Western Way of War Podcasts

What is the Western Way of War? Is there one? How did it come about? Is it war or warfare (and what is the difference)?



In this podcast series we tackle these issues and others, mapping the origins of the term, and why the current discussions are perhaps misguided and immature.

The term 'British Way of Warfare' emerged from a speech given by Sir Basil Liddell Hart at RUSI in 1931, and later immortalised in the RUSI Journal in 1932. Liddell Hart was discussing British grand strategy after the First World War, specifically the level to which Britain should materially and politically invest in the European continent (as opposed to prioritising maritime interests in the rest of the world).

Liddell Hart, and those who critiqued his paper, used the terms 'war' and 'warfare' as interchangeable. Carl von Clausewitz differentiated them: war as the grand strategic choices of policy, and warfare the practise of armed coercion and violence used to implement political strategy. Whilst academically pure, the reality is an overlap between these two spheres. While scholars pose important, grand strategic questions, those engaged in the profession of arms need to understand the Western approach to warfare (How we fight, and how adversaries respond) as a critical military question.

In dealing with how we fight, it is acknowledged that by the 19th century there were several historical schools of military theory: Prussian, French, British, Russian, Italian and Japanese to name but a few. These had been identified as peculiar to those states, imbued with some of the core cultural phenomena of their own indigenous people, and the deliberate changes made to their military practices and institutions on the basis of their own discrete experiences in conflict, campaigns, personalities, and warfare as lived. Arguably, these merged into a single school by 1990: An American led doctrine and concept of fighting emerged from the Cold War that was centred on a belief that technological superiority could overcome the mass of the Warsaw Pact forces. Much of the previous lessons and individual schools of military theory all but disappeared.

That US school of warfare has been applied against all aggressors in roughly similar manners: counter-terrorism, counter insurgency, high intensity conflict, civil wars, conventional deterrence, partnering and unlimited warfare. The core question of this project examines whether this single Western Way of Warfare is fit for task.


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Season 3

Welcome to Season 3 of the Western Way of War sponsored by Raytheon UK. Access the latest episodes.

Episode 69: Sarah Ashbridge: Are We Proud of the Contract Between the Military and Society?

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Episode 68: Justin Bronk: An Unhealthy Dependence on Air Power

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Episode 67: Malcolm Davis: Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey

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Episode 66: Prof Jim Holmes: There is a Problem with Western Navies

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Episode 65: Katarzyna Zysk: Russian Creativity and Risk-Taking

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Episode 64: Anant Mishra: Street Smart Warfare

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Episode 63: John Spencer: Urban Warfare as the Great Leveller

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Episode 62: Heather Venable: Gen Z – the Best Tacticians in History?

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Episode 61: Minogue and Haines: Education in Conflict Zones

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Episode 60: Rory Stewart: Failure, and the Villains of the Western Campaign in Afghanistan

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Episode 59: Tarak Barkawi: The Vocation of Arms

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Episode 58: General James McConville: Not Fighting the Last War Better

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Episode 57: Eliot Cohen: Industrialised Precision Warfare

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Episode 56: Dr Jennifer Cole: Convergence and Civil Defence

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Episode 55: General Jim Mattis: Reality is a Terrible Adversary

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