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A point of reference for those who work in the Profession of Arms and seek to professionalise their knowledge and approach to military problem.

This programme consists of two core projects: The Western Way of Warfare, and Adversarial Studies. These two complementary themes form the core RUSI offering to those engaged in professional military education, enabling a better understanding of their environment, domains, situation, and adversaries.

The term ‘British Way of Warfare’ emerged from a speech given by Sir Basil Liddel Hart at RUSI in 1931, and later immortalised in the RUSI Journal in 1932. Liddel Hart was discussing British grand strategy after the First World War, specifically the level to which Britain should materially and politically invest in the European continent (as opposed to prioritising maritime interests in the rest of the world).

Liddel Hart, and those who critiqued his paper, used the terms ‘war’ and ‘warfare’ as interchangeable. Carl von Clausewitz differentiated them: war as the grand strategic choices of policy, and warfare the practice of armed coercion and violence used to implement political strategy. Whilst academically pure, the reality is an overlap between these two spheres. While scholars pose important, grand strategic questions, those engaged in the profession of arms need to understand the Western approach to warfare (How we fight, and how adversaries respond) as a critical military question.

In dealing with How we fight, it is acknowledged that by the 19th Century there were several historical schools of military theory: Prussian, French, British, Russian, Italian and Japanese to name but a few. These have been identified as peculiar to those states, imbued with some of the core cultural phenomena of those indigenous people, and the deliberate changes made to their military practices and institutions on the basis of their own discrete experiences in conflict, campaigns, personalities, and warfare as lived. Arguably, these merged into a single school by 1990: An American led doctrine and concept of fighting emerged from the Cold War that was centred on core belief that technological superiority could overcome the mass of the Warsaw Pact forces. Much of the previous lessons and individual schools of military theory all but disappeared.

That US school of warfare has been applied against all aggressors in roughly similar manners: counter-terrorism, counter insurgency, high intensity conflict, civil wars, conventional deterrence, partnering and unlimited warfare. The core question the activities of this project examine is whether this single Western Way of Warfare is fit for task?


Peppi Vaananen
Project Officer, Military Sciences