How is War changing

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Last updated: April 7, 2019

Since the end of Cold War, the bipolar structure of the world has changed. The ideological super power rivalry that would maintain the balance of power in different regions is non existent. This has posed a new challenge to the international peace and security system as low-intensity conflicts – the ‘new wars’, as they are frequently labelled, have proliferated and established themselves as the most common form of organised violence. Though no region is an exception to it but Europe and Africa remain to be extreme examples of these in the decades of 1980s &1990s.

In the new wars, the ‘Clausewitzean’ notion of war – that prevailed upon the war history and conduct since the emergence of ‘modern state system’ after the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) – as an affair of state is no longer valid, and the lines between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ leaders, ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatants’, ‘civilian’ and ‘military personnel, are blurred1. Civilians are frequently targeted through massive human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. As such, the nature of the wars as opposed to the old ‘Westphalian’ or ‘Clausewitzean’ has changed.The new wars, often termed in literature as ‘fault line wars,’2 owing to their distinct features, are not fought within specific boundaries and are ‘open-ended’ in terms of ‘culmination’ of hostilities and ‘time and space’, or in terms of ‘periods of peace and conflict’.

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They are no more ‘legalistic’ as the old wars of Clausewitzean Model3 were, and in these, victory or defeat is no more absolute. Moreover, these wars are also ‘ethno-nationalistic’ in character, and are motivated predominantly by the differences of ‘culture’, ‘ethnicity’ or ‘identity politics’. In literature these are also termed as civil wars. Mary Kaldor – an exponent of the ‘new war theory’ classifies them into three major categories – ‘network’, ‘spectacular’ and ‘neo-modern’ owing to the different ‘shared’ characteristics.

5 For instance, she sees is the civil wars as ‘network conflicts’ because these are ‘local and external’ linked through networks of different forces of ‘horizontal coalitions’, paramilitary groups, ‘Diaspora’ and international ‘organized crime’.The ‘spectacular wars’, waged by the Americans and allies – NATO strikes in Bosnian conflict, Afghan war on Terrorism, and the two Gulf (Iraq) wars – watched ‘live’ on television and conducted from skies with sophisticated ‘hi-tech’ weaponry, are also very ‘devastative’ in terms of civilian casualties as against the claims of ‘target bombing’ and ‘precise targeting’. The Russia’s war on Chechnya and Israeli war of attrition in Palestine, and others of the same type, are considered ‘neo-modern’ wars.

Though these are ‘ground’ wars, but these also have proven to be costly for the civilian lives. Central to the new war theme is notion of state’s ‘monopoly on legitimate violence’. As the argument proceeds it will be emphasized that the failure of state to exercise ‘legitimate’ power in the post cold war period especially 1990s, has been a major reason for the ‘multiplication’ of new wars. The argument about state is valid from two perspectives.

First is, the challenge posed by the ‘globalisation’, and, the second is the ‘oppressive’ nature of the violence exercised by the states – ‘illegitimate’ use of the monopoly of violence on its own subjects6 by the ‘rogue’ states. Examples of this type are the accounts of ‘genocide’ by Slobodan Milasovic, the ‘use of chemical weapons’ by Saddam Hussein against his subjects, and the ones that took place in most of the African countries. In the above framework, I attempt to examine the changing nature of the war in this paper.In the following sections I will focus on some prominent theories about old war, the Classewitzean model of war, and the different features of the new wars as propounded in the ‘new war theory’ by Mary Kaldor. I will also focus on the ‘spectacular wars’ conducted by America, especially the ‘War on Terrorism’ in the later part. The notion of ‘legitimate’ use and state’s monopoly over violence will remain the persistent theme throughout. As the focus remains on changing nature of war, therefore, the other dimensions of the debate on ‘new war’ i. e.

international humanitarian/cosmopolitan’ response, the role in international ‘peace and security institutions’ like United Nations and the other ‘regional security’ frameworks, the legal debates on international activism, the challenges to the ‘notion of state sovereignty’, and the ‘role of civil society’ etc will not be discussed as these are the subjects of examination in a separate study. Theories of War: In this part I focus on some of the most influential works that dilate upon war and its relationship with state and society. The issue of state’s monopoly of violence is also examined here.The focus is on the theory of war since 16th century until the end of Cold war period when the notion of the ‘new’, was ushered into the war studies. Niccolo Machiavelli: Machiavelli, an eminent realist of early sixteenth century, includes some basic comments on ‘war’ and ‘foundation of the state’ in his celebrated work – The Prince. In his perspective, by state he meant the ‘city-state’ of that time. According to Machiavelli, “the main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones are good arms;.

