Discourse and Society of War Between West and East Essay

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War: Asian and Western Concepts

There is a great deal of sapience in comparing Western and Asian formations of war (prior to Westernization) after 1815, since this was the time frame in which imperialism was at its height and Asian forces were able to test their methodologies against those of the West. However, a prolonged examination of history reveals that for the most part, Asian forces were not nearly as sophisticated as those of their Western counterparts, which resulted in their ensuing colonization, deprivation of their natural resources at the hands of British and other European powers, and their ultimate adoption of Westernized methods of combat. Still, there are some similarities between these two concepts of war. Well before the 19th century, it was Asians who invented gunpowder and initially offered it to the West which rapidly fueled its military with the utilization of guns in the 12th century (Needham, 1986, p.7). In more recent times, such as those after 1815, both Asians and Westerns shared similar notions regarding warfare, most eminently including the concept of total war. Yet a dedicated analysis of this subject reveals that Western nations, particularly those influenced by Carl von Clausewitz's seminal treaty on the subject, on War, were a lot more refined and advanced in their approach than most Asian forces were.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, one point of commonality between Western and Asian theories of war was the concept of total war. This fact was demonstrated in a number of instances of martial encounters involving these continents, perhaps most dramatically by Adolph Hitler in the early to midway point of the 20th century during his World War II campaign, particularly in Poland (Hitler, 1939). In many ways, Hitler's attempts to completely exterminate his enemies (including women and children) and the many death camps and gas chambers that were employed for such a purpose exemplified the values of total warfare. Clausewitz dealt with this subject by a slightly less direct means by addressing the notion of absolute war, the central tenet of which is the fact that due to the very nature of war itself, opponents will strive to utilize every advantage against their opposition -- including every available resource, man, woman and child. However, Clausewitz was, if nothing else, one of the initial theorists to rationalize war in moral terms, and actual did not advocate the usage of absolute war, for the simple fact that he placed a higher emphasis on political objectives which could be fulfilled without the total extermination of a foe. Still, it was important that he did acknowledge this concept and preferred to morally eschew it, since he viewed war as "the continuation of Politick by other means" (Clausewitz, 1984, p. 87).

Asian warriors after 1815 and prior to Westernization were not so morally or ethically inclined as the Prussian author. While no one can deny that Asian militia certainly had political objectives in mind behind their numerous battles and martial encounters, they were not above employing total warfare in a manner that may have actually served as a precursor to the actions of Hitler a century later. This fact is particularly demonstrable during the Taiping Rebellion, which pitted the upstart Taiping Heavenly Kingdom against the resident imperial forces of the Quing dynasty. The Taiping side made a point to arm every available citizen it could find to aid in this conflict which lasted for more than a decade, before the upstarts were finally defeated by the imperials. Yet with death tolls numbering more in this martial conflict than in virtually any other war in the 19th century, total war tactics were practiced on both sides, which made a point to waste no opportunity to wholly slaughter the opposition and burn and loot its territories and resources in an attempt to gain advantages. Some of these tactics are reminiscent of those used in Sherman's March during the Civil War when the Unionists marched through Confederate territory destroying and razing everything in sight for a devastating psychological effect… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Discourse and Society of War Between West and East.  (2012, September 11).  Retrieved December 13, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/discourse-society-war-west-east/1986299

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