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Transformations of war and violence in Europe

De Baripedia


In The State, War and the State of War, Holsti explains the successive transformations of war in Europe, starting with the wars of the Middle Ages from 1650 to 1789, he discusses the limited wars known as institutionalized wars, which he describes as wars of the first type[7]. The wars of the second type are the total warfare that emerged after the French Revolution with the Napoleonic wars until the Second World War. Wars of the third type emerged after 1945, mainly concerning Third World states. War has changed and transformed throughout European history.

For war to occur, there must be a complex and hierarchical social organization capable of forcing men to fight. Depending on the ways in which political societies are organized, wars will change. We will see how war is transformed in European history as the forms of political organisations change and modern states become increasingly powerful and effective in their war activities.

We have seen how war makes the state at the same time as the state makes war. This works as well as because there is a plurality of political units and a relatively balanced balance of power between states in Europe. War and armed conflict and its evolutions-transformations must therefore first and foremost be analysed as a relationship. Speaking of war as an abstract object, it gives the impression that the kings and fledgling states in Europe were waging war, but without analysing the relationship of reciprocity without which there could be no war. Wartime activity is defined not only by the fact that a political centre has armed forces specialized in wartime activity, but also by the fact that there are several political centres in contact with each other. These relationships must be understood in order to understand how war is transformed.

War as an institution of the "interstate system"[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Violence is often perceived, especially in its organized form and in the form of war, as chaotic elements whose passion for violence prevails over any political or legal considerations. War can also be seen as a specific institution, i. e. an inter-state practice governed by a number of norms and rules that must be followed in order to conduct war in a legitimate manner.

Fishing for Souls (Zielenvisserij), 1614, a satirical allegory of Protestant-Catholic struggles for souls during the Dutch Revolt (Rijksmuseum)

Modern territoriality in Europe is the result of multiple imperial pretensions competing in a relatively small and balanced territory: the European states have generally started by thinking of themselves as empires. This shows that, on the one hand, the modern State is inseparable from the principle of sovereignty, which states that the only authority of last resort and last instance on the national territory is the State which is sovereign or otherwise called sovereign on that territory to the exclusion of any other State. The principle of sovereignty in principle, which explicitly defines the State, exists only because it is recognized by other States. Each government and each State claims absolute primacy over its territory, but at the same time this primacy is not absolute because it exists only because it is recognized by other States. The State is governed by a legal principle which is the principle of mutual recognition. In order to understand what a State is, we must not only look at international relations, but also at the relations between nascent States which will recognize themselves as reciprocally sovereign in a territory having ownership of a given space mutually recognized.

There is a universalism of the national state that must be distinguished from that of the empire. The State as a sovereign entity exists only because there is an inter-State system that builds it as a sovereign State. There is a universalism of the national state in the sense that the modern state thinks of itself and can only be understood within the framework of a state system where there are several states that are equal in rights, sovereignty and principle. There is a universality of the form of the State in the sense that there are several States that make up the inter-State system, where what prevails is the universality of the form of the State that is expressed in each of the States.

The inter-state system that emerged in the 17th century with the treaties of Westphalia is based on a logic of internal equilibrium, but is also based on an external balance of governments between different states. If there is to be an inter-state system, none of the States that constitute it must be strong enough to be stronger than the other States. In the inter-state system, there is a principle of external equilibrium between States that should in principle prevent an empire from emerging. In other words, the "inter-state system" is based on a logic of internal equilibrium between the administration and the citizens and a logic of external equilibrium between state governments.

The colonial period is a time when there is an inter-state system on the European continent, but they are also empires outside the European continent. This contradiction will disappear with the end of colonization, which will universalize the state principle.

Carte du Monde présentant les possessions coloniales en 1945.

The state as we know it is inseparable from the existence of an inter-state system. To understand what a modern state is, it must be placed in a broader system that is an inter-state system based on the universalism of the state form, as well as on the specificity of each state. There are specificities and peculiarities to each State, but a universalism of the form of the State. There are a number of principles that govern the inter-state system, namely the mutual recognition of sovereignty between States, but war itself is also the result of certain conventions recognized by States among themselves. Historically, sovereignty was also the sovereign right of the State to wage war, provided that war is conducted according to the standards and principles that go with the mutual recognition of sovereignty. Historically, war can be seen as an institution of the inter-state system.

