Reimagining Warfare – Optimal Warfare

Reimagining Warfare – Optimal Warfare
The Iraq War and the Lebanon War of the first decade of the 21st century are watershed events in the history of warfare. For the weaker side in those wars, the Iraqi Army..

The Iraq War and the Lebanon War of the first decade of the 21st century are watershed events in the history of warfare. For the weaker side in those wars, the Iraqi Army (who turned insurgents) and the Hezbollah highlighted the importance of asymmetric warfare, whereas for their dominant military adversaries, the US and Israel, they emphasized a red line – that, despite their claims of military victories, the large numbers of body bags and war disabled were not an acceptable outcome of war in modern democratic societies. 

Optimal Warfare can be defined as the ‘well considered mix of warfare means, applied in a calibrated and proportionate manner, to achieve favorable outcome in the shortest possible timeframe, with optimal long-term effects.’


The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 20 March to 1 May 2003 and signaled the start of the Iraq War. It was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States.

The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 1,20,000 fatalities. As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon. There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.


Lieutenant General Philip Campose, PVSM, AVSM & Bar, VSM, Former Vice Chief of the Indian Army provided key insights on ‘Reimagining Warfare – Optimal Warfare’ at Synergia Conclave – Security 360. He spoke about the future of warfare. He said, “Military capabilities are developed both for deterrence and for war fighting. And traditionally, possession of a strong capability to fight wars was what deterrence was all about.” He said these capabilities, especially for India, developing huge capabilities for which budget is not available. He said there was a third aspect especially in Indian context. He noted that despite having two nuclear adversaries, there is now a certain stability in the Indian subcontinent now.

He said, “The period of the 20th century, even in the 55 years after the second world and the formation of the United Nations, was somewhat violent. As nation states did not hold back from initiating all-out wars to deal with disputes with other states or impose their will. On the other hand, studying the trends of the first two decades of the 21st century, it is obvious that the world is witnessing a reduction in such wars.” He also stated that the world in entering into a new phase of “optimal warfare.” “Countries will display a higher level of circumspection on decisions on dealing with conflict situations, howsoever grave the provocation can be.” He noted that the rise of China is one of the most significant developments that will have far reaching effects especially in the realm of security.

He noted that the most “significant yet negative” outcome of the Iraq war was the strengthening of Islamist radical terrorism in Iraq. He said, “Militaries across the world need to align itself to the warfare concepts and technological development of the future. Doctrines need to be re-planned and re-articulated to meet the requirements of the future. We too will have to equip, plan and train to fight limited hybrid wars. For how long will external border security and assisting the government in internal security duties remain the only apparent purposes of our (India’s) military?” He said that with the Indian context, there needs to be a higher focus on developing smarter ways to dealing with conflict.


Our assessment is that in the immediate future, wars between nation states will be the exception than the norm. We believe that hybrid and proxy wars, will be preferred, where nation states will concurrently apply a range of warfare means to achieve favorable outcomes, both political and military. We feel that that means of warfare must be carefully selected and aligned to the scope and scale for optimal effects.  Military campaigns that employ a ‘one size fits all’ strategies may gain victories in the short term but turn into political, legal and economic disasters in the long term.