‘New’ and ‘Old’ Wars
The SAGE Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, edited by Paul I. Joseph, Thousand Oaks: Sage, Forthcoming
4 Pages Posted: 27 May 2015
Date Written: September 8, 2014
The end of the Cold War did not abolish armed conflict, but it coincided with a substantial decline in the total number of violent outbreaks around the globe. At the same time, though, the number of internal wars increased substantially, making these the dominant form of conflict of the contemporary era. These empirical trends prompted a lively debate among scholars as to whether the observed quantitative change in conflict patterns that had taken place in the wake of the Cold War also indicated a qualitative transformation of warfare. Many authors indeed argued, that intra-state or civil wars, underwent a qualitative change during this time period. In this context, the term ‘new wars’ was introduced by Mary Kaldor, who suggested that in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe a new form of organized violence had emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Kaldor understood these conflicts on the one hand as a result of accelerated globalization processes and, on the other hand, as a consequence of the power vacuum left behind by the Cold War era. According to Kaldor, new wars differed from ‘old wars’ in terms of how they were being financed, with regards to the underlying motives of the warring parties, and concerning their mode of warfare. Herfried Münkler further developed the new war thesis, arguing that the new forms of conflict were characterized by the joint occurrence of privatization, demilitarization, and asymmetricalization. These processes entail a weakening of state structures, an increase in non-state actors as warring parties, the dissolution of distinctions between military and nonmilitary aspects, including the differentiation between civilians and combatants, and, finally, asymmetric constellations of actors, strategies, and capabilities. While for each of these phenomena historical precedents could be found in earlier times, Münkler argued that their joint occurrence after the Cold War led to the distinctly novel phenomenon of new wars.
Keywords: Armed Conflict, War, Asymmetric War, Civil War, Globalization, Political Economy of War
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