This raises the question of what an institution is. In International Institutions and State Power: Essays in International Relations Theory (1989), Keohane defined an institution as "persistent and connected sets of rules (formal and informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations". They are sets of formal and informal rules that persist over time and are interconnected, prescribing certain standards of behaviour, binding practices and activities that determine the expectations of the future of the institution by actors who submit to it. An institution is a set of norms that compel actors to act in a certain way in a certain situation. Nevertheless, this definition is very much imbued with an anthropological tradition in which everyday life is analysed, as is for example the institution of marriage. This forces activities that generate costs. Institutions are not absolutely decisive, but they play a role in creating symbolic and material costs for actors who do not respect them.

How has war come to be analyzed as an institution by both internationalists and practitioners? Between the time of the Westphalian treaties of 1648 and the French Revolution of 1789, this did not mean engaging in violent activities on the battlefield, but referred to a legal system that required compliance with formal and informal rules prescribing behaviour and roles. Being in a "state of war" between the wars in Westphalia and the total wars was above all a legal state. It was possible to use armed force, but also with the obligation to respect a certain number of principles, rules and standards, including discrimination between civilians and military personnel, the obligation to carry arms and uniform from the Thirty Years' War under the reign of Gustav Adolphe II, respect for the principle of proportionality, involve a ceasefire with negotiations leading to a peace treaty. War involves respecting certain forms of form in order to make war in a legitimate way.

According to John Vasquez in The War Puzzle published in 1993, war is a learned mode of political decision-making through which two or more political units allocate material or symbolic goods on the basis of violent competition. Conceiving war as an institution of inter-state relations means that, as in any political system with a plurality of actors, there will be a problem of resource allocation. There may be several mechanisms for allocating resources within a system to multiple actors. The state through government is a mechanism for redistributing wealth, legislation and law enforcement. In international relations, this is more complex. The problem is that in international relations, there is no executive mechanism that would require that once the winner and loser of a resource allocation system are identified to meet the commitments. The advantage of war over any other resource allocation mechanism does not necessarily require the cooperation of the parties. For Vasquez, the war has made it possible to determine to which sovereign this or that benefit linked to international life belongs. It had to comply with certain standards of warfare.

Allegory of the turkish wars: the declaration of war at constantinople, 1603-4 - Johann or Hans Von Aachen.

Holsti shows that war can be a mechanism for conflict resolution. After the war, once the winner and the vanquished had been identified, a ceasefire put an end to the fighting, but not to the war, a peace treaty would endorse the resolution of the conflict and put an end to it. The war was a short period of time in a much longer process of conflict that was going to be a mechanism for resolving the conflict. War is not something natural linked to the fact that the balance of power would be constitutive of international relations, it is an institution learned by the rulers inseparable from a certain number of rules. Each of the parties to this resource allocation mechanism works together to end the conflict even if it goes through a phase of war. The idea of war as a resolution mechanism is also found in Aron's "Thinking War, Clausewitz" published in 1971:"If the strategy has an end, it could be summed up in one word: peace. The end of the strategy or conduct of war is peace, not military victory, even if each of the warring parties wants a different peace. During the period of limited wars, war was also perceived as such.

The ruler who loses the fight or emerges on the battlefield as the defeated can always defecate the institution of war. Quite often, it can be the people who will rise up against the occupier, which in the traditional law of the people was considered unacceptable. The right of resistance in jus cogens was not recognized. A population that rose up against the foreign occupier who decided to wage war on its own account was considered an illegitimate war. During Napoleon's occupation of Spain, the Spanish guerrillas were considered to be fighting under a usurped right and had to be exterminated because they had to accept defeat.