… where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follows”7.Consequently, the need for a ‘strong-armed’ force is a corner stone in the formation of a strong and prosperous state. Thus, the first obligation for a Machiavelli’s prince was to “have no other object or thought, nor acquire skill in anything except war, its organization, and its discipline” since the “first way to lose your state is to neglect the art of war; the first way to win a state is to be skilled in the art of war”8. For Machiavelli acquisition of the ‘war making’ capability and the ‘monopoly’ over violence are the first tasks of the state.

9 Thomas Hobbes :Another prominent exponent of the realist thought is Hobbes. The seventeenth century civil war and turmoil of England had shaped his thinking. As is evident from his famous work Leviathan (1651), the ‘quest for a peaceful society’ is the central theme of his thinking. In that he aspires to build a society around a ‘strong state’ so as to avoid the anarchical ‘state of nature’10. For, as Hobbes points out, “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called warre; and such a warre as is of every man, against every man”11.Society and the state are founded on the social contract, ‘signed’ by the people in order to avoid the ‘state of nature’ and with it a world of ‘chaos and total war’.

Without society and the state people would no longer have security and would, according to Hobbes, eventually degenerate into “civil warre”12. Carl von Clausewitz: The rise of the nation-state following the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 marked the establishment of the state’s monopoly of violence and war was gradually seen waged ‘exclusively’ by the states.In his most influential work on the theoretical foundations of war (Vom Kriege 1832), this norm is clearly visible. He sees war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will”13.

To him “war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means”. 14 Clausewitz saw war as a “trinity”15 consisting of people, the army and government. This trinity was dependant on the existence of sovereign states, national armies (controlled by the state) and civilians (the people).Hence, the notion of legality of war was forged. To make war ‘socially’ acceptable it was seen as something waged by sovereign states and them alone. 16 Mary Kaldor’s appraisal of The Clausewitzean Model of War: In her valuable work on War, New Wars (1997) Kaldor elaborates upon the Clausewitzean Model as the most valid doctrine in understanding the dynamics of what she calls as ‘old wars’. In this model, war is perceived as a ‘rational act’ of hostility and presupposes the ‘monopolization’ of power by an ‘organised entity’ – the state.The process of monopolisation of power entails the ‘elimination of the private armies’, maintained by the monarchs in the pre-Clausewitzean era, and the ‘establishment of permanent navies and national armies’.

It also embodies the process of the ‘growth of the external war-making capacities’ paralleled with ‘internal pacification’ of the state’s territory – the extension of ‘rule of law’ rendering it more powerful and enhancing of the states ‘rent-seeking’ capability as against the earlier periods.Whereas, in the sovereignty was ‘typically dispersed and fragmented’ earlier the Clausewitzean framework envisaged the notion of the strong sovereign state. The state became an embodiment of ‘national identity’ in exchange for external protection. 17 Thus were developed the organized and centralised war ‘making capacities’ within the states more or less ‘simultaneously’ in Europe. These states recognised the existence of each other, as none of them was ‘strong enough to dominate’ the others. 18 Among them emerged a range of ‘rules and mechanisms’, such as diplomacy to ‘regulate the international behaviour’.As there was no ultimate arbiter, war was the mechanism used to re-establish order when rules broke down19. In other words, the war was the ‘instrument of politics’ in the international arena and, an ‘act of violence’ intended to compel the opponent to fulfil ‘our will’.

20 The Contemporary/New Wars: Mary Kaldor, in her writings (New Wars-1997, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in Global Era-1997, A Decade of Humanitarian Intervention’, Global Civil Society Yearbook 2001, postulates the theory of ‘new wars’ – a product of end of cold war ‘bipolarity’ period resulting from the decreasing sovereignty and capacity of the tate to act as the ‘legitimate’ user of violence21. The period from 1990-2000 shows that only three of a total of 56 major armed conflicts only three were the interstate conflicts, the rest were internal or civil wars. 22 The new wars, sometimes referred as ‘network wars’23 can be differentiated from old wars of Clausewitzean model, as these reflect key distinctions of modernity: between ‘public’ and ‘private’, ‘internal’ and ‘external’, ‘economic’ and ‘political’, ‘civil’ and ‘military’, ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatants’, and ‘war’ and ‘peace’.Mark Duffield agrees with the Kaldor’s description of new wars, for instance, “in today’s network wars the traditional distinctions – ‘military/civilian’, ‘combatant/non-combatant’, etc… no longer exist”24.

Consequently, the role of the state is significant to observe in these conflicts. Effectively the ‘failure’ of the state is accompanied by a growing privatisation of violence. 25 These wars are not about the consolidation of the state power. Rather, these arise out of the disintegration of the state structures and a loss of legitimacy of the political institutions. 6 Hence the trinity of sovereign state, national army and people is not found here. Kaldor argues that the new wars differ from old ones in a number of respects, especially in terms of their ‘goals,’ the ‘methods’ used to fight them and, how they are financed. 27 These wars need to be analysed and understood in the context of globalisation i. e.

