Clausewitzs’s famous aphorism, that war is a continuation of politics by other means, has been given a 21st-century update by General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the British chief of the general staff.
Speaking to a conference of defence chiefs, Sir Mark explained that there was now no war and peace, only permanent war, which he described as a bit of a grey area. In a very modern nod to the latest philosophical fashions, Sir Mark bemoaned the ‘binary’ concepts of peace and war, stating that they were, “artificial and binary characterisations of a strategic contest”. “The rules of warfare are changing and need updating,” he said.
The speech came as the BBC’s Newsnight programme broke the story that British special forces are hoping to be given a new remit to counter Russia and China, as they shift their focus from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The proposal is to be put before ministers and involves a new role for the SAS and other parts of the special forces, the most secretive parts of the British military.
The director of special forces has reportedly drawn up a plan that, if approved, will involve a restructuring of the relevant units.
Underlying the plan is a belief that the nature of modern warfare is changing, with less emphasis on conventional military action and instead a shift towards conflict with imperialism’s biggest rivals. (British special forces to get new mission to counter state actors by Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian, 13 June 2019)
Speaking at the conference, Sir Mark said: “Some authoritarian regimes, aspiring to their own separate spheres of influence … have sought to neutralise the western advantage in the industrial age of warfare.
“The main threat is not missiles and tanks, it is the weaponisation of globalisation, and those elements of globalisation that have hitherto made us prosperous and secure: the mobility of goods, people, data and ideas.
“Secure borders, or living on an island, are no guarantees against the corrosive and intrusive effect of disinformation, subversion …” (British military risks ‘irrelevance’ if it doesn’t adapt to the future, Army head warns by Dominic Nicholls, The Telegraph, 4 June 2019)
In the age of imperialist war and proletarian revolution, Sir Mark does us a service in his candid depiction of the reality of modern life: a state of permanent war, economic and militaristic. With all the attention of imperialism firmly focused upon its big rivals (ie, its most effective competitors), Sir Mark makes it clear that, despite the peaceful aspirations of the peoples of the developing world, British imperialism considers their economic development an act of ‘weaponisation’. Such are the values of the modern bourgeoisie, the champions of free movement of capital and labour.
The Russian embassy in London remarked: “Of course, it’s hard for us to say how reliable this information is and how it corresponds with the real tasks of the UK armed forces. However, if it is true, this decision appears to be, firstly, erroneous and, secondly, questionable as far as London’s compliance with its international obligations is concerned …
“In fact, this would mean that UK defence agencies are paving the way for removing the existing restrictions imposed by the international law and to claim the right to carry out military operations beyond the limits of self-defence, which constitutes a direct breach of the UN charter.
“This would not just become yet another step towards deliberately destroying the world order based on the international law, but also create major risks of those ‘hybrid’ operations evolving into full-fledged armed conflicts as a result of various coincidences and misunderstandings.” (Britain to aim its special forces at Russia, Executive Intelligence Review, 15 June 2019)
The diplomacy of the Russian state is admirable, but communists must be under no illusions that there are any ‘existing restrictions’ upon the marauding designs of British and US imperialism other than those which arise as a consequence of picking a fight with countries that can defend themselves.
Recent years teach us the value of ‘international law’ and the so-called ‘restrictions’ of United Nations security council resolutions. Imperialism recognises only the jungle law; that the strong take from the weak.