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The New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq

The New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq

Martin Shaw

ISBN: 978-0-745-63410-4

May 2005, Polity

164 pages

Out of stock



In this seminal new work, Martin Shaw, a leading expert on the sociology of war, argues that the new Western way of war is in crisis. He charts the development of a new warfare, after Vietnam, through the Falklands, the Gulf, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He argues that in the Iraq (mis)adventure (of which he provides a detailed analysis) and the War on Terror, the US has consistently flouted the key rules that enabled Western states to fight these earlier wars successfully. The results are not only political failure and a disaster in Iraq, but also a loss of credibility for the very idea of Western warfare.

For Shaw, the new way of war focuses on containing risks to the lives of Western soldiers in order to minimise political and electoral risk to governments. Risk is transferred to innocent civilians, whose killing is explained away as 'accidental'. Yet the idea of managing risk is fundamentally at odds with the brutal, unpredictable nature of war. Ultimately, attempts to manage, govern and rule over the risks of war produce greater risks for those in power.

The New Western Way of War is a moral and political statement as well as a major contribution to sociology and international relations. It will make compelling reading not only for students and scholars of these disciplines, but for anyone concerned about Western political and military power, and the future for global justice.

List of Tables



Chapter 1. The New Western Way of War from Vietnam to Iraq

Chapter 2. Theories of the New Western Way of War: A Western way of war

Chapter 3. The Global Surveillance Mode of Warfare

Chapter 4. Rules of Risk-Transfer War

Chapter 5. Iraq: Risk Economy of a War

Chapter 6. A Way of War in Crisis



References and Bibliography


“A compelling piece of engaged social science (that) does much to clarify what is at stake in contemporary warfare.”
International Affairs

The New Western Way of War is about new ways of interpreting war. By engaging innovative concepts like “global surveillance” or “risk-transfer”, Martin Shaw offers us an intriguing glimpse of a world beyond war.”
Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics and Political Science

“Roll over Clausewitz: in the global war on terror, politics has become a continuation of war by other means, including global surveillance, disinformation, unlawful detention, abrogation of civil liberties, faith-based violence, pervasive fear, accidental killing, and the transfer of risk to an increasingly vulnerable citizenry. Martin Shaw targets this new western way of war with the kind of discriminate intelligence and discrete passion that makes all the smart bombs and latter-day Slim Pickens riding them look very dumb indeed.”
James Der Derian, Brown University

  • Develops a major new theory of modern warfare, based around the idea that risks in modern war are placed on civilians rather than the military.
  • Written by a leading sociologist of war, the book includes analyses of recent conflicts such as the two Iraq wars, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Falklands.
  • Combines analytical chapters which are accessible to less advanced students and the general reader with theoretical arguments which will be of great interest to advanced students and scholars.
  • Offers a highly topical discussion of how Western, terrorist and other ways of war respond to common political, media and legal conditions.