Policy Press

Publishing with Purpose

Vicarious Warfare

American Strategy and the Illusion of War on the Cheap

By Thomas Waldman

Published

6 Jan 2021

Page count

320 pages

ISBN

978-1529206999

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

6 Jan 2021

Page count

320 pages

ISBN

978-1529207033

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

6 Jan 2021

Page count

320 pages

ISBN

978-1529207033

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press
Vicarious Warfare

America has been at war for most of the 20th and 21st centuries and during that time has progressively moved towards a vicarious form of warfare, where key tasks are delegated to proxies, the military’s exposure to danger is limited, and special forces and covert instruments are on the increase. Important strategic decisions are taken with minimal scrutiny or public engagement.

This compelling account charts the historical emergence of this distinctive tradition of war and explains the factors driving its contemporary prominence. It contrasts the tactical advantages of vicarious warfare with its hidden costs and potential to cause significant strategic harm.

“For anyone concerned with the human cost of war (as we all should be), Waldman offers a key to unlocking the ‘alchemy’ of America’s fighting strategy. This richly researched and thoughtful book finally gives us words to describe the troubling path we’re on. Vicarious war indeed.” Sarah Holewinski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch

“Vicarious warfare – aspiring to be “la guerre zéro morts”, war with minimal cost and commitment on our side – is the West’s preferred option. This trenchant and original analysis shows the advantages, but also the huge potential moral and long-term political cost of high-tech military engagements with maximum detachment. A very important study rethinking war.” Beatrice Heuser, Professor of International Relations, University of Glasgow

"An urgently needed study of the rise of fighting in the shadows, from proxies to special forces. More than that, it throws light on a dangerous tendency in public life, whereby decisions for conflict are removed from the glare of republican scrutiny and armed conflict itself, left unchecked, becomes routine." Patrick Porter, Professor of International Security and Strategy, University of Birmingham

"Waldman is an astute and knowledgeable guide to the emerging landscape of vicarious warfare. He unpacks the causes, conduct and consequences of the increasing American strategic desire to embrace conflict yet evade cost. This superb book convincingly demonstrates how such arms-length interventions are not merely the product of 21st century technological developments but rooted in an historical evolution of the American military tradition. It is essential reading for those who want to understand the implications of the rise of war-at-a-distance." Andrew Mumford, Professor of War Studies, University of Nottingham

Thomas Waldman is a Senior Lecturer in International Security Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is author of War, Clausewitz and the Trinity (2013) and numerous journal articles on strategy, contemporary warfare and international security.

Introduction: The Alchemy of War;

PART I: Historical Background;

1. A Vicarious Instinct;

2. Perversions of Power;

PART II: American Experiences;

3. Ambivalent Beginnings;

4. Cold Warfare;

PART III: Contemporary Dynamics;

5. Drivers;

6. Emergence;

7. Consequences;

Conclusions.