Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia

Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia

Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia

Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia

Synopsis

Clausewitz suggested that war is fought by states for political ends, but that does not appear to have been the pattern in Africa. This volume explores how alternative social organisations have used war as a political instrument, refining the classic theory in the contexts of 'failed states'.

Excerpt

This study, with the aid of empirical evidence, has provided a Clausewitzean and trinitarian explanation for the wars in Liberia and Somalia, which hitherto have usually been described as non-trinitarian. These wars are concerned with politics, the state and the instrumental use of military force. War can be an instrument through which to realise political aims, even in cases where the state has collapsed. Politics was defined as concerned with power, authority and rule. By using these concepts to analyse the main warring factions in the two armed conflicts, it was demonstrated that they strove to increase their power so as to claim legitimacy in order to acquire authority and establish rule.

Initially the factions exercised mainly coercive power, i.e. they commanded fighters and weaponry. the faction leaders aimed to transform this power into authority by claiming legitimacy. Legitimacy was found in existing conventions, such as ethnic and clan identity, patrimonialism, widely shared beliefs (such as the importance of social background), military skill of the faction leaders, religion and symbolism. Legitimacy was further derived from the actions of those over whom power was exercised, illustrated by the support from followers, both in their numbers and in their compliant behaviour. Furthermore, the actions of foreign actors, as witnessed in negotiations and peace missions, for example, conferred legitimacy to the factions.

These forms of legitimacy turned coercive power into authority. When authority was attained, it was in the interest of the factions to perpetuate it, because this authoritative power could be used with less cost than coercive power. the establishment of rule, i.e. the persistent exercise of authority, was possible. the possession of authority by the factions allowed them to create more legitimacy, among other ways by using this authority. However, faction rule faced several challenges. the personal ambitions of the faction leaders became the focus of rivalry. in particular, the presidential ambitions of Charles Taylor and Mohammed Aidid

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