In order truly to understand war & peace, we must delve into some military theory. A theory lays out the principal concepts of a given field of study and their relationships, and it must also explain the “why” of things: causality. In doing this it should help us predict behavior: what will take place in that field of study under a given set of circumstances.
There are at least two ways of looking at war—two theories, “paradigms,” or frames of reference. The first paradigm can be summed up by the expression: “In war, God is on the side of the heaviest battalions,” that is, the side with the strongest military forces wins.
In Paradigm #1, war is about military stuff. War is uni-dimensional. However, if we look at military history, this clearly is not always the case. The Thebans defeated the supposedly invincible Spartans at Leuctra in 371 B.C. despite an almost two-to-one inferiority. At Cannae in 216 B.C. Hannibal destroyed over 90% of a numerically superior Roman force. In 1757, Frederick the Great outmaneuvered an army over twice his number, losing 500 men while the enemy lost close to 8,000. Napoleon repeatedly achieved battle victories with inferior numbers. And in this century, the French lost against the Algerians in the 50s and 60s and the United States lost in Vietnam, despite having superiority in military forces.
Let’s consider the analysis of the Civil War historian Peter Parish. In his book, The American Civil War, he states:
[The battles of] Gettysburg and Vicksburg are commonly regarded as the decisive engagements of the Civil War; they both took place in July, 1863, but the war did not end until April 1865. What had happened in the field of battle had become more than ever the tip of the military iceberg. The great submerged mass was a matter of equipment, supply, transport, commo, of industrial power, and technical skill, and also of public opinion, civilian morale, and sheer will to resist. (p. 159.)
It is clear that victory in battle or in war does not always go to the side with military superiority. This is because war since the time of the French Revolution (1789) has not been fought by armies but by nations. States have mobilized and employed any and all of their dimensions to wage war. For example, in August 1793 the Committee of Public Safety, during the height of the Revolution, decreed a universal mobilization:
“Young men will fight, young men are called to conquer. Married men will forge arms, transport military baggage and guns and will prepare food supplies. Women . . . will forget their futile tasks: their delicate hands will work at making clothes [and tents and they shall attend the wounded]. Children will make lint of old cloth. . . . And old men, . . . , will be guided to the public squares . . . where they will kindle the courage of young warriors and preach the doctrines of hate for kings and the unity of the Republic.”
Since then, war has become multi-dimensional. If we wish a truly comprehensive explanation of any modern war, we must look at various dimensions of the states waging war, not just the military forces. Any comprehensive analysis of the American Civil War must be multi-dimensional. In order to understand “why peace broke out” in the spring of 1865 after four long years of war, one must look at more than military things. One way of expressing this succinctly is that: “War is more than warfare.” (Please see Part IV)