Real wars always tend to redefine or transgress the institutionalized forms of warfare that have made them possible for the simple reason that the loser does not always accept to be a loser, may launch an insurgent war after having lost the conventional war considered to be an illegitimate war. War as an institution has worked for some time, but there have always been attempts to circumvent or transform it.

Carte paix de westphalie 1.png

The Westphalian system was established in 1648 with the Westphalian treaties, namely the Treaty of Osnabrück and the Treaty of Münster ending the Thirty Years' War. This war was excessively lethal, some historians consider that a third of the population of the Holy Roman Empire died as a result of the consequences of this war. The borders of Europe were redrawn with the "princis cuius refio, euis religi" according to which every prince, sovereign, king is master on his territory for religious matters in order to prevent conflicts of religions within the state. This principle is the historical principle of sovereignty. The political sphere was at that time consubstantial to the religious sphere.

Sovereignty is an institution of the inter-state system based on mutual recognition which determines reciprocal behaviour, rules, constrains activities and limits the right to conduct annexation wars in any case on a massive scale. In the same way that sovereignty was established as a principle with the Westphalian treaties, war became an institution of conflict resolution until the French Revolution. In order to understand the characteristics of war and war at some point in time, it is necessary to understand not only how states are structured internally, but also the norms, institutions and treaties that govern international life and the way in which war is conducted. In order to understand how war is transformed in Europe, it is not enough to look at the formal or informal rules that governments respect or not, but we must also take into account the institutional factors, but also the technological factors that explain the evolution of the war from 1648 to today.

Organizational and technological determinants[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Illustrations of military uniforms from 1690 to 1865 by René L'Hôpital.

Between 1450 and 1700, Michael Robert described this period as that of a "Military Revolution" based on conscripted armies, generally peasants who would be forced to participate in the war by virtue of their duty of allegiance. This entails imposing a hierarchy and chain of command to coordinate massive armies. The military revolution of that era was based on a reorganization of the army, a redefinition of the recruitment of combatants, which involved rationalizing logistics, tactics and military administration. The period between 1450 and 1700 corresponds to various developments that were decisive for the evolution of the art of warfare. On the one hand, the generalization of uniform wearing by combatants, the introduction of strict discipline or the supervision of supply. This military revolution is also linked to the construction of the State with its rationalization and bureaucratization. The invention of the printing press made it possible to print tactical manuals, military doctrine and disciplinary regulations to disseminate rules and principles to combatant forces participating in their discipline, and to subject them to behaviour and conduct in wartime that would make them more effective. It is a time when we rediscover the ancient rules, such as, for example, with the organizational refinement of the phalanx.

War is becoming more and more lethal as a result of the reorganization of the armed forces, but at the same time the organisation of war in international relations presupposes respect for principles such as the principle of proportionality, the principle of distinction between civil and military or the declaration of war and the conclusion of a treaty.

From Religious Wars to Modern Wars[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Cromwell, Gustave Adolphe II and Maurice de Nassau were warring parties in the Thirty Years' War. These three protagonists have one thing in common: they are Protestant. Among Calvinists of the sixteenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there is the idea of predestination which is the idea that everything that happens to an individual was decided by God, corresponds to the will of God, enrichment in earthly life is willed by God. The idea of predestination in Calvinism implies that earthly success has a religious value leading to a very strong valorization in Calvinist communities with economic success. The combination of a radical foundation, the ideology of predestination that a military victory is not only a military victory, but also to be on the right side from a theological point of view, implies that there is an emphasis by the Protestants of the time, a valorization of military reform and the military organizational system to make it more effective.

Gunpowder was introduced in Europe as early as the 13th century, giving rise to individual firearms, but also to the guns and mortars that would shape the way of warfare in the period from the Military Revolution to the present day. The industrial revolution is also a determining factor in the advent of the so-called "industrial warfare", which is the application of the industrial method to warfare with a chain production, a standardization that allows an increase in efficiency.

