SPEAKING FREELY The warrior and democratic society
By Andreas Herberg-Rothe
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Changes since the landmark years of 1989-1991 require a different model for the soldier in democratic societies, and this is most important for the changes in the Arab world.
Since those years, the model of the warrior has gradually been developing. The warrior had always embodied the difference and distance between soldierly actions and the self-image of a civilian society, while at the same time developing his own warrior code of honor. Some of these approaches, however put too much
emphasis on the difference between civilian and democratic society.
The decisive problem for the 21st century continues to be integrating the military into and reconnecting it with the standards, values, and interests of a democratic society, while at the same time recognizing its own identity and culture. A pure adaptation to changes in duties, as in the concept of the "archaic combatant", would not only sever the dynamic bond between the military and society and open up an unbridgeable chasm, it would also permanently define individuals and possibly limit changes.
On the other hand, concepts such as the "armed social worker" tend to undervalue the specifics of soldierly action which are the application and threat of force.
It's true that in modern armies only a small percentage of soldiers actually fight. In that respect, the much-trumpeted differentiation of roles is as practical a perspective as multi-functionality, but because of this very differentiation, it can never offer soldiers a relatively consistent meaning or solidify into a social role.
On the contrary, in multi-functionality the essential professional and social identity of the soldier seems to vanish. By way of contrast, the concept of the "democratic warrior" is introduced here in an attempt to build a bridge that can both do justice to the soldierly self-image and reconnect it to a democratic society and its political goals in world society.
At the same time, we must point out the basic difference between the social roles of the combatant and the warrior. Whereas a combatant embodies only one dimension of soldierly action, the social role of the warrior encompasses a variety of possible duties and differentiations.
In systematic terms, this perspective of reconciling opposite poles is in line with Clausewitz's concept of the "wondrous trinity". Rather than reducing his far-reaching theoretical approach to the famous formula of "war as a continuation of policy by other means," in his "wondrous trinity" he created an arsenal that can basically encompass all types of war.
In my interpretation of his trinity, each war is a different historically-based combination of primordial violence, the struggle between two or more opponents, and the membership of the combatants in a comprehensive society - a situation that Clausewitz elucidated with the primacy of politics.
The specific form that a war takes is determined by the historical differences in the particular means of violence, the fight, and the particular communities. According to this definition of war by Clausewitz, soldiers themselves must also be able to strike a balance between these three tendencies.
In terms of the military's self-image, this means that its soldiers must be capable of exerting or threatening violence, they must be able to fight and, finally, they must act as part of a larger community as well as being perceived as such.
For Clausewitz, the larger community was the Prussian state, and at times the Prussian nation. The model for us today is and remains the democratic state - and this community is of existential importance for intervention forces, which are perceived as closely connected to their particular social model.
Network structures require a different relationship between those conducting wars and civil society. Such conduct of war is characterized by "loose and diffuse organizational structures" in which the underlying political will and mandate can no longer be imposed down to the lowest level of a hierarchical system, but as in the warfare of partisans, necessarily assumes a high value placed on political content.
It is because of the relative independence of soldiers in network-centric warfare that this type of warfare does not require an "archaic combatant", but rather a democratic warrior. In the event of war, the actions of these soldiers are in any case attributed to the political-cultural community for which they are acting. In the case of an "archaic combatant," his actions would be attributed to a body politic that has no stake as a democratic society.
The democratic warrior in the 21st century
The classic image of war has largely been replaced by a comprehensive image of security in which the military plays a quantitatively smaller but at the same time qualitatively expanded role within the context of the security policy players.
Combining the different perspectives in the areas of foreign, economic, development, judicial, domestic, and defense policy permits a global approach to the planning and implementation of conflict resolution, for the purpose of meeting the requirements of complex conflict and crisis scenarios and thus fighting both the causes of a crisis or conflict and its consequences.
For this purpose, security-related governmental and non-governmental actors must consciously coordinate, connect, and systematically integrate their goals, processes, structures, and capabilities into their long-term actions. Based on this expansion of the concept of security, a democratic army needs a specific task and function, as explained below, based on the concept of a new containment policy.
When the East-West conflict ended, Francis Fukuyama also announced the "end of history", meaning an end to the practice of war and violence. The triumphant advance of democracy and free markets seemed to be unstoppable, to the point where it appeared as if the 21st century would be an age defined by economics and thus, to a large extent, peace.
However, these expectations were quickly disappointed, not only because of the ongoing massacres and genocide in Africa, but also by the return of war to Europe (primarily in the former Yugoslavia), together with the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the US, the subsequent war in Afghanistan, the Iraq War of 2003, and the uprisings in Iraq since 2003-2004, as well as the war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia in 2008 and, most recently, escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the threat of war due to the Iranian nuclear program.
In a complete reversal of Fukuyama's thesis, a struggle against a new brand of Islamic totalitarianism appears to have begun, in which war and violence are commonly perceived as having an unavoidable role.
