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Actually, the maps of the political geography, encompassing today’s individual States and Institutions, are inherited by a continuous succession of conflicts with a variety of scenarios and dynamics, linked to contexts and circumstances.

War has been a common denominator in the evolution of social entities and of their institutional architectures, whose very existence has been shaped by the judgment on the field when in the clash between empires. Even a situation of creeping conflict, albeit not fought directly, such as the Cold War, ended with an outcome affecting the map of political geography and socio-political dynamics along with a trail of resentment on the use, or abuse, of it.

The very semantic origin of the Greek terms of War (πόλεμος) and politics (πολιτική) prefigures a root almost identical, and hence a common link and an indissoluble bond. While in the current lexicon the term ‘war’ has been abused to trivialization, in the institutional language it is almost fading in the background. Actually it expresses, in an imaginary spectrum, the upper limit of external action of the State. The latter represents a daunting situation of harmful conditions to its security, prompting the mobilization of all the forces and resources necessary for its survival. Yet, on closer reflection, it is not a mere coincidence that the Western press, and even some scholars use the term “war”, as an emotional reminder of real bellicose activities to describe contemporary situations. This is why, the scientific community has long debated what conditions are necessary to define the phenomenal reality as a war. They found as common denominators, some metrics such as the numbers of combatants involved (over 50,000) and “a substantial measure of organizations from both sides”.

Yet, along the evolution of society, in the pattern laid down by the forces of modernity, even international law has adapted to new trends with the institutionalization of the more generic and inclusive expression “armed conflict.” In this framework, the reference to the term ‘war’ was meant to the stereotype of classic wars inter nationes liberas, culminated, in a crescendo of hyperbolic violence and destruction with the two World Wars spanning from 1914 to 1945. Not surprisingly, General de Gaulle made the reference to a return to the Thirty Years War, thus classifying the two WWs as “civil wars” under an European Perspective. In fact, the Thirty Years War, though it tore apart Protestants and Catholics in a mixture of religion and politics devastating Germany, in the end, nevertheless, the masterpiece of the Treaty of Westphalia produced the foundations of the modern State.

Actually, huge historical and social changes, such as the birth of the United Nations, the missions of the Blue Helmets, a new globalized culture and a growing jurisdiction, have significantly reduced the likelihood of inter-state wars. The very term war, the opposite of peace and both “a typical example of antithesis” to put it in the philosopher’s N. Bobbio words, was institutionally sentenced and socially exorcised. But, as in the past, the persistence of strains and conflicts in a fast changing world, show that acquired principles, encapsulated in all international Regulations, such as the inviolability of the external borders, are far from being taken for granted. The evidence is, for instance, in current socio-political dynamics in the Levant and on the Southern shores, where the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and of decolonization respectively, have highlighted the fragility of certain-state models vis à vis the erosion of the post-Cold War trends.

The increased political and trade relations and interdependencies have left ample space to positive forces of the cooperation in security matters. These contributed to the construction of the international system, through the creation of an architecture of near-integrated political, economic, financial and Juridical institutions. Today, to borrow a term coined for the impossibility of big banks failing, the states belonging to the G category can be thought of as “too big to fight themselves”. But the cyclical dynamics of war and peace lead us to consider an everlasting status of play swinging to and from the two absolutes. The evidence is the long distance dialectic between the Ru. Prime Minister D. Medvedev who referred to an emerging “new Cold War” and Ian Bremmer, who argues that the current status of play is a kind of scorching peace.

Today, in another arena, a state of distress, begun under the auspices of the Arab Springs, has evolved into an Arab Awakening assuming a geopolitical connotation. Combined with the abrupt arrival in the scene of external powers such as Russia, it evokes the year 1630 when Sweden stepped in the aforementioned Thirty Years’ War. That intervention enacted the politicization and internationalization of the conflict. Meanwhile, the canonical bellum, tamed by rules and principles to control scope, depth, and escalating trends, pops up today in hybrid forms; moreover, with the addition of Non-State Actors it has lost its military flavor. Here, the “responsible military” is asked to confront both militants, improvised irregular fighters as well as criminals of all kinds. The Revolution in Military Affairs based on of the dissemination and mastery of information, has led both to technology-driven operations (far-war with drones in tandem with special forces and robotics in the ground), to new frontiers (cyberwar), and the privatization of security (contractors and so forth).

The conduct of war has also become a kind business. On the one hand, brutality has become a sort of leitmotif in out of control internal wars, on the other, the oxymoron of “humanitarian war” is casting doubts about true intentions, often hidden by masks of convenience. The New York Times has recently unveiled that the makeshift intervention in Libya of 2011 was underpinned by a strategic bet on a looming humanitarian intervention, “supporting democracy and inclusivity and building Libyan institutions”. In practical term, right principles may have an unhealthy application. Here, security and social dynamics are intertwined. Therefore, crisis- responses should be woven of best practices in both juridical and judicial as well as in operational applications, and must be accompanied by the will to advance them accordingly, in a framework of shared ends, objectives and deeds.

A great US President, Dwight Eisenhower, against the background of a growing industrial military complex , that he opposed , said “I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity”.

Mario Rino Me
Former Chairman of the Executive of the 5 + 5 Defence Initiative Committee and Head of the NATO Military Committee of Cabinet, Deputy Head of Department “Military Policy and Planning” of the Defence Staff, Head of Multilateral Affairs and Strategic Planning

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