Journal Article: Vicarious warfare: The counterproductive consequences of modern American military practice

Waldman (2017) describes recent developments in modern warfare, developments that are illustrated by the U.S.-led international anti-IS coalition, as vicarious warfare. According to Waldman, vicarious warfare denotes the trend that Western States increasingly fight wars at a distance. It consists of three major mechanisms: delegation, danger-proofing, and darkness. Delegation “involves shifting the burden of risk and responsibility onto others” (p. 9). Darkness is characterised as a “catch-all term to encompass [among other things] the use of covert action and special forces operation” (p. 15). Lastly, danger-proofing points to the heavy reliance on “various forms of airpower and stand-off weapons systems, which offer protection through distance” (p. 12). Waldman argues that this form of warfare might foster various blowback effects, such as discontent and continued resistance among the civilian population, the use of human shields to raise the political costs for attacks by Western powers, or a decrease in democratic accountability ‘at home.’


Waldman, T. 2018. ‘Vicarious Warfare: The Counterproductive Consequences of Modern American Military Practice’. Contemporary Security Policy 39 (2): 181–205.