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Conceptualising the regular-irregular engagement: the strategic value of proxies and auxiliaries in wars amongst the people

Rauta, V. (2019) Conceptualising the regular-irregular engagement: the strategic value of proxies and auxiliaries in wars amongst the people. In: Brown, D., Murray, D., Riemann, M., Rossi, N. and Smith, M. (eds.) War Amongst the People. Howgate Publishing Limited, Havant.

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Abstract/Summary

The notion of ‘war amongst the people’ is a central feature of the twenty-first century security environment. Introduced by Rupert Smith in his ground-breaking The Utility of Force, ‘war amongst the people’ captured a reality long in the making, whose historical lineage could partly be traced back to the origins of war itself. The appeal of the concept came from combining the simplicity of the label with its strong analytical power. Smith shifted the strategic mindset towards the socio-political construction of violence in a way that allowed Western strategic thinking to grasp realities that did not conform to mainstream strategic expectations: first, the transformation of civil society into a battlespace dominated by fragmented non-state actors pursuing various and often contradictory political goals; second, the blurring of key strategic conceptual binaries such as ‘peace–war’ or ‘victory–defeat’ and third the increasing media visibility of such development and interactions and its taxing pressures on policy and decision-makers. In doing so, Smith identified ‘the people’ as the locus and animus of fighting and made the case for the absence of any form of boundaries around them, physical or not. More recently, Thomas Marks and Paul Rich described the value of violence in war amongst the people as a twofold process: ‘to carry out the normal functions of military warfighting, neutralisation of the armed capacity of the enemy; but, more fundamentally, to carve out the space necessary for the political activities of (alternative) state-building achieved through mobilisation and construction of capacity’. This shows how ‘the people’ became the object of contention or what needed to be won over, while Western strategic thinking adopted the famous ‘hearts and minds’ model to varying degrees of success. This chapter addresses a significant gap in this debate by looking at how these wars are often fought against an adversary; not just amongst the people, but with and alongside the people. To highlight the intricacies of war amongst the people, it identifies two complementary strategic models of integrating ‘the people’ into warfighting: the auxiliary strategic model and the proxy strategic model, both of which speak to different patterns of interaction between regular and irregular forces. The former delineates a close regular–irregular military synergy in which the irregulars complement the regulars and are usually co-employed in the fighting. The latter describes a strategic relationship of political and military value in which the irregulars work for the regulars through a process of delegation. The chapter, therefore, builds a case for differencing proxies from auxiliaries, based on the former’s politico-strategic role compared to the latter’s military-tactical utility. To capture these differences, the argument presents the proxy and auxiliary relationships as variations of dynamic and flexible strategic interaction processes between types of forces (regular and irregular).

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:81725
Publisher:Howgate Publishing Limited

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