Emotions, Strategy and War

11/05/07 FOB ROB ( forward operating base robinson) , Sangin District, Afghanistan
The RAF emergency medical services work on a young casualty ( reasons unknown) in the chinook en route to hospital at Camp bastion.

While the topic of war and emotions has loomed large in strategic studies debates over the past decades, it has rarely been explored in its own right. The way in which strategic studies have debated the connection between war and emotions has largely focused on the ‘pathological’ dimensions of emotions and war, in particular post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While these studies are of course valuable in their own right, they do not address the question of how emotions feature in the larger context of the Clausewitzian trinity of the government, war and the people.

From a historical perspective, one would expect to observe a change in the emotional landscape of war at a moment in time when the trinity of the government, the people and the military is in the process of a profound transformation. Most Western states have at some point in the past five decades transformed their armed forces from mass citizen-soldier armies to smaller, professional forces. One would assume that this transformation has had the potential to weaken the affective bond between civilians and the armed forces, but empirically, that has not necessarily been the case, as continued support for armed forces charities and the emergence of new practices of war commemoration, such as in Wootton Bassett, illustrate. However, while Western democratic publics continue to show solidarity based on a seemingly affective bond with their armed forces, they do not necessarily display enthusiasm for the military strategies of their governments.

The suggested strand will investigate the role of emotions in the process of the formulation of strategy and strategic narratives historically and in the contemporary context. The hypothesis of the proposed strand is that the ongoing transformation of the trinity of the government, the people and the military expresses itself significantly, if not predominantly, in the dimension of emotions.