Accession Number:



Getting the Next War Right: Beyond Population-centric Warfare

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:


Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



As the famous Prussian general once warned, the first priority is to ascertain what type of conflict is to be fought. Carl von Clausewitzs seminal writings laid the foundation of thinking for modern warfare defined around the needs of the nascent Westphalian nation-state. His prioritization, his wonderful trinity, and his recognition that war is but politics by other means have served both strategist and statesman well during the conventional wars of the post-Napoleonic age. The Cold War that followed would make the separation of policy and war more difficult as the advent of nuclear weapons blurred the line between military necessity and political reality. With the end of the Cold War--and especially since 911--we have been faced with a still more complex world. From Afghanistan to Mexico, irregular threats have replaced the classic nation-on-nation or bloc-onbloc confrontations we had grown comfortable with. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia catapulted the United States and its allies back to irregular efforts spanning the gamut from the high tempo operations inherent to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to the seemingly more sedate but often no less intense commitments required for whole-of-government stability operations and nation building. Ironically, despite efforts to push forward in our full spectrum capabilities, we remain hampered by legacy attitudes of compartmentalization and linear thinking. Even more problematic and disturbing is our willingness to engage in operations and deploy forces without fully grapling with the implications of the shift to population-centric warfare as prominently assess by General Sir Rupert Smith in The Utility of Force.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: