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 1

Welcome to Season 1 of the Western Way of War sponsored by Raytheon UK.

Episode 32: Vapourwear, Transformations and AirLand Battle

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Episode 31: When Did We Stop Inventing Stuff?

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Episode 30: Is the Era of Manoeuvre Warfare Dead?

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Episode 29: Electronic Warfare and Cumulative Risk

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Episode 28: Soothsaying, Prophecy and Luck

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Episode 27: The Paradox Facing Navies

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Episode 26: People as the Decisive Advantage

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Episode 25: HYPErsonics?

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Episode 24: When did everything become securitised?

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Episode 23: Utility vs Utilisation

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Episode 22: Rules, Norms, and Structures

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Episode 21: Bad Procurement: A Peculiarly Western Issue?

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Episode 20: Outwitted, Outgunned, and Outflanked

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Episode 19: Wars Change Religion

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Episode 18: Don't Invade Parthia

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Episode 17: Political Risk, the Media and the Military

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Episode 16: Society and the Western Way of Peace

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Episode 15: CBRN and the Western Way of Warfare

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Episode 14: Combined Arms, Military Culture, and the Failures of Leadership

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Episode 13: Taoism and Clausewitz

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Episode 12: Does the Battle Decide the Political End State?

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Episode 11: Air Power Beyond Tactical Effects

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Episode 10: The Realities and Future of Swarming and Drones

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Episode 9: Air Power in an Age of Great Power Competition

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Episode 8: A Politicians View on the Utility of Hard Power

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Episode 7: The Death of Military Superiority

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Episode 6: Air Marshal Philip Osborn

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Episode 5: Professor Frank Hoffman

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Episode 4: Admiral Sir Philip Jones

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Episode 3: Baron Richards of Herstmonceux

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Episode 2: Sir Graeme Lamb

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Episode 1: Professor Nina Kollars

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Podcast Trailer: What is the Western Way of Warfare?

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