Vicarious Warfare

American Strategy and the Illusion of War on the Cheap

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This compelling account charts the historical emergence of vicarious warfare and its contemporary prominence. It contrasts its tactical advantages with its hidden costs and potential to cause significant strategic harm.

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America has been at war for most of the 20th and 21st centuries and during that time has progressively moved towards a vicarious form of warfare, where key tasks are delegated to proxies, the military’s exposure to danger is limited, and special forces and covert instruments are on the increase. Important strategic decisions are taken with minimal scrutiny or public engagement.

This compelling account charts the historical emergence of this distinctive tradition of war and explains the factors driving its contemporary prominence. It contrasts the tactical advantages of vicarious warfare with its hidden costs and potential to cause significant strategic harm.

Thomas Waldman is a Senior Lecturer in International Security Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is author of War, Clausewitz and the Trinity (2013) and numerous journal articles on strategy, contemporary warfare and international security.

Author/Editor details at time of book publication.