The forced march to total war?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Sticking to technological and organizational criteria is counterproductive because there are limited and institutionalized periods of warfare, which can be explained by the interaction of the role of war as an institution of inter-state warfare, which sometimes rather acts as an institution of violent practices in times of war, while technological and organizational factors push towards more lethal wars. From exogenous, technology is rapidly becoming an endogenous factor in organizational development. It is the same competitive structure of the European inter-state system that explains the "competitive centralisation" of states and the development and diffusion of military technologies.

From medieval wars to total warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

According to Holsti, in The State, War and the State of War published in 2001, it is possible to distinguish three forms of warfare:

  • the wars of the Middle Ages;
  • total wars;
  • Wars say third-world wars.

From medieval wars to total warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In the wars of the Middle Age, different types of political units were involved. There are different types of fighting forces, including mercenaries, pirates, knights and soldiers. From the point of view of the sociological composition in times of war, there is a strong heterogeneity. The fluidity of allegiances is accentuated by the extremely heterogeneous nature of the units involved in wars. There is a lack of civil-combatant discrimination because of looting, particularly in the supply of supplies, which leads to massacres.

Concerning the wars of the Middle Ages, there are ideological questions, but also power struggles that play an important role in these wars, highlighting the intertwined economic, political and religious objectives. We must speak of "states of violence" as much as of organized battles.

Limited/ institutionalised/ Trinitarian wars (from the "1st type" according to Holsti): 1648 - 1789[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The wars of the first type that followed in the Middle Age are known as limited wars and institutionalized wars. In these wars,"going to war" means respecting a certain number of strict standards that allow war to be a strict mechanism for resolving conflicts and allocating resources within the European inter-state system.

Guerre turco-autrichienne de 1716-1718. Huile sur toile exposée au Musée national hongrois.

These are relatively short wars lasting from 1 to 2 years. Wars are also common. Limited wars follow a clear sequencing process beginning with a declaration of war, followed by a ceasefire and ending with a peace treaty. The fact that today's wars have not lived up to this vision is due to the fact that states no longer declare war. Since the First World War and even more so since the Second World War, the institution of war has fallen into disrepute and is no longer practised.

Institutionalized wars have limited objectives for limited policies and limited interests. These are wars characterized by very strong codification with uniforms, discrimination between civilians and combatants and codes of conduct. During this period, the sword nobility applied its code of military tradition based on the principle of chivalry, which presupposed respect for the enemy as such, at least its hierarchical status. These limited wars are also limited by the common sociological origins of combatants who engage in war on both sides and are driven by their class identity rather than their nationalist ideology. These wars are limited in time and space, but are also characterized by tactical manoeuvres rather than an annihilation approach. Some authors call institutionalized wars "lace wars".

Second type of war or total war: 1789 - 1815,1914 - 1945[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

La bataille de Marengo. Tableau de Louis-François Lejeune.

There are both technological and organizational determinants with the rise in mass, particularly during the revolutionary wars that began in 1792. The armed forces of a country will be conceived as the "nation in arms" within the framework of conscription armies that will radicalize the struggles in terms of violence. The destructive character of these wars will end with the fall of Napoleon, which will open on the period of "peace of one hundred years" which is characterized by a return of limited wars.

The factors that play an important role in this type of conflict are nationalism and revolutionary zeal, the annihilation of the enemy with the principle of unconditional surrender. The objectives are unlimited with liberation struggles, for democracy or racial struggles. The principle of non-discrimination between civilians and the military is also being called into question, which extends the battlefield far beyond the military. Strategic bombardments are the corollary that in a total war, the population of a state and its various resources are placed at the service of a state in order to lead the military effort.

After 1945[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

After 1945, there was a transformation of international conflict through what Holsti called the wars of the third type. What are the transformations in Europe from a military point of view?

The phase from 1945 to the present day from the point of view of the wars on the European continent is characterised, for Western Europe, by the fact that there is no longer any war between States. This period is unique. Since 1945, there have been no wars between major powers at the international level, which is a relatively unheard evolution because in the literature of international relations, there has been a tendency to favour wars between major powers. There was the Cold War between the Soviet and Western Bloc, low intensity wars, but the high power wars have disappeared since 1945. Some authors, historians and theorists of international relations such as John Muller have considered that traditional inter-State wars have disappeared, even to the point of saying that inter-State wars as such have disappeared. Muller considers that we are heading towards a trend decline in inter-State wars, leading to the disappearance of inter-State wars.

