In Part 2, I set the proposition that a lawyer is most like a politician and not a general. Why? Read on and find out.
(A) Warfare is a subpart of politics.
War is a continuation of politics by other means.
-Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz – one of history’s great strategic thinkers – wrote this famous saying in his book, On War, that war is a subpart of politics. Von Clausewitz, a Prussian, wrote his book when Prussia – along with the rest of Europe – was struggling to come to grips with the revolutionary approach to war brought about by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Before continuing, it is important to define “politics” and “war.” Generally speaking, politics is when two or more people are attempting to exert some control over something. That may be resources, such as money or goods, or the other person, such as who will be doing household chores. On the other hand, war – again, generally speaking – occurs when these parties turn confrontational. That will normally happen because the party’s attempts to getting what they want through other means have failed.
While the parties are involved in the war, they are still attempting to gain control over something, which is why warfare is a subpart of politics. The only difference is that they are now using violence rather than other means of persuasion. Although they are using violence, each party is still essentially saying to the other, “I want you to do [X], and I’m going to force you to.” The X is irrelevant. It can be anything. Either way, it is still politics. Politics and warfare – regardless of the scale – is a battle of minds.
Think about World War 2 for an example of these concepts in action on a grand scale. Before the war began, Germany wanted different regions it thought belonged to it, such as Austria. In an effort to pacify them, England and the other Allied powers essentially let Germany take Austria. Not content, Germany wanted more land and resources, eventually invading Poland. In response, England, France, etc., declared war in an effort to stop the Germans. During the war’s duration, both the Allied and Axis powers tried to resolve the conflict. Eventually, the Axis nations had to accept the Allied nations’ demands. For example, the US demanded that the Japanese unconditionally surrender.
World War 2 is just one example of millions throughout history of nations trying to exert their will on others through politics, using both persuasion, such as treaties, and violence.
Household chores are a perfect example of the same interplay between politics and war on a small scale. At first, a parent or spouse will try to persuade their child or other spouse through negotiation. They might say to the other, “If you do the dishes, I’ll dry them.” Or, “If you do your chores you’ll get an allowance.” But, when these negotiations fail, the parent or spouse may escalate their actions to get what they want. An argument might erupt when one side doesn’t bend about who will dry the dishes or what-not and unkind words are said. This interaction is still politics and warfare on a small scale that happens daily in homes throughout the world. (While it is still nonviolent, it is still warfare and has the potential to be just as – if not more – harmful.) Even in the act of saying unkind words, the people involved are still trying to get their way.
As already stated, the concepts occur on varying scales with differing consequences, but the concepts’ interplay remains the same. Starting since time immemorial, peoples, tribes, and nations have been competing with each other over resources. Usually, the parties begin with negotiations and then use warfare as a last-ditch effort. But, how quickly the parties abandon negotiation and resort to violence is irrelevant. Indeed, it’s common for parties to skip negotiation completely. Either way, that is a reflection of each parties’ political means and strategy only and isn’t evidence of a difference between the politics and warfare concepts. In any event, warfare is a political maneuver.
This is where the heart of the misunderstanding is. Most lawyers don’t understand that warfare is only a part of politics and that the act of warfare itself is a political move. Because of this misunderstanding, lawyers separate a case into “trial” and “everything else” and focus on the wrong piece of the representation equation. Although they do harm the other party, they limit themselves and harm their clients because they view their job only as an intellectual competition over money. (Money is the primary resource each side is competing over although others may be present.) The politics and warfare equation is flipped to the complete opposite. Negotiating – the primary means of attaining the desired outcome for nations – becomes the “alternative” and trial, which is the warfare aspect, becomes the norm.
The lawyer who understands the true relationship between politics and warfare reverses the two back to their proper place. By doing so, this allows the lawyer to exercise more creativity in coming up with solutions that benefit all the parties involved while preventing the hostility that trial brings. Understanding the proper relationship between politics and warfare is the first step to establishing alternative dispute resolution as a primary strategy for a lawyer.
That’s the end of this installment. Be sure to check back often, add this site to your RSS feed, and let me know your thoughts down in the comments on ADR regardless of whether you’re a lawyer!