Both are also perceived as having become "unbounded" - both in a spatial sense, because terrorist attacks are potentially ever-present, and temporally, since no end to these attacks is in sight. One can also speak of a new dimension to violence with respect to its extent and brutality - as exemplified by the extreme violence of the ongoing civil wars in Africa, and by completely new types of threats, such as those from weapons of mass destruction held by terrorist organizations.
These processes of growing disinhibition must be countered by a new containment policy that limits the expansion of war and violence in world society just as George Kennan - who formulated the original approach to the expansion of the USSR in 1946 - already emphasized in 1987: "We are going to have to develop a wider concept of what containment means ... a concept, in other words, more responsive to the problems of our own time."
Although his original concept was reduced to its military aspect by various administrations of the US government, incorporating the concept of common security during the Cold War made it possible to harmonize the actual dual strategy of curbing military expansion on the one hand and establishing mutual cooperation on the other.
Contrary to the common view, it was not just the military-technological superiority of the US that led to Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR. Rather, it was first and foremost the dual strategy of military deterrence plus far-reaching offers of cooperation, Glasnost and Perestroika in the East.
This can be clarified using the example of democratization. If a general, worldwide democratization - which, because of the highly symbolic value of democracy, would also have to be implemented through violence - were the only counter-strategy against the processes of disinhibition of both violence and war, the results would almost certainly be counterproductive.
This is particularly clear in those cases where fully developed constitutional democracies are not yet present, but societies are undergoing the initial process of transformation. It is much more justified to speak of the antinomies of democratic peace in the latter cases than when referring to developed democracies.
Thus it is possible that a one-sided demand for democratic processes without regard for local conditions might, in individual cases, even contribute to the creation of antidemocratic movements.
The historical experience that corresponds to this change is found in the developments after the First World War. Here, too, in nearly all of the defeated states, there was initially a process of democratization, and even democratic revolutions.
Yet almost all ended in authoritarian or even totalitarian regimes. In Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the "right of national self-determination" proclaimed by US president Woodrow Wilson was interpreted in a nationalist rather than a democratic way, and as an exclusion of entire populations. Thus, the concept of the democratic warrior is not based on imposing democracy by force but on limiting war and violence in world society in order to enable and maintain democratic self-determination.
Conflicting developments are evident, above all in the following dimensions: globalization versus struggles over identities, locational advantages and interests; high-tech wars versus "combat with knives and machetes" or asymmetrical warfare; the privatization of war and violence versus their re-politicization and re-ideologization as well as "world order wars"; the formation of new regional power centers and superpowers versus the increasing juridification of international relations and the institutionalization of regional and global communities.
The democratic warrior today
At first glance, the concept of the democratic warrior appears to be self-contradictory. Indeed, it combines seemingly conflicting value systems in a single conception. Based on the example of a magnet, or on the model favored by Clausewitz of the unity of polar opposition between attack and defense, a methodology can already be formulated to explain how this type of conflicted unity is not necessarily a logical opposition, but can also be a dynamic interrelationship on a continuum.
At one end of the continuum is democratic equality and non-violent conflict resolution; at the other end is the threat and sometimes violently enforced limitation of war and violence. At one end is a civilized society and at the other is a subsystem of society whose identity is defined by martial honor.
The decisive bond that can link the two poles of this dynamic relationship without eliminating their opposition is the classical republican virtues, which can lay claim to relative validity in both spheres. Since Plato, the classical virtues have been prudence (wisdom), justice, fortitude and temperance.
Without a specific ethos aimed at the political functioning of the polity, a state can sustain itself only under the conditions of a dictatorship. If republican virtue, which is oriented toward the polity, cannot be directly reconciled with the liberal democracy and its focus on the individual, it can take on a completely new significance as a bond linking a democratic society to democratic warriors.
Thus, for Machiavelli, republican virtue already guaranteed both external and internal freedom. In this respect, the necessary though not yet adequate condition of the democratic warrior is to be likewise a republican soldier. Add to this the limitation of war and violence in world society in order to make democratic societies possible. A renewal of republican virtue is the link between liberal-democratic society and a warrior ethos.
Andreas Herberg-Rothe, Dr. phil. habil., is a permanent lecturer at the faculty of social and cultural studies at the university of applied sciences, Fulda, and was a private lecturer of Political Science at the Institute for Social Sciences, Humboldt-University Berlin (up to 2009). He was an associate of the Oxford Leverhulme Programme "The changing character of War" (2004-2005) and convener (together with Hew Strachan) of the conference "Clausewitz in the 21st century" (Oxford 2005). He was a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Centre for International Studies (2005-2006).
He is the author of Clausewitz's puzzle. The political theory of war (Oxford University Press) and edited together with Hew Strachan the anthology Clausewitz in the twenty-first century (Oxford University Press 2007). His articles include "New Containment Policy: Grand Strategy for the Twenty-first Century?" in RUSI-Journal, Whitehall, London, April 2008, Vol. 153, No. 2, pp. 50-55; "The re-politicisation of war and violent conflict - The world powers are striking back", in Ralph Rotte/Christoph Schwarz (eds.) War and Strategy, New York (Nova Science) 2010. His newest book, published with Jan Willem Honig and Dan Moran is Clausewitz: The state and war (Steiner publisher, Stuttgart 2011).
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.