1 September 2022)
|This session has two parts: theories of aerial warfare and future war. In 1935 the French airpower theorist Pierre Faure published L'Avion tuera la guerre (The aeroplane will kill war). He argued that a large bomber force would prevent war through its deterrent power, or bring it to a swift conclusion with devastating strikes on the enemy's cities. Arising from the costly ground operations of the First World War, and the development of aircraft from simple reconnaissance platforms to full-fledged weapon delivery systems, the inter-war period saw the emergence of many air power theorists, like Faure, who foretold a revolution in warfare and, at their most extreme, predicted an end to ground combat. This session will examine their work, the political, military, and economic factors that shaped their ideas, and how it influenced the conduct of air warfare for the next 60 years. We shall also see how great promise of air power (‘bloodless victory’ from the air), predicted in the in the 1920s-1930s, has periodically resurfaced. In the second half of this session we shall consider futurist speculation about future war. By comparing contemporary futurist speculation with discourses about the future of war at the turn of the 20th century, we shall see that breakneck technological and social change stimulate military imaginations. While predictions about the future of war rarely come to pass and this practice is inevitably highly speculative, we shall see that futurist speculation remains important to the ways in which armed forces and governments deal with change. Note that this portion of the lecture is intended to support students for the future war assignment in the course.
|Resourcing and sustaining war (22 September 2022)
|Logistics is often called the 'lifeblood of war'. But compared to the conduct of war, logistics has received relative little attention from military and civilian theorists. This session examines key attempts to define logistics as a concept and rules for logistics. We shall consider the extent to which coherent concept of logistics emerged in classic philosophical treatments of war before examining more mature work on logistics produced from the First World War’s end—paying special attention to the work of Henry Eccles who is widely regarded as the most sophisticated and philosophically-orientated writer on the topic. We shall see that logistics is not easy to define and situate within a broader theory of war. Logistics has its own rules and relates to the political, civilian and economic ‘spheres’ in different ways to the conduct of war. Though logistics might not be the most ‘sexy’ topic, it is vitally important to the prosecution of war.
|Nuclear warfare (29 September)
|In 1946, the sheer destructive potential of atomic weapons caused the American strategist Bernard Brodie to write: 'Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose'. Nevertheless, throughout the Cold War the military establishments of the United States, and later its allies, and the Soviet Union continued to expand and refine their nuclear arsenals and consider how to employ them to win wars. This session will explore these theories, as well as the political and military factors shaping them, and reflect on the nature and character of war featuring a nuclear release. It will also reflect on potential future developments in the field of nuclear warfare - throughout the world many minds continue to devote their attention to ways to effectively employ nuclear weapons.
|Irregular warfare (6 October)
|Irregular warfare – war characterised by tactics and strategies that eschew the model of organised armed forces confronting each other directly – is often portrayed as a key hallmark of war in the post Second World era. This is attributed to the sheer military power of the superpowers, which had the power to crush weaker opponents electing a conventional strength versus strength clash; the spectre of nuclear war, which supressed inter-state conflicts; and large numbers of intra-state conflicts arising from clashes of ideology, struggles for independence, and grabs for power and resources; many of which were exacerbated by of the great powers. While this session will focus on 20th century theories of insurgency and counterinsurgency, we shall see that irregular warfare has a long history that is bound up with other forms of political violence that we might not call war.
|War in the academy (13 October)
|So far we have addressed classic theories of war, domain-specific theories of war, and theories related to a mix of other important military activities: logistics, nuclear warfare, and irregular warfare. This session considers the ways in which scholarly knowledge about war has been produced in the academies. It charts attempts to institutionalise ‘war studies’ within civilian academies in the early and mid 20th centuries, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of such undertakings. This session also canvasses the key methodological trends in war studies (particularly history), highlighting a move away from a so-called ‘drum and bugle’ approach in the 1960s and 1970s towards an approach that recognises the diversity of warfare as a social phenomenon. The lecture concludes by considering a gently simmering debate about the extent to which war studies, by conceiving of war in such broad terms, lacks disciplinary focus or has drawn upon other social sciences and humanities disciplines too uncritically. While such an account of war studies as a scholarly field might seem a little self-indulgent (and perhaps it is), it is vitally important to consider the ways in which knowledge about warfare is produced and disseminated in the academies because these processes have, to an extent, shaped theories of war adopted and developed by practitioners.
