The Changing Character of War Programme

The Changing Character of War Programme

By Dr Annette Idler

The Changing Character of War Programme (CCW) is devoted to the interdisciplinary study of war and armed conflict. It is a policy-relevant research programme based in Pembroke College at the University of Oxford, and enjoying global influence and international partnerships. It is unique in its delivery of high-quality, high-impact research, combined with practice, policy and advisory engagement.

To date, more than 17 titles have been published in the CCW series at Oxford University Press. CCW conferences, workshops, and seminars bring to Oxford representatives of the armed services, governments and international organisations, as well as leading academics from across the world, including from partner institutions in the United States, Canada, Norway, and Australia. The Programme’s vibrant Visiting Fellowship Scheme adds breadth and diversity to our research activity through its combination of practitioner experience and international perspectives.

Our research has been shaped by the tumultuous events with which the 21st Century began: 9/11 put counter-terrorism high on the agenda, while military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan reasserted the role of counterinsurgency in defence; more recently, the Arab Spring, newly failing states and the rise of China have shifted power balances. The fuelling of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the emergence of Islamic State, Russian operations in the Baltic, the use of autonomous weapons systems, and cyber attacks add complexity to the world’s security landscape. These issues have one thing in common: ambiguity.

The concept of ambiguity as a common feature of war was already present in Clausewitz’s work. However, the term has now expanded to embrace changes in the actors, methods, environments and wider context which shape war and armed conflict today. In particular, we have witnessed the increasing significance of:

  • violent non-state groups;
  • hybridity;
  • urban, peripheral and maritime spaces; and
  • the information age.

Our work includes enhancing understanding of these issues, exploring the responses of states and international organisations to them, and addressing their legal and moral dimensions. Through strategic, in-depth thinking and identifying key trends, our research informs decision-making on pressing issues of contemporary conflict and proffers insights on the future character of war.

Dr Annette Idler is Director of Studies at the Changing Character of War Programme. She can be contacted via email at You can find out more about the programme on their website or follow on Twitter at @OxfordCCW.