War (2015)

The Engelsberg Seminar 2015

June 11th – 13th 2015 at Avesta Manor, Sweden

According to Herodotus, the Persians taught their sons three things only: “riding and archery and truthtelling”. There could be no empire without warriors. This seminar will deal with war as both creator and demolisher of civilization, and investigate the driving forces of armed conflict through a long historical perspective. What role does war play in the creation of societies? During three days we will consider the long history of war, current conflict zones and the future of armed conflict. The first day will examine the intrinsic part war plays in the formation of societies and the concrete driving forces behind armed conflict. Can we see any patterns? What does the constant recurrence of conflict say about human nature and the human condition? We will also explore how war has been perceived – from the discrepancy between the eye-witness accounts and the official propaganda of The Thirty Years’ War to images of war in contemporary Jihadist poetry. What are the realities of war and how do writers and thinkers explain them? During the second day of the seminar we will focus on the 20th century and the wars that defined the era and still shape our understanding of modern conflict. We will discuss the world wars, the transition from the Cold War to Small Wars and current conflict zones such as the Levant and the Russian borders. We will also ask what the future of war will look like as advanced technology challenges accepted concepts of strategy and combat. We will end Engelsberg 2015 by investigating the current and future role of the US in a world where large-scale conflicts seem increasingly likely. We will also discuss the question of Europe in the Atlantic partnership. What threats to peace and security are on the horizon? What wars will shape our time?


War & Society

Tom Holland
Lecture: The Sacralisation of Violence

Philip Bobbitt
Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence; Director, Center for National Security, Columbia University
Lecture: War and Statehood

Lawrence Freedman
Professor Emeritus of War Studies, King’s College London.
Lecture: The Long Peace and Nuclear Deterrence


The Perceptions of War

Dick Harrison
Professor Emeritus of War Studies, King’s College London.
Lecture: The History of the Thirty Years’ War: On the Gap Between the Official Versions and the Forgotten Eye-Witness Accounts

Christopher Coker
Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
Lecture: War and the Human Imagination

Nathan Shachar
Journalist and Author
Lecture: Spain 1936: How the Press Turned a Complex Tangle Into a Straightforward Communist-Fascist War

Elisabeth Kendall
Senior Research Fellow in Arabic, University of Oxford
Lecture: Militant Jihadist Poetry – the Battle for Hearts and Minds


The World Wars

Hew Strachan
Professor of International Relations, University of St Andrews
Lecture: The Impact of the First World War on Strategy

Jonathan Haslam
Professor of History, University of Cambridge
Lecture: Why the Russians Could Not Break Enigma

Richard J. Evans
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Cambridge
Lecture: War in Nazi Imagination


From the Cold War to Small Wars

Fredrik Logevall
Professor of History, Cornell University
Lecture: The Permissive Context of Recent US Military Interventions

Alexei Arbatov
Head of the Center on International Security, IMEMO, Russian Academy of Science; Scholar in Residence, Carnegie Moscow Center
Lecture: The Ukrainian Crisis and Nuclear Deterrence

David Betz
Reader at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London
Lecture: The Restless Pursuit of the ’Fun Wars’

Frederick Kagan
Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute
Lecture: Development of US Warfare Since 1991


Islamic State

Malise Ruthven
Lecture: The Challenge of ISIS

Magnus Ranstorp
Research Director, Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies, Swedish National Defence College
Lecture: Recruitment of Jihadist Fighters in Sweden

Jessica Stern
Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
Lecture: What Can We Do to Stop ISIS?



Lilia Shevtsova
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Lecture: Why War Again? How the World Is Threatened With a New Challenge

Gregory Feifer
Lecture: How War Serves Putin’s Russia

Peter Pomerantsev
Senior Fellow, Legatum Institute
Lecture: The Information Age Is Turning Into the Disinformation Age


Modern Warfare

Robert Johnson
Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Lecture: ’Modernity’ and War

Pascal Vennesson
Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University
Lecture: War in the Age of Transnational Politics

Michael Weiss
Lecture: The Battle of Narratives


The Role of Western Powers

Andrew Preston
Reader in American History, University of Cambridge
Lecture: Threat, Risk, and the Invention of ’National Security’

Kimberly Kagan
Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute
Lecture: The United States and the New Way of War

Janne Haaland Matlary
Professor of Political Science, University of Oslo and the Norwegian Defence University
Lecture: Can Europe Act Strategically? The Response to Russia in 2014-2015


War in Our Time

Rana Mitter
Director, University of Oxford China Centre, University of Oxford
Lecture: Memory of the War of Resistance and the Reconstruction of Asian Order

Rolf Ekéus
Lecture: How to End Wars – Lessons From the Wars in Iraq

Tommy Stiansen
CTO/Co-Founder, Norse Corp
Lecture: Perspectives on Cyber Warfare

Charly Salonius-Pasternak
Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Lecture: Nordic and Baltic Countries Prepare for an Unwelcome Guest


War: The Engelsberg Seminar

On War: Interviews with Contributors