On the road to liquid warfare? Revisiting Zygmunt Bauman's thoughts on liquid modernity in the context of the "new Western way of war"

Release date: 2016-02

This Working Paper examines military interventions by precision strikes from a distance as a means to avoiding ground combat with own troops. A prominent strand of the literature argues that this is a particularly Western phenomenon; a consequence of the casualty aversion of democratic states and their risk-averse political leaders. In contrast to this line of argument, this Paper argues that precision-strike warfare is not a particularly Western phenomenon, but that it follows from the proliferation of precision-strike technologies prompted by military modernization processes and the transformation of power in what Bauman calls “liquid modernity”. In liquid modernity, the major technique of power is the rejection of territorial confinement and the related responsibilities and costs of order-building. Based on these thoughts, this Paper argues that we have to understand precision-strike warfare with its hit-and-run characteristics as liquid warfare: a way of war that shuns the direct control of territory, focusing instead on the destruction of enemy forces and/or infrastructure, copying certain characteristics of guerrilla warfare.