Western powers’ current interventions in Third World countries have much in common with the countless violent conflicts that have occurred on the periphery of Europe since the conquest of the Americas in the sixteenth century. Like their predecessors, modern imperial wars are shaped especially by spatial features and by the pronounced asymmetries of military organizations, resources, modes of warfare, and cultures of violence between the respective parties in a specific conflict.
Today’s imperial wars are essentially civil wars, in which Western powers are only one dominant power factor among many. They have no clear frontlines, no beginnings, and no end. Rules that aim to limit violence play no more than a minor rule. To this day, the Western military machine continues to prove incapable of resolving political strife militarily and confronting in battle an opponent who has no reason to engage in conventional combat and instead relies on guerilla warfare and terrorism. The price for this deficit is paid, in the past as well as today, by the local populations.
Dierk Walter aims to offer, for the first time, a coherent explanation of the logic of violent hostilities within the context of European expansion. He examines the patterns of conflict, the conditions under which limits to violence dissolve or are abandoned, and the dynamics of clashes between opposing cultures of violence. The author’s analysis reveals parallels between different empires and continuities that span historical epochs. This leads him to conclude that recent military interventions by Western armed forces in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Mali are not »new wars«. Rather, they stand in the five-hundred-year-old tradition of transcultural violent conflicts under the specific conditions of the »colonial situation«.