In a brutal form of politics, a method

In this essay, I will be arguing
that the nature of conflict has changed throughout 21st century by this concept
known as ‘New Wars’ and also through the revolution in military affairs.
Furthermore, I will be arguing that Structuralism views conflict as intimately
connected with the forces of global capitalism. In the contemporary world,
powerful pressures are producing changes to national economies and societies.
Some of these appear to reflect the impact of globalisation, whilst others are
the result of the broader effects of postmodernity, but their increasing effect
has brought about significant political and social changes, which have in
return been reflected in changed perceptions of the nature of threats coming
from the external environment. This turn has influenced beliefs regarding the
utility of force as an instrument of policy, and the forms and functions of
war. In the past two centuries, the ‘modern’ era of history, war has
traditionally been seen as a brutal form of politics, a method in which states
sought to resolve certain issues in international relations, and an outcome of
their willingness to assemble military power for defence and deterrence and to
project in support of their foreign and defence policies. Moving onto to
structuralism, structuralist calls for justice continue to strike a harmony
with many people, especially in the developing world. Structuralism can be seen
as a ‘bottom-up’ perspective on the world which prioritises the difficulty of
the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed. Structuralists suggest that
global economic relations are structured so as to benefit particular social
classes and that the resulting ‘world-system is fundamentally unjust.

 

Mary Kaldor has suggested the
emergence of ‘new wars’ since the mid-1980s. The purpose of these new wars is
globalisation. As Kaldor puts it, “a contradictory process involving both
integration and fragmentation, homogenisation and diversification,
globalisation and localisation” (Kaldor, 1999,
p.4). These conflicts are normally based around the disintegration of
states and subsequent struggles for control of the state by opposing groups,
which are concurrently attempting to impose their own meaning of the national
identity of the state and its population. Just as earlier wars were linked to
the emergence and creation of states, the ‘new wars’ are related to the
disintegration and collapse of states, and the majority of the pressure on such
states has come from the effects of globalisation on the international system.
In the past decade, 95% of armed conflicts have taken place within states,
rather than between them (Baylis, 2014, p.224).
The ‘new wars’ occur in situations where the economy of the state is performing
extremely poorly, or even collapsing, so that the tax revenues and power of the
state decline dramatically, allowing corruption and criminality to take place
more frequently. As the state loses control, access to weapons and the ability
to resort to violence are increasingly privatised, and paramilitary groups
proliferate, organised crime grows, and political legitimacy falls.
Nevertheless, the ‘new wars’ are often characterised not by a conventional
conflict between opposing soldiers, but rather by the use of violence by an
army against an unarmed civilian population, either to ‘ethnically cleanse’ an
area, or to extort economic and sexual resources.

 

Moreover, the ‘new wars’ are
largely based on identity politics – strengthened by new communication
technologies – and are stimulated by personal or group interests and greed (Malantowicz, 2013, p.52). The ‘new war’
theories imply that modern conflicts no longer have geopolitical or ideological
backgrounds. Kaldor states that forward-looking ideas such as democracy,
state-building or socialism are anachronistic; that contemporary wars are based
on identity politics, on “movements which mobilise around ethnic, racial or
religious identity for the purpose of claiming state power”, although they are
fragmentative, exclusive and backward-looking (Malantiwicz,
2013, p.53). The Sudanese civil war was a clear example of such
conflicts in the globalisation era. When Sudan became an independent state in
1956, post-independence efforts by the central government to build a Sudanese
national identity were viewed by the southern population as an attempt to
impose northern culture on the entire country. The war was fought using
comparatively low-tech weaponry, the conflict lasted for a very long time, it
involved external intervention, and witnessed the vast majority of the
casualties borne by the civilian population
(Baylis, 2014, p.225).

 

An alternative reason to explain
that the character of war is changing considerably is focused on the concept of
the revolution in military affairs. This notion of revolution in military
affairs became popular after the American victory in the 1991 Gulf War. The way
in which superior technology and doctrine appeared to give the USA an
effortless victory hinted that future conflicts would be decided by the
possession of technological advances such as advanced guided weapons and space
satellites. However, the following popularity of the RMA concept has not formed
a clear consensus on what exactly the RMA is, or what its implications might
be. Nonetheless, analysts agree that RMA involves a radical change or a form of
discontinuity in the history of warfare, there is disagreement on how and when
these changes or discontinuities take place, or what causes them.  The former US Secretary of Defence, William
Cohen, described the revolution in military affairs as “when a nation’s
military seizes an opportunity to transform its strategy, military doctrine… to
achieve decisive military results in fundamentally new ways” (Baylis, 2014, p.220). RMA advocates believe
that recent breakthroughs and likely future advances in military technology
mean that military operations will be operated with such speed, precision, and
selective destruction that the whole character of war will change and this will
intensely affect the way that military/political affairs are operated in the
next few decades.

