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Waging War Without Warriors? The Changing Culture of Military Conflict

Christopher Coker
Waging War Without Warriors? The Changing Culture of Military Conflict
ISBN: 978-1-58826-105-2
ISBN: 978-1-58826-130-4
2002/223 pages/LC: 2002069820
IISS Studies in International Security

"An essential help for our understanding of the attitudinal difference between American soldiers today and many of the adversaries they encounter."—Beatrice Heuser, Royal United Services Institute Journal

"A provocative book of great originality and even greater bleakness."—Andrew J. Bacevich, International History Review

"Coker contributes historical depth and psychological and cultural nuance to expand our perceptions of the asymmetry between Western, particularly American, and Eastern, particularly Islamic, warmaking."—Russell F. Weigley, Journal of Military History


In the past, posits Christopher Coker, wars were all-encompassing; they were a test not only of individual bravery, but of an entire community's will to survive. In the West today, in contrast, wars are tools of foreign policy, not intrinsic to the values of a society—they are instrumental rather than existential. The clash between these two "cultures of war" can be seen starkly in the recent struggle in Afghanistan.

Coker offers both a history of martial cultures and an analysis of how these are now changing. He locates the origins of the Western way of war in ancient Greece: for example, in the heroic ideals of Homer's Iliad. He then traces the development of this warrior spirit, moving from Rome's systemization of violence to encounters with such alternative ways of war as Sun Tzu's, the Islamic tradition, and Japan's kamikaze actions during World War II. This trajectory, he finds, ends in a crucial contemporary fault line: for the first time in history, war is no longer considered humankind's most revealing behavior.

What does this mean for the future? Coker argues that tomorrow's combatants will be technicians and even machines, divorced emotionally from the battlefield. He elegantly explores the significance of an evolving culture of war devoid of the figure of the heroic warrior.


Christopher Coker is reader in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His many books include War and Twentieth Century, War and the Illiberal Conscience, Twilight of the West, and most recently, Humane Warfare.


  • The Warrior's Dishonor.
  • The Origins of the Western Way of Warfare.
  • The Western Way of Warfare and the Modern Age.
  • The Death of the Warrior Tradition and the American Way of Warfare.
  • The West Encounters the Non-Western World.
  • The Warrior Tradition and the Non-Western Way of Warfare.
  • Posthuman War.