report introduces the concept of a Clausewitzian “friction” in strategic, or
total societal, warfare. Although the report was written using an Australian
case example of priorities in the emerging “New Cold War”, the principles
are more broadly linked.
overwhelming strategic phenomenon of the recent Cold War period and into the
first half of the 21st Century has been the doubling of the human
population between 1950 and the turn of the century.2
The ramifications of this continuing population growth on all aspects of life on
the planet are enormous, and will continue to dominate all that we do over the
are reluctant to discuss this continuing phenomenon of compounded human growth
because its implications are substantially negative for our own situation and
for nature generally. If we were zebras or elephants or kangaroos, devouring
more and more of our surroundings, humans would cull us to sustain our balance
nature itself will, it seems, in a century or so, reduce this spike in human
population numbers. Declining population growth rates are already evident, and
the prospect for what could be termed “neo-Malthusian adjustments” in
population levels, and in the quality of human life, no longer seem far-fetched.
In the meantime, the remaining surge of population growth and movement is the
strategic reality which will drive social formation and actions for the coming
few decades. It will be the spur of growth and collapse over coming decades. It will create new forms of
society and therefore new forms of competition and warfare. But trends,
including several generations of sustained population growth, will pass, and
reverse, or change. There is, in history, no uninterrupted chain of development.
phenomenon of combined population and technological growth, the hallmark of our
epoch, will define itself in profound competition or polarization between traditional
society and urban society. This
will be exemplified in global tensions which will have similarities to the last
Cold War. It is already forming as a new Cold War. We cannot yet fully see the
shape or all of the components of this New Cold War, because Cold War is
actually a process through which strategic blocs
form and solidify, deliberately obfuscating much of their nature and activities,
to compete and maneuver. It is only rarely about direct, materialised clashes,
either physical or political.
Australia cannot opt out of this New Cold War. Indeed, no significant nation or
society will be able to avoid this strategic reality, just as none could fail to
have been impacted by the last Cold War which led directly to the present period
of globalization and the New Cold War.
New Cold War is shaping up with different players than the Cold War of 1945 to
1990, and is not a revival of that great, silent, and glacial clash between the
Warsaw Treaty Pact and NATO; between East and West. This New Cold War transcends
and embraces our immediate conflicts.
current hot wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Chechnya, Eastern Turkey,
Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Solomons, and elsewhere, are the symptoms of this New
Cold War, seeping like the lava of a subterranean eruption into the media and
is difficult to say how long this New Cold War will continue; the last dragged
on for 45 years. This one may, or may not, be decided by economic or political
collapse in China, for China is fast approaching several potentially explosive
strategic catalysts, perhaps within the next decade. There are many variables in
the equation, but the fate of China is an important one.
is difficult for society — all societies — today is the angst of uncertainty
created by globalization, which entails the overwhelming flow of imagery and
words across a world which has, in this maelstrom, seemed to lose its definition
and hierarchical order. The world, however, is now crystalising starkly defined
as an urban-dominated world, driven by technology.
is the world of cratometamorphosis: the world of the transformation of
societies. I had asked my friend, a Greek Cypriot professor, Dr Marios
Evriviades, to help devise two words which I needed for my recent book, The
Art of Victory3, to describe how
nation-states were being terminated, and new states brought into existence. He
devised for me cratocide for the murder of states, and cratogenesis
for the birth of states, for we have entered a new age which is being dominated
by the destruction and birth of nations. But we are also engaged in the
transformation of existing societies, including our own. For this, the venerable
Marios Evriviades has devised for me the word cratometamorphosis.
here we are, at an age of movement; global movement. Everything, in a strategic
sense, is in a state of flux, and we can make of the new world whatever we will.
All things are once again possible; both to win and to lose.
said, in The Art of Victory, that “[t]here is, along the path to the
ultimate victory or vanquishment, much winning and losing of battles; even the
ephemeral winning and losing of wars.”
is, however, much still hanging on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Somalia
and Sudan, and on the New Cold War on which we are currently embarked.
