The Task Is Not Impossible
By Shashank Yadav
“Life is warfare and a journey far from home.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
It is assumed that man, by his very nature, attempts to impose his will upon his environment and meets a resistance at some point leading to a conflict of interests. This is where he strategises to meet his goals, negotiates his interests, compromises his advances, or tries to neutralize the opposition altogether. The modern nation-states too are like the man, and therefore Cebrowski and Garstka have rightly remarked that they make war the same way they make wealth.
In 18th century, Pierre-Joseph Bourcet had conceptualized the war machine as something which flows. This fluidity, he had remarked, was essential and directly proportional to this machine’s maneuverability.
Discussions on warfare must begin with the minds that conduct the conflict. Though there are many aspects of the mind, the psychological property which concerns us most is Intelligence, for that alone primarily concerns displaying advantageous behavior over competition. Wars are won by superior decisions, and better intelligence breeds better decisions.
It is said that intelligence evolved in the ocean when a tiny bag of saltwater known today as a neuron, sparked of electric current upon facing danger. This meta-primitive event gives a very thorough insight into the phenomenon of war for it marks the beginning of the precarious relationship between hunting, warfare and survival, also producing an insight into the perpetuity of war.
Man fought with and alongside horses and elephants, and now he fights alongside machines. Hobbes had said, it is every man against every man. That is his nature after all, that of a competitive animal – from which arises the need to cooperate, giving him his social nature. This self-competing attribute also leads to the adaptive and evolutionary nature of his intelligence.
Assuming that war is the engine which makes the state, the state deploys a system using which it can execute this “formlessness” – or rather a system of systems that allows reconnaissance, manipulation, denial and retaliation. Very much how any self-preserving and self-interested entity would function.
War making is an existential enterprise and utterly devastating to say the least, but even man’s search for meaning goes a lot into why having meaning is important, he does not simply stop himself at the threat of destruction. The ruminations of military philosophers have taught us that the more destructive a military action the less strategic it is, to the extent that it is safely hypothesized that the art-and-craft of war lies in pursuing victory while causing minimum harm.
Formlessness, as some say, is the way that causes the least harm.