The question that arises is whether there is not rather a transformation and heterogeneity of inter-State wars, which are less and less institutionalized and do not respect the classical criteria, but are nevertheless inter-State wars. For example, was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 not an inter-state war rather than a militaropolitical intervention? In November 2001, when the U. S. -British coalition invaded Afghanistan, the rhetoric was not to wage a war against Afghanistan, but to wage a war against the illegitimate Taliban government with the support of the legitimate Afghan government. We legitimize by denying the character of government to the political leadership of the armed forces being fought and saying that we have been invited by the legitimate representatives of the population as the nucleus of a future state. This was the case of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the National Transitional Council in Libya in 2011, which denied the character of the international conflicts that are still going on.

It is becoming increasingly difficult today in many armed conflicts around the world to make a strict distinction between civil war, internal war and inter-state warfare. With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, it is difficult to describe whether it is a civil war, because external actors such as Russia can lead to an interpretation of war between Moscow and Kief. Today, the very distinction between civil and inter-state warfare is increasingly difficult to make. These are conflicts with state and non-state components. The distinction is increasingly blurred. It must also be seen that many civil and non-state wars have an inter-state component.

Since 1945, there has been no conflict between Western European states, unlike Central and Eastern Europe, with the war in the former Yugoslavia and the Transnistrian wars in 1992. Why is it that for 60 years there has been no war between Western European states?

A technological explanation is that one of the factors from this point of view often put forward by realistic theorists is that the invention of atomic weapons has made wars between "great powers" impossible simply because nuclear weapons lead to mutually assured destruction. This is a factor that has been used to explain the end of wars. On the one hand, France and the United Kingdom having an atomic weapon, they can no longer return to war, and on the other hand, with NATO's nuclear umbrella during the Cold War, there was the impossibility of seeing inter-state wars emerge in Western Europe because the risk of even an inter-state skidding would have been too risky. The disciplinary effect of nuclear weapons would have made wars less unlikely and less beneficial for European states.

The organisational explanation is the advent of transnational bureaucracy in the form of the "union", the Western European Union or the European Union, which increasingly bureaucratises international life and imposes the same logic on relations between governments as that which prevailed through the bureaucratization of states. For Martin Shaw, time is a pooling of the monopoly of legitimate violence through the bureaucracy of national monopolies on legitimate violence restricting the manpower of European governments and their ability to enter into war with each other.

The decline of the inter-state war after 1945 is sometimes explained by the economic interdependence and the advent of transnational networks, which would cause democratic regimes not to wage war between themselves. Martin Shaw shows that it is perhaps not so much the rise in economic interdependencies that led to the end of the inter-state war in Western Europe as the creation of organisations such as NATO which, by marginalising the inter-state war, have allowed economic interdependencies to develop. It emphasises the organisational aspect which no longer only affects governments, but also the intergovernmental space, in particular through the emergence of increasingly bureaucratised and influential international organisations.

There is a high density of institutions in the international system which makes it possible to solve conflicts effectively and allocate resources making war unlikely and explaining the decline of inter-state wars in Europe through institutional development. They are forums for resolving political conflicts other than war. According to Muller, the destruction of total wars ended up delegitimizing wars in the dominant ideology of Western states.

Conclusion : l’après 1945[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Since 1648 with the treaties of Westphalia, there has been a decline in interpersonal violence and at the same time, there has been an increasingly deadly character of wars. Since 1648, wars have become less frequent and less frequent, but the long-term trend is also that of wars that were becoming more and more lethal until 1945. But there is no linear evolution with oscillations such as between 1648 and 1789 and between 1815 and 1914, corresponding to periods of institutionalization of the war.

The State is a war machine that lays the foundations for new forms of peace, in particular through the institutionalisation of intergovernmental relations and the creation of transgovernmental bureaucracies.

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