Significantly, the hot conflicts are being played out on one side of the
equation substantially by proxy actors representing, largely, the weaker powers
in the New Cold War, combating formal military coalitions of governments. This
is, then, asymmetric warfare in more than one sense. We have defined asymmetric
warfare as the conflict between weaker powers and greater powers, with the
weaker powers resorting to irregular battlefield doctrine against what we call
conventional warfare doctrine. In reality, we are also witnessing strategic
asymmetric warfare, in which politically, economically, and structurally
weaker powers are using informal — mostly psychological — means of achieving
their goals in the face of experienced, entrenched, wealthy adversary states.
playing fields of human destiny are far broader than direct military conflict,
which is just one part of the context of competition. This contextual process is
what I call Strategic Situational Awareness (SSA). For the strategist,
conflict is not merely where the heat is apparent, but conflict is also
implicitly embedded within the framework of whence it originates in the
darkest recesses of history, and from where it derives the oxygen for its
humanity, we surge and unite and part in waves which we call civilizations,
nations, cultures. And where our surges collide we often ignite. And now,
because human numbers have more than doubled in the past half-century, these
surges carry with them the prospect of more clashes because, at the same time,
the tensions build as we atoms of humanity move, through urbanization, into
closer and closer and more frictional contact.
von Clausewitz described the friction of war, noting: “Everything is very
simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties
accumulate and produce a friction beyond the imagination of those who have not
seen war. … The influence of innumerable trifling circumstances, which cannot
be properly described on paper, depress us, and we fall short of the mark. A
powerful iron will overcomes this friction; it crushes the obstacles, but at the
same time the machine along with them.”4
we are seeing today, and what we witnessed briefly during what we can call the
first Cold War, is that, in strategic warfare, entire populations are involved,
albeit often unwittingly, and that the very nature of human concentrations into
urban machines creates a “friction of war” among civilian societies. This makes societies as a whole more challenging
to manage, and makes everyday life more filled with an angst which cannot be
released in normal battle.
the human population and its corresponding friction will continue to grow,
albeit briefly, until population levels peak at around, perhaps, 12-billion
before the end of this century, and then begin to subside to the historical
levels of human population, perhaps around two-billion in the world, by some
time in the next century.
the meantime, the growth in human population, and its concentration
overwhelmingly into urban conglomerations, will critically affect global
strategic developments. In a paper which I wrote in November 2006, I said:
“Large urban groupings — the super-cities — are the great strategic
phenomenon of the current Age of Global Transformation. They represent, for the
first time in history, the reality that most of the masses of humanity dwell in
concentrations set apart from the areas which are vital to their physical
survival: those areas which produce their food and gather their water, generate
their resources of energy and building supplies.”5
driving human psychological factors, logic, and imperatives are now beginning to
profoundly diverge between the urban and non-urban societies, and
this will affect the way in which conflicts are fought, and who fights them.
Recognising the great schism between urban and non-urban mindsets is key to
understanding how sovereignty and power will change over the course of the 21st
Century. It is also key to understanding how, and why, for example, terrorism
forms and is sustained as individuals and societies fight not only to retain or
build a sense of identity, but also regain their actual ability to survive down
the generations in the face of the demands and threats of the cities.
as I noted, the global population will begin to decline by the end of the
Century, or perhaps earlier, although we do not know whether technology will
have enabled people in the year 2100 to have advanced into a true
“post-industrial society” status, being able to use minimal resources to
grow food, produce clean water and energy, and to manufacture, leaving the
remainder of the population to work in abstract endeavors in the cities. Your
grandchildren’s children, who will still know your name, will live in a time
in which mass urban society will not
resemble the frenzied concentrations of people we are building today. What all
this means is that we are not in a
world of linear expansion or the stable progression of anything:
not human numbers and the conflicts which are generated through sheer mass, nor
the demands made on nature by these numbers, nor even, necessarily, the growth
of human knowledge and achievement.
if the bulk of humanity is concentrating into urban groupings, then much of
future hot conflict — short of strategic warfare — will, then, be urban
warfare. That would imply an evolution for at least a period in the process of
IED (improvised explosive device) weapons and doctrine.