 

The main threat in the emphasis
on technological aspects that is central to the RMA is that it can lead to an
underestimation of the political and social dimensions of war. The outcomes of
wars are influenced by a wide range of factors in addition to technology and in
most parts of the contemporary world, the current and possible wars are not
being influenced by the RMA technology, which is only possessed by a handful of
states. Benjamin Lambeth has questioned the existence of a true RMA by stating,
“too much attention has been devoted to technological magic at the expense of
the organisational, conceptual and other human inputs needed to convert the
magic from lifeless hardware into combat outcomes” (Baylis,
2014, p.222).  On the other hand,
there are arguments for seeing it as an inevitable outcome within the era of
globalisation and postmodernity. Alvin and Heidi Toffler argue that the way a
society makes war reflects the way it makes wealth (Baylis,
2014, p.221). For example, with the invention of agriculture, every
revolution in the system for creating wealth triggered a corresponding
revolution in the system for making war. Hence, as a new ‘information economy’
is developing, this will bring with it a parallel revolution in warfare. Therefore,
in the ‘information age’, information is the central resource for wealth
production and power, and the RMA is the inevitable outgrowth of basic changes
in the form of economic production.

 

Moreover, an important aspect of
the RMA concept in Western societies is that it implies the possibility of
using smart weapons to achieve quick, clean victory in war. The RMA
technologies allow the battlefield to be controlled in such a manner that was
not possible in previous eras, in order for the tempo of battle to be arranged
and wars won without the massive loss of life. Such an RMA occurring in the
anticipated future is most likely to be an American-led RMA, which reflects
American understandings of how and why military affairs are conducted. The
American approach has been to attempt to win wars quickly by using overwhelming
force and to use the industrial and technological strength of the USA to
minimise causalities. An example would be being the increasing use of
unmannered aerial systems, or ‘drones’, used in Afghanistan (Baylis, 2014, p.222-223). However, after the
9/11 attacks in 2001 armed drones were created. During the first Obama
Presidency, over 300 armed drone attacks were carried out by the United States.
When the US chose to leave front-line combat missions against Libya to its NATO
allies in 2011, it continued to use American drones to carry out 146 armed
strikes on Libyan targets, as well as providing targeting data for allied air
strikes (Baylis, 2014, p.223).

 

As mentioned above, structuralists
believe that conflict is connected with the forces of global capitalism. Global
economic relations are highly conflictual, because of the tendencies inherent
in capitalism, it is built upon and maintains divisions between social classes
and between core states and border states. Conflicts between social groups, and
indeed states, are generated by the nature of the system itself. Conflict is
not then primarily rooted in the nature of the interstate system, as realists
consider, but arises out of the exploitative nature of capitalism. For this
reason, attempts to mediate or resolve a conflict by well-meaning individuals
or groups are unlikely to be effective. In the sense of direct physical
violence, for example, war, the link between capitalism and conflict can be
seen in terms of imperialism and the violent subjugation of those peoples who
opposed it (Steans, 2005, p.97). It has
also been claimed, by Lenin, that capitalist competition leads to inter-state
war, even though the evidence is not clear and might be contradictory. What is
evident is that some conflicts appear to have at least partly capitalist
economic motivations. For example, Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor was
followed by a treaty with Australia on oil exploitation off the Timorese coast.
Whereas the US/UN action in the Gulf in 1991 and again in 2003 was motivated
more by economic considerations than for reasons of protecting democracy,
particularly given the highly dubious ‘democratic’ credentials of the Kuwaiti
state that was defended in the first Gulf conflict of the early 1990s and the
unlikely connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, which provided the
partial justification for intervening in Iraq (Steans,
2005, p.97-98).

 

Another way of looking at
violence is considered as indirect or structural. Johan Galtung argues that one
can suffer great harm, both physical and psychological if deprived of social
and economic security. To this view, ‘violence’ pervades the structures of
society, which oppress the working-class and other marginalised groups* (Steans, 2005, p.98). The economic structure of
capitalism works to damage subordinated groups in numerous and varied ways:
they receive less education, poorer healthcare and so on, leading to shorter
life-expectancies.

 

In comparison to structuralism,
realists regard states as the primary actors in international relations. Hence,
states are autonomous actors – they are able to formulate foreign-policy goals
and take effective action to realise these ends, known as ‘the national
interest’. Conflicts occur because states constantly have competing interests,
and are prepared to use force if required to realise their objectives and
because, in an anarchic system, there is nothing to prevent it. Furthermore,
realists acknowledge that political struggle is not limