16th November 2010: Ways of Warfare and Strategic Culture

Gautam, P.K. 2006. ‘Ways of Warfare and Strategic Culture’, Defense and Security Analysis, 25(1), 413-423.

Gautam locates his analysis in the debate between Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) and the more technological Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). He surveys the history and debates about British and American ‘ways of warfare’ and the initial fallout from the ‘shock and awe’ campaign of the 2003 Iraq War. In positing an Indian ‘way of warfare’ Gautam examines India’s 1962 border war with China, the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, and the 1999 face-off with Pakistan in the Kargil region. For Gautam, Indian culture and strategic thinking is often minimised by Westerners in contrast to the Chinese: Hindu cosmology, the caste system, colonialism, and force regimentation are blamed. Gautam includes an appendix on the Maratha as an historical study, and suggests further research could be done. He notes how current Indian strategists are looking to ‘second generation’ thinkers like Ken Booth and China’s Chanakya for guidance on the politico-military aspects. The debate about ‘ways of warfare’ often degenerates, Gautam believes, into positioning over who has the better system, rather than strategic context. Likewise, the juxtaposition of a renewed debate about strategic culture and the US experience of insurgents in the 2003 Iraq War illustrates the failure to use anthropology before a war begins to understand the host society’s culture and dynamics. Indian strategic thinkers will continue to ‘reconstruct’ the post-1947 experience of India’s military in war and counterinsurgency operations.