New Cold War, however, is the arena in which true success will be either
obtained or denied. Many feel that all rides on victory in Iraq, or victory in
Afghanistan, but, despite the billions spent and the lives lost, Western leaders
— and, I suspect, the jihadist
leaders — have not yet adequately defined victory. In reality, at some point,
Western society, wearied of its concerns, bored and insensible to the reality of
what is occurring, will merely declare
victory and call us all home from the fray. Indeed, as with the war in Vietnam
in the 1960s and 1970s, or in
Britain’s war in
in the 1920s, questions will arise in later generations as to what it meant at
all, and was this war or that meaningful to the progress of our society. Some
wars stand out as watersheds: the World Wars, for example, the sweeping
conquests of Genghis Khan, the conquests of Alexander the Great, or Darius.
These changed who we are to this day. But will the wars of this decade, in Iraq
and Afghanistan, change human society?
wars will have meaning only if we decide that they should; only if one society
gathers great strength from the iconic aspects of the conflict (as Australia,
New Zealand, and Turkey did with the Gallipoli campaign), or another society
wallows in the negative reflection of those same icons. In many respects, it is
struggle which defines individual and societal identity.
indeed, is the essence of survival: the preservation of identity, which gives
meaning and purpose — and therefore will — to existence.
essence, this present fight in Afghanistan and Iraq is symptomatic of a deeper
conflict between actors who do not regard themselves as equal in terms of wealth
or other power resources. That is why the parties — in this case, Iran, North
Korea, the jihadist Caliphate
movement, and even China to a degree — which recognize, or feel, their
strategic impotence, are forced to fight a strategic Cold War, and to engage in
direct, hot conflict only out of desperation.
same principles apply as they did during the last Cold War. The USSR and the
People’s Republic of China, during most of the Cold War, recognized that they
lacked the strength to successfully confront the West. As a result, they engaged
heavily in proxy warfare, manipulating the frustrations of elements of
essentially “trapped” societies around the world — and, as well,
manipulated frustrated, ignorant, or disoriented individuals within successful
societies — to fight their battles for them through terrorism and other forms
of irregular and psychological or political warfare.
in the New Cold War, the major sponsors of proxy conflicts with the West — and
particularly against the US — are the states which feel most threatened by the
US and the West in general or which are engaged in inevitable competition with
them. China is, with some ambiguity, part of this, but Iran and North Korea are
of key significance, and they have
sought openly to build a new bloc of states opposed to the US. [Of course
Iran’s clerical leaders and the DPRK are heavily dependent on China,
Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice was correct when she said, on
May 14, 2007
, on her way to Moscow for a meeting with Pres. Vladimir Putin, that talk of a
new US Cold War with Russia had “no basis whatsoever”6.
That Cold War is indeed over, even though Dr Rice herself and the US
State Department have persisted in treating post-Soviet Russia as a Cold War
enemy, rather than as a state liberated from communism which had, in fact,
embraced the West and wished to become part of it. The US and European mistake
in failing to recognize that the West had won the Cold War and that it now could
re-shape its old adversaries into allies and partners is one of the great
failings which marked the post-Cold War period.
early 1991, at the end of the last Cold War, I noted: “It would be a mistake
to assume that the traditional composition of world blocs, which have
been in recognizable shapes for many years, will continue … The global powers
of the 1990s will continue to have great economic leverage, but limited
willpower, or possibly even limited real power, to control the growing anomie
— lawlessness — in many states.”7
in May 1992, in Defense & Foreign Affairs, I pointed out the reality
that the start of the “New Cold War” began with the ending of the old Cold
War: “It will be impossible for the global community to contain itself within
a single, harmonious family. The very fact that … China is now able to start
welding together a bloc of states hostile to, or disaffected from, the
concept of Pax Americana shows that the world will once again start to
re-form into camps.”8 That report also noted:
“Virtually all solutions considered today  for the containment of
subnational or informal conflict have the effect of either worsening the
long-term problem or creating a situation where animosities and aspirations
remain unresolved. We are today not solving problems, but creating bigger
problems for the future.”
it was to be for the West in
in the 21st Century.
