The Transformation of War: Modelling Modern Conflict

  • Philip Ball


War is not what it used to be. Since the late twentieth century there has been a discontinuity in the very nature of war, a fact that the rhetoric of a ‘war on terror’ following the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 failed catastrophically to acknowledge. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that this ‘war on terror’ was one for which political leaders were determined to find conventional battlegrounds – in Afghanistan and Iraq – only to discover that the battle refused stubbornly to materialize, because that is no longer what armed conflict is about. Typically, there is not in any meaningful sense a declaration of war to kick things off, nor a peace treaty to conclude them. Formal armed forces are peripheral; so are formal leaders. Armies may be mobilized not to fight war but (allegedly) to keep peace – or, in Afghanistan and Iraq, to do both at once. According to strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman, “One of the lessons of modern war is that war can no longer be called war.”


Terrorist Attack Armed Conflict Violent Conflict Peace Treaty Conscientious Objector 
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Further Reading

  1. A. Clauset, M. Young & K. S. Gleditsch, ‘On the frequency of severe terrorist events’, J. Conflict. Resolut. 51, 58–87 (2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. A. Clauset & F. W. Wiegel, ‘A generalized aggregation-disintegration model for the frequency of severe terrorist attacks’, preprint (2010).Google Scholar
  3. N. Johnson et al., ‘Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism’, preprint (2006).Google Scholar
  4. L.-E. Cederman, ‘Modelling the size of wars: from billiard balls to sandpiles’, Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 97, 135–150 (2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. J. C. Bohorquez, S. Gourley, A. R. Dixon, M. Spagat & N. F. Johnson, ‘Common ecology quantifies human insurgency’, Nature 462, 911–914 (2009).ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. R. Bhavnani, D. Miodownik, K. Donnay, M. Mor & D. Helbing, ‘Group segregation and urban violence’, submitted (2012).Google Scholar
  7. L.-E. Cederman & L. Girardin, ‘Towards realistic computational models of civil wars’, paper prepared for the Ann. Mtg of the Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc., 2007.Google Scholar
  8. L.-E. Cederman, S. Hug & A. Wenger, ’Democratization and war in political science’, in Democratization, eds W. Merkel & S. Grimm 15, 509–524 Routledge, London, 2008.Google Scholar
  9. H. Strachan, ‘The changing character of war’, Europaeum Lecture, Geneva, 9 November 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Ball
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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