Wartime paradigms and the future of western military power

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From the perception of the imminence of threats at the political level to the seizing of initiative through proper timing at the tactical level, temporality is directly related to war and warfare. Yet, despite some analyses of the importance of time at the political/grand strategic level (usually by scholars) and at the tactical level (usually by military professionals) there is surprisingly little discussion of the impact of time on the preparation and the conduct of warfare. This article introduces the concept of 'wartime paradigm' as a heuristic device to understand the relationship between the perception of time and the conduct of warfare, and argues that after the Cold War, a specific 'wartime paradigm' combining an optimization for speed and an understanding of war as risk management has guided western warfare, from force structure to the conduct of actual operations. It shows how the changing character of warfare directly challenges this wartime paradigm and why, if western forces want to prevail in future conflicts, the establishment of a new wartime paradigm guiding technological improvements and operational concepts is critical.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)401-418
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Warfare
  • conflict
  • speed
  • time
  • way of war


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