cold wars, states triumph, implode, or seek to break out of the stalemate
imposed by abstract war —
which is what cold war is —
by moving to hot war. Success in cold wars lies in forcing the collapse —
the implosion — of the
adversary state or in neutralizing and containing it, possibly even by absorbing
it into the successful bloc without
resort to direct hot war. Disadvantaged states or societies engaged in a cold
war seek to use the breathing space which such an abstract conflict provides to
build in power and substance. This is exactly what the USSR attempted to do in
the last Cold War, and failed, leading to its implosion. This is also what the
People’s Republic of China (PRC)
sought to do, and almost failed, but for the reprieve granted by the death of
Mao, the collapse of the USSR, and the spread of globalization. The PRC then
began moving toward the creation of true substance in its strategic complexion,
but still requires the framework of either a cold war or a peace in which its
freedom is guaranteed in order to complete its goal.
certainly, requires the time and competitive tension afforded by a cold war to
build its power and the survivability of its leadership. But the New Cold War
has already imposed such constraints on it — in the form of embargoes and
strategic isolation — that it must
resort to hot war, either directly or by the use of thinly-veiled proxies, in
order to ensure that its population base does not rise against the clerics.
There are parallels in the case of the DPRK.
the West could have been spared much of the pain in the fight against jihadist
terrorism had it allowed Russia to re-emerge as an ally. Russia could have
shared, as it wished to do, its own experience in the Caucasus jihadist
conflict, and we would today not be facing to the same extent the complex
network of anti-modernist forces which spread from Central Asia and across the
Middle East into Europe.
in cold wars, then, is very much the result of psychological strategies, rather
than purely military strategies, although the marriage of the physical and
psychological is critical and symbiotic.
if the clarity of a war won or a war lost is not always immediately apparent,
then the clarity of a conflict — hot or cold — when it is underway is even
less apparent. In the embattled fortresses of war, the focus is short, and few
raise their heads above the parapets to view the horizon.
the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought less in the streets of
Baghdad and the plains of Kandahar Province and more between Washington’s
internal “warring camps” where the combat is psychological and political. It
is in Washington, as the Iranian leadership knows, that the outcome of the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan will be determined. This
reality — that wars are determined by politicians, the media, and polling, as
we saw with the Vietnam War — should be sufficient to emphasize the reality of
Napoleon I’s maxim that psychological factors are two-thirds of the strategic
equation, and physical factors (such as military conflict) are but one-third of
with Washington in the mode of thinking that all that matters is “how the war
plays in Washington” or the media, it is not surprising that the bureaucracies
have failed to sense that what is underway in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars in
which survival is at stake. Not only the long-term survival of the West, but
also the immediate survival of those who fight against the Coalition, who have a far greater sense of urgency than
does Washington about how they fight the wars. And they are fighting for
survival, which means that they are taking the war more seriously than the
Western public. The Iranian clerics and their
allies understand it; Western leaders and populations do not.
Iranian clerical leadership truly understands that this is a war with vital,
not one member state in the Coalition fighting in Iraq has grasped the reality
that, whatever the finer points of the truths about why the war was begun, it is
now a significant front in the New Cold War, and they must fight to win on the
physical battlefield as well as on the global psychological battlefields,
including the battlefields of their own societies.
is a vast and complex equation, relating the immediate and messy conflicts to
the broader and longer-term strategic issues. But it gets to the heart of the
need for leadership at all levels of society. It gets to the need to understand
who are enemies and who are friends. World War II was greatly protracted because
Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman insisted on war against the
totality of German and Japanese societies, instead of specifically against the
nazi leadership and the War Cabinet in Tokyo.
although Iran’s clerics and DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il have defined themselves
the great enemies of the West in the New Cold War, the Iranian people and the
North Korean people are not the
West’s enemy. Indeed, for example, the Iranian people, more than anyone, are
the primary victims of the clerics who dominate them and, once again, as “Ayatollah”
Khomeini did in 1982, the clerics are prepared to sacrifice the lives of
hundreds of thousands of Iranians in a war against the US, Israel, and the West
in order to ensure that they, the clerics, retain power. And the battlefield
against the Iranian clerics by the Coalition is only partly happening with its
proxies and Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq; mostly it is a battle conducted
in the hearts and minds: in the US, Iran, Australia, and around the world.
position in the New Cold War will differ from its role in the last. It will side
with its traditional Western allies in combating the proxy, symptomatic warfare,
but will nonetheless have the ability to act as a bridge between the factions.
