The Character of War in the 21st Century

The Character of War in the 21st Century

The Character of War in the 21st Century

The Character of War in the 21st Century


This edited volume addresses the relationship between the essential nature of war and its character at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

The focus is on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, situations that occupy a central role in international affairs and that have become highly influential in thinking about war in the widest sense. The intellectual foundation of the volume is Clausewitz's insight that though war has an enduring nature, its character changes with time, space, social structure and culture. The fact that war's character varies means that different actors may interpret, experience and, ultimately, wage war differently. The conflict between the ways that war is conceptualised in the prevailing Western and international discourse, and the manner in which it plays out on the ground is a key discussion point for scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations. Contributions combine insights from social theory, philosophy, sociology and strategic studies and ask directly what contemporary war is, and what the implications are for the future.

This book will be of much interest to students of war studies, strategic studies, security studies and IR in general.

Caroline Holmqvist-Jonsateris currently completing a PhD in the conflation of war and policing in international conflicts at the Department of War Studies, King's College London.

Christopher Cokeris Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is the author of 11 books on war and security issues.


This project was conceived by a group of friends at King’s College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) after the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco in February 2008. Rune Henriksen played a critical role in the project’s original conception and has provided invaluble input since, both as regards the direction of the project as a whole and in commenting on individual chapters. Daniel R. Morris also offered excellent and generous advice throughout the process, as well as detailed comments on several of the chapters, for which we are very grateful.

We owe thanks to Andrew Humphrys and Rebecca Brennan at Routledge for excellent editorial assistance; to Anita Kakar for speedy and diligent copy editing; to Caroline Watson and Jodie Tierney for their assistance toward final production. The anonymous reviewers gave helpfully constructive comments on early versions of several chapters, for which we are also indebted.

When this project was conceived, we wrote to ask Michael V. Bhatia to contribute a chapter. We were shocked to learn a few days after contacting him that he had been killed in an IED explosion in Khost, Afghanistan, where he was traveling as a member of Human Terrain Team 1, a group of social scientists in consultation with the US military. Our deepest sympathies go to Michael’s family and friends. This book is dedicated to his memory, above all for his tireless quest to understand the conflict in Afghanistan.

Christopher Coker and Caroline Holmqvist-Jonsäter August 2009

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