“intensification of global interconnectedness – political, economic military and cultural…. involving integration and fragmentation, homogenisation and diversification, globalisation and localization”.

28Against the common assumption that most wars of 1990s are merely the ones produced by ‘ethnic’ conflict, Kaldor asserts that the Bosnian and the other crises of Africa were ‘political’ conflicts also, involving state power as well as various ‘private’ forces. Here ‘identity politics’ or ethnicity was a means by which political elites would wield and reproduce their power29. There are others who also share this view.

For instance David Turton, analysing devastative role played by ethnicity in being a cause/effect of the crises doesn’t see ethnicity as the only causality in the new wars. 0 He, however, realises the importance of ethnicity as he writes that the new wars are motivated by “the driving influence of ethnicity, and, the in-eradicable difference between them and us”. 31 As regards the role played by ethnicity Turton writes, “these (wars) are not waged against anonymous and invisible enemy but against neighbours, friends and even relatives and there are huge numbers of civilian killings and even genocide”. 32Population displacement – ethnic cleansing, resulting in a very large number of refugees and forcible repatriation or colonization are the other distinct features of the new wars.In 1995, the number of world total refugees rose to 16 million as compared to 2 million in 1970s. 33 The number of civilian casualties in the contemporary conflicts signifies alarming trends.

The war in Bosnia claimed 260,000 lives, rendering 3. 5 million people to leave their houses, and, become refugees. It is the story with Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, Zaire/Congo, Somalia, and, Sierra Leone etc. Another feature of these wars is the number of civilian casualties; for instance, at the beginning of 20th Century, 80% of all war casualties were military, whereas, today about 80% are the ivilians. The civilian to military casualty ratio is 8:1 as against the opposite of the old wars. 34 The new wars essentially are genocidal.

For example, in Bosnia, ethnic cleansing was the principal aim of the Serbian and Croatian Forces. Non-Serbs and non-Croats were considerable minorities, if not majorities, in the Serbian and Croatian controlled areas, and locally raised militia, police and local authorities – as well as many civilians – were directly involved in genocide.In Rwanda, large numbers of the Hutu civilian population as well as state, militia and public authorities were mobilised to murder their neighbours – Tutsis. An important feature of these wars is ‘Diaspora’ writes Mary Kaldor in her article in Global Civil Society Yearbook 2001. The diaspora elements living in the neighbouring states, or, in the far off countries provide the warring factions with money, arms, volunteers, and, even technology. Very often, the international crime groups and mafias also support the warring parties establishing arm trade networks in these conflicts. 5 The understanding of the new wars will not be complete if these are not looked into in the context of war economy i.

e. a rational calculation of ‘economic interest’ as against the norm of rational calculation of ‘political interest’ in the Clausewitzean model. “When the formal economy is largely destroyed, the economy of the new war zones thrives on outside humanitarian assistance, remittances from abroad and the black market. “,36 writes David Keen in his Adelphi Papers(1998) study on Economic Functions of Violence.As the unemployment is widespread; joining a paramilitary group or becoming a criminal is the only way of gaining income for the people. Similarly, controlling the state would mean the furtherance of economic aims. More conspicuously, the economic agendas37 would focus on pillage, protection money, arms trade, labour exploitation (as it forcible and cheap or free), capturing the land by forcible depopulation, stealing the aid supplies etc.

Another distinction is the absence of a clear ‘distinction’ between the periods of war and peace.Recurrent ‘truces’ and affording ‘safe exits’ to the adversaries is one of the normal features of these conflicts38. As one of the causes of the outbreak of the hostilities is the deteriorating economic situation, the same appears to be the cause of its continuation. Hence, these wars are ‘open-ended’, ‘indecisive’ and ‘inconclusive’ by their very nature.

David Keen examines, whether the conflict has ‘only’ negative economic consequences for the local population, and, whether the winning is the ‘overriding’ aim of combatants?According to his analysis, in the conflict-ridden countries the organised violent activities such as pillage, depopulating the large areas, labour exploitation, avoidance of tax payments, misuse and stealing of foreign aid relief etc can actually serve as incentives to initiate and prolong the conflict. 39 This is a common feature of all the network wars. As Mark Duffield writes compared to the highly centralised and autarchic economy of old wars, the ‘economy of the new wars’, is globalised and decentralised.

Normal trade, foreign investment and production decline dramatically, as do the levels of employment and tax revenue.Warring factions frequently turn to the black market, plundering or to illegal trade in arms, drugs or in valuable commodities such as oil and diamonds40. Like Keen, he also refers to the economic logic of new wars. He writes, “in case of the new wars, market deregulation has deepened all forms of parallel and transborder trade and allowed warring parties to forge local-global networks and shadow economies as a means of asset realisation and self-provisioning….

Rather than expressions of breakdown or chaos, the new wars can be understood as a form of non-territorial network war that works through and around states. “

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