Australia will, of necessity, be a more active participant in the New Cold War
than the previous event. It cannot afford, for
example, to let China collapse, or India to become distracted by renewed
conflict with Pakistan, or the Persian Gulf and Red Sea regions to become
strategically unstable. Such occurrences, far more than in the previous Cold
War, will seriously affect Australia, and so Australia’s strategic influence
must therefore be of a greater and more flexible reach.
all of our battles depend on understanding the nature of the overarching
conflict, and our broad search for continued victory, and seeing the place of
the battlefields of Iraq, or Afghanistan, or East Timor or the Solomons, within
we need to see that conflict and challenges are multi-dimensional, and that the
psychological factors are, in Napoleon’s maxim, two-thirds of the equation.
That means that Australia’s defense capabilities will require a broad
strategic force of both military and no-military capabilities.
me re-cap on some main points:
Global population growth remains the
profound driver in global strategic issues, particularly involving the rapid
movement of the majority of the world’s population to urban centers, which
create a changing set of priorities and a disassociation from the sources of
food, water, and raw materials;
The changing nature of global society
means that entire populations now feel a great angst which is attributable in
part to globalization, but also to a Clausewitzian “friction of war” which
will, in some senses, demand a release in some forms of outbursts or conflict;
Societies, after conflicts,
inevitable begin to rebuild, so it is no surprise that a new set of power blocs
began to build after the end of the last Cold War. And, because of strategic
asymmetry, these states cannot, and do not necessarily at this point wish to
confront each other titanically. So a New Cold War inevitably arises to allow
states to develop their postures and alliances, and to begin to compete without
resorting to hot war, except in isolated areas. Thus, the conflicts we see
emerging are symptomatic of, and also often important fronts of, the New Cold
War, and need to be seen in that context;
Australia has more at stake in this New Cold War than in the last,
given that it must now deal with its traditional allies as well as with many of
the states which have an underlying hostility toward the West and toward the US
in particular. It therefore demands of Australia a more comprehensive approach
to its strategic missions, and a more flexible mix than ever before of military
and non-military security management.9
This study, which was presented as an
address to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) of Western Australia, on
June 12, 2007, also draws on an address by the author to the US Army Command & General Staff College, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, May 21, 2007.
According to the US Census’ August 2006 statistics, the global population stood at just more than 2.5-billion in 1950, and at some six-billion in 1999. It noted: “The world population is projected to grow from six-billion in 1999 to nine-billion by 2042, an increase of 50 percent that will require 43 years. The world population growth rate rose from about 1.5 percent per year from 1950-51 to a peak of over
two percent in the early 1960s due to reductions in mortality. Growth rates thereafter started to decline due to rising age at marriage as well as increasing availability and use of effective contraceptive methods. Note that changes in population growth have not always been steady. A dip in the growth rate from 1959-1960, for instance, was due to the Great Leap Forward in China. During that time, both natural disasters and decreased agricultural output in the wake of massive social reorganization caused China’s death rate to rise sharply and its fertility rate to fall by almost
Copley, Gregory R.: The Art of Victory: Strategies for Personal Success and Global Survival in a Changing
World. New York, 2006: Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions. ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-2470-0, or ISBN-10: 1-4165-2470-3.
von Clausewitz, Karl: War, Politics, and
Power. Translation by Col. Edward M. Collins, USAF. Chicago, 1962: Regnery Gateway, Inc. pp 131-2. The text is also to be found in Clausewitz’s
On War, published originally in German as Vom Kriege in 1832.
5. Copley, Gregory R.:
The Rise and Fall of 21st Century City States, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic
Policy, 11-2006, pp 2 and15.
6. Associated Press report of May 15, 2007, datelined
7. Copley, Gregory R.:
Global Geopolitics in the 1990s: An Era of Instability. In Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic
Policy, Jan.-Feb. 1991.
8. Copley, Gregory R.:
The Global Strategic Outlook: A New Era of Conflict. In Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic
Policy, May 1992.
strategic options for the first half of the 21st Century is the focus of a major
new study being undertaken at Future Directions International (FDI),
Australia’s center for strategic analysis. The study, called Australia 2050,
is due to be released immediately after the anticipated Australian Federal
elections later in 2007.