The beginning of the 21st century was hailed with jubilations and festivities all over the world as the commencement of a new age of peace and stability, but only after a year the entire world witnessed an unprecedented and drastic change in this previously drafted mandate of peace being buried under the debris of the dead bodies of people who died in the tragic incident of the World Trade Centre. With the fall of the twin towers the whole world was coercively pushed into a state of a war that was waged against terrorism.
Previously, in the 20th century two world wars had resulted in the loss of millions of human lives and had also proved that war where on one hand manifested the failure of effective diplomacy, on the other hand cemented the fact that misperceptions and miscalculations constitute an integral part behind any war that takes place. The question has become extremely significant especially in contemporary situation where the entire world is engulfed by a thick cloud of terror and trepidation that has actually blinded all of us as to where we are eventually going to end up.
Another reason that contributes to the importance of this issue is that it’s time to realize self-aggravate ourselves about the issue that in the wake of eliminating terror we have actually explored and fueled greater venues for its effective and enforcing proliferation on multitude scales. In such topics it is always better to streamline the various aspects that we will deal with. It is important that we have a look at the policy conflicts that occur between states which results in the happening of war. It is also important to shed light on the various methodologies and schools of thought and the ways they look at the issue and finally a hypothesis on the subject based on personal perspectives and perceptions.
Different Schools of Thought and War
A famous saying goes that no one wins a war, everyone loses a war. The occurrence of war is actually the failure or the collapse of effective diplomacy through which war and its multitude adverse ramifications could have been prevented. Successful recommendations for alleviating the war are dependent on the accurate diagnosis of the causes that can actually lead to such mishaps. These prescriptions are based on the principles of rationality and far-sightedness rather than on a mere blame game, egoism of states and the unnecessary exercise of power, hegemony and assertion by states.
Nevertheless there seems to be a clear demarcation in the different school of thoughts that hold different opinions regarding the reasons that ultimately beget war and their explanations are subsequently influenced by the respective doctrine dictated by their school of thought. For example people belonging or advocating the realist, materialist and rational choice schools of thought believe and conform to the fact that war if takes place must be based on rationality and deliberate reasons. In opposition to this people supporting the bureaucratic and organizational politics, some defence analysts and political psychologists debate that the reasons of war are mostly based on misperceptions and misconceptions which create a communication barrier that eventually results in a diplomatic deadlock. The first camp that implements on the doctrine of realism are staunch advocates of the fact that wars take place primarily on the bases of acquiring greater national security, wealth, fulfillment of strategic objectives and demonstration of hegemony and all of these are reasons based on rationally derived assumptions as to why states go to war with one another.
The second camp argues that wars are a result of misconceptions, misunderstandings and misperceptions and the reason for obtaining or fulfilling strategic objectives is not always the prime reason for which states opt such destructive and obliterating choices. Differences in opinion are entrenched between scholars on either side present substantiated data and historical record which provides considerable and concrete evidence regarding the different decision making policies that led to irrevocable repercussions.
The best available literature manifesting these differences between the two school of thoughts in terms of diverse opinions and approaches towards the resolution of matter is available from World War I. Scholars of the realist and materialist school of thought such as Copeland and Fischer blame and assail deliberate German policy which led to the war (2001), whereas in contrast to this scholars such as Snyder and Van Evera (1999) hold the fact that the war was basically an outcome of an intertwined and entangled situation of misperceptions dominating on either side. It was further said that all great powers at that time wanted a limited scale war prior to the World War, but the scale and level of destruction and devastation caused by the World War was neither predicted nor anticipated by any of the state.
Similar is the situation encountered on the attack launched by Japanese combat jets on the US naval base Pearl Harbor during World War II. Psychological and defensive school of thought proponents such as Ienaga (1978) contend that the attack was an outcome of misperceptions fostered by militaristic hyper nationalism while realist supporters such as Sagan argue that the attack was a conclusion of properly weighted and assessed dos and don’ts. (1988)
Another situation that can be traced back from historical records in relation to the long standing conflict between the basic ideologies of the two schools of thoughts is that of the stance taken by Saddam Husain during the Kuwait War in 1991. Pollack (1991) from psychological school of thought believes that Saddam was not completely unreasonable in devising his strategy for Kuwait whereas Baram says that the step taken by Saddam was poorly misconceived and there were terrible blunders conducted by the government which resulted in military as well as economic meltdown for the country in preceding years. (2002)
Apart from all the aspects discussed above the entire argument can also be viewed through a different lens which provides us an understanding that many a times the country initiating the war has shown greater percentages of winning their targets, their success ratios during the wars fought in the 19th and 20th century were 56%, 52%, 53%, 74% and 67% respectively till the year 1991. This shows that during these years the prescriptions and the reasons that resulted in war were highly in accordance to the realist doctrine and school of thought, the war was an outcome of proper and flawless planning and strategy making in which the initiator was clearly focused as to the aims it wanted to acquire, seize or extract. (Cashman, 2001)
But with the beginning of the 21st century and the wars and invasions that have taken place during this time period, the probability of victory for the initiator has slumped substantially. The recent invasions conducted by US and NATO forces in first Afghanistan and then in Iraq are a comprehensible manifestation of this statement. The failure of military strategies and tactics in both these countries by the states known as superpowers all over the world clearly demonstrate that wars in the 21st century have turned towards a completely novel dimension. Another concrete fact that the results of these wars and invasions portray is that even though the element of proper and well managed strategy was still there, the main fragment of the jigsaw puzzle that was not provided adequate attention was the resolution of the misperceptions and misconceptions that were highly important in the entire military engineered venture. The episodes of Iraq and Afghanistan clearly show that in contemporary context psychological and defensive school of thought has gained supremacy over the realist doctrine. (Levy and Thompson, 2010)
The Hypothetical Theory of Diplomatic Pursuance
Some of the wars and their subsequent results that were obtained from them fought especially in this century have produced results contrary to the realist manifesto and their long-standing agenda of national security and power expansion.
These incidents can at least be a reminder to the fact that war is an option that must always be kept as a last resort or even beyond that. The world has come a long way in terms of military development and advancement, nuclear arsenals and ammunition are not just limited to a few superpowers but are proliferating in many countries for defensive as well as resource functions. In such conditions declaring a war against any country will only serve as an invitation for greater devastation, obliteration of human and non-human resources. (Copeland, 2001)
Hence a theory that can serve as an alternative to war in my opinion is the promotion and overwhelming encouragement of diplomatic channels at formal and informal levels. States and statesmen in particular must not poke in their egos and personal dissensions if a matter is progressing towards a peaceful solution. Negotiations must be conducted at all levels and at an equal sitting so that the proposed solution is acceptable to both parties. Powerful states need to marginalize their exercise of coercive diplomacy through which they intend to extract maximum benefits from weaker states. They must realize the woes and grievances of the other state as well and must pay proper attention towards issues and problems that are being enforced on the weaker state through the implementation of their policies. Even though a weaker state will never opt for an option like war against the powerful state, but these features are also important in cases when both countries have an equivalent economic, political and military standing and are confronted with similar issues.
There is no doubt about the fact that in international relations national interest is the most important objective for states, but neglecting the factor of misperceptions may also damage the process of negotiations and may also halt any future prospects of effective discussions and talks from taking place. (Van, 1996)