|Quick war (20 October)
|First, we shall examine the ‘systems approaches’ warfare. The victory of the United States-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War was seen by many military theorists as the realisation of the full potential of air power. The Desert Storm air plan became the genesis of a decade of military thought that conceptualised the enemy as a system of systems, in which striking at critical nodes or elements could generate effects beyond the simple destruction of the target. Such attacks would be executed rapidly and simultaneously with the aim of engendering shock and paralysis in the enemy leadership, its armed forces, and/or even its populous, thus securing quick and bloodless victories. The ‘effects based operations’ approach, as it became known, has been severely criticised for a range of reasons—not least because clever targeting failed to produce quick victories in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But the conception of belligerents in war as assemblages of systems still has purchase.
|Cyber and hybrid war (27 October 2022)
|A recent online briefing warned: 'Cyberwarfare could turn every gadget you own into a weapon on a virtual battlefield. And the damage will be felt in the real world'. It is characteristic of the hyperbole with which the impact of rapidly evolving technology on war and warfare is discussed. Digital networked technologies have already shaped warfare and will no doubt continue to do so, but this session aims to take a more grounded look at what their continuing influence may be. The session will also highlight that digital technology is just one factor shaping the future character of war and will examine broader theories of hybrid or multi-domain war in which human, environmental, and other technological factors are also accounted for. Ultimately, this session will ask whether rapidly evolving digital technology, including artificial intelligence, has the potential not just to shape the character of war, but to change its very nature.
|Return of assessment
|Contribution to Group Learning
|All learning outcomes
|Classical theories writing task
|Learning outcomes 1), 4), 5)
|Future Warfare Assignment
|Learning outcomes 2), 5)
|Theorists and Theories Exam
|All learning outcomes
* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details
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Assessment Task 1
Learning Outcomes: All learning outcomes
Contribution to Group Learning
Students play a role in the learning of their peers. As such, students are expected to engage with the material presented by the convenor, in the readings, and by their peers. Students should thus ensure they have prepared for each session. A mark will be awarded to recognise students’ contributions in class. Students will be assessed on their level of preparedness and participation for each activity, the clarity and relevance of their contributions, and their collaboration with and consideration of their peers.
Assessment Task 2
Learning Outcomes: Learning outcomes 1), 4), 5)
Classical theories writing task
Compare and contrast two of the four major classic theorists introduced in sessions 2 and 3 (Clausewitz, Jomini, Sun Tsu, or Kautalya). In addition to the primary texts, use at least five academic sources—books, journal articles, or book chapters. This task is 2,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography.
You may approach this task in several ways. You might compare a Western and Eastern theorist, or you might compare one of each. You might compare two theorists in general, or you might focus on a few aspects (or ideas) of two theorists. It is up to you. Whatever way you decide to approach the question, however, this assignment will be assessed against the following criteria:
· The depth and sophistication of the student’s engagement with the primary texts;
· The extent to which the student has critically engaged with academic commentaries;
· The extent to which the student has considered theorists in their historical context; and,
· The clarity and persuasiveness of the student’s writing.
In terms of structure, think about this writing task as a ‘mini essay’. There ought to be brief introduction which at least provides a ‘thesis’ (that is, main argument) and conclusion which reiterates the assignment’s main points. Use full paragraphs, with clear topic sentences. If you require further guidance about the standard essay structure, please consult the ‘Wars20001 Mini Essay Writing Guide’.
Note that further guidance for this assignment will be provided in week two.
Assessment Task 3
Learning Outcomes: Learning outcomes 2), 5)
Future Warfare Assignment
Students will complete a creative writing assignment requiring them to reflect upon the theories of warfare discussed in the course and what elements of war they see as enduing (war's nature) and what elements they see as subject to change (war's character). Where is warfare heading? The monopoly on the use of violence held by states is eroding—will this continue? Will conflicts continue to be pursued, and decided, in the three principle domains - land, sea and air—or will new domains such as space and cyberspace become the new crucible of war? Will war remain an essentially human activity? Or will flesh and blood combatants be pushed aside replaced by machines and the algorithms that direct them? Ultimately, in 2045 will the theorists examined in this course still hold relevance?
Assessment Task 4
Learning Outcomes: All learning outcomes
Theorists and Theories Exam
Students will sit an exam of three equally weighted parts. The first part will consist of a series of short answer questions to test their knowledge of the specifics of theories discussed during the course. This part will be completed in the classroom. The second and third parts will consist of essay questions, intended, respectively, to allow them to demonstrate their knowledge of particular historical case studies and to reflect on the course as a whole. The second and third parts will be conducted as a take home exam
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Dr Liam Kane is a Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University. His research interests are centred on the history of warfare in the 20th century. His current research projects relate to multinational air operations in the Pacific War (1941-1945) and Australian defence planning and procurement between the world wars.