Book Reivew: Transformations of Warfare in the Contemporary World by John C. Torpey and David Jacobson.

AuthorMattingly, David
PositionBook review

Torpey, John C., and David Jacobson, eds. Transformations of Warfare in the Contemporary World. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2016. xii + 211 pages. Paperback, $28.95.

This book is a timely collection of essays edited by John Torpey, the director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies and professor of sociology and history at the City University of New York, and David Jacobson, the founding director of the Global Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict as well as professor of sociology at the University of South Florida. Among the contributing authors is C. Anthony Pfaff, a United States Army colonel and foreign area officer. Pfaff serves as an Army advisor on the Department of State Policy Planning Staff and is a former professor of philosophy at the U.S. Military Academy.

Moving into the twenty-first century, the United States and the rest of the Western World found itself immersed in armed conflicts not defined by the characteristics and laws of warfare seen in many of the past wars. In 2001, the U.S. military was in the midst of a 'Revolution in Military Affairs' and intended to change the Department of Defense into a smaller military that relied on technological advantages rather than traditional brute force to defeat the enemy. However, after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States faced an enemy unlike any it had faced in the past. The Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda's philosophy was based on religion rather than a specific political ideology (it is arguable that under Sharia law, the state and religion are one entity). It also had armies that formed around tribal and familial ties rather than an organized armed force, and it used weapons built from scavenged explosives and electronics often adapted from toys or other consumer electronics instead of traditional military weapons. In this book, Torpey and Jacobson have gathered a group of writers to discuss this transformation of warfare from a philosophical, legal, and sociological perspective.

To illustrate this transformation in warfare, Torpey and Jacobson discuss the question of defining the enemy that arose after the 9/11 attacks, as policymakers in the George W. Bush administration grappled with defining the groups it first faced in Afghanistan, and the irregular forces it would later face in Iraq as an insurgency rose after the 2003 invasion. To further illustrate the transformation, the editors use a March 2015 declaration made by the...

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