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Unformatted text preview: analogy between the Vietnam war and the war on terror. Despite
an overwhelming equipment advantage, Americans lost in Vietnam.
When it comes to terrorism, the requirement for the decisive battle also
cannot be met. Terrorists do not act in accord with the American/Western
style of war. They do not concentrate their forces or announce targets.
Quite to the contrary, a terrorist war, like a guerrilla war, consists in a
swift attack and equally rapid withdrawal. The only way to victory then is
a total annihilation of the enemy, which does not seem a viable solution,
as it would imply wiping out entire societies. Centeno (2003: 257) also
mentions other forms of war, like those fought in Africa, which he describes in the following words:
It is not a class war, but undefined conflict with ethnic, tribal and territorial aspects to it (although much less than the Western media often asserts). But it is a capacity of relatively small bands to wreak havoc and
create chaos that are truly threatening – Charles Taylor, the President of
Liberia is a gruesome example of this. He has established a model of war
featuring young children, and the generous use of drugs to reduce judgement and to trigger terrifying atrocities. This war is pure violence and
chaos without any of the institutional restraints. Another type of violence, which Centeno calls a class war, is the violence present in the big cities of South America, where the gap between
the rich and the poor is so striking that it triggers militant actions on the
part of each side. There, the security of the rich depends on private and
not national/state army or police forces. In this way Centeno, although it
is not his aim, provides a broad typology of wars, starting with the proto- The concept of ‘war’ in the humanities 91 typical in our culture war between two nations, conducted by national
armies, through a series of other less prototypical examples, such as
guerrilla wars, the war on terror, tribal wars in Africa and city violence.
Summing up, within the sociological perspective war is described
as a social, cultural, economic and political phenomenon. It is viewed as
one of the social institutions, indispensable as a stimulus of social
change. A series of popular dichotomies between war and peace, war and
politics, politics and the economy, are seen as a serious oversimplification of a complex continuum. This superficial polarisation of meanings
results in ineffective policy development. Similarly, as war is a multicausal phenomenon, there can be no clear distinction between a defensive (just) war and an aggressive war. Some sociologists claim that war
undergoes a civilising process, so that it becomes increasingly more controlled by the civilian authorities. The model of widespread violence affecting a whole society is now restructured into a model where the casualties are minimised. However, this tendency can be applied only to the
Western cultural model of war. It is not true about other types of war,
such as a terrorist war, African wars or city violence...
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