Catch the recent “Politics, Power, and Preventative Action” podcast interview with RTJ founder Mark Mateski.

Getting Underneath

Mike Innes of CTLab flags an ongoing trend in conflict studies:

“Somewhere between the relational turn in social science and increasingly granular approaches to warfighting, the reality of international relations, and accounts of the wars being fought from core to periphery, have been looking more and more like exercises in hacking deep ecology. In The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, David Kilcullen leverages ‘conflict ethnography’ to help explain insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. In Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival In the Siege of Sarajevo, Peter Andreas fine tunes international political economy through a close reading of the lives of the city’s residents. Similarly, in Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering In the Twenty-First Century, Carolyn Nordstrom digs into the ‘deep politics of war’. ..What’s interesting about this – not what’s new, which isn’t what I’m suggesting, but what makes this more engaging and accessible – is that there’s a deep ecology of virtual violence, ambient warfare, and fluid interfaces, and no single discipline has a lock on how best to decipher and map out its surfaces to get at the underneath of things.”

      Innes further notes that the “The point not made is that digging at the details, getting to the story beneath the story, means looking to the event beneath the event – to that spot beneath the epicentre that actually constitutes ground zero: the hypocenter.” Ethnographic research is perhaps more appropriate than political science given the vastly smaller scale of today’s conflicts. Local knowledge is always important in war, but these conflicts place a high premium on detailed multidisciplinary study of the “deep ecology” Innes refers to. The more granular one can go, the better. On the red-team side, more granular information produces a better understanding of the dynamics of “small war”–and thus could be grist for more accurate wargames, simulations, and training. An ecological approach to conflict also remedies another deficit–the fact that debate over insurgency and terrorism rarely if ever addresses noncombatants as anything more than passive victims or a feature of the landscape (the human terrain) that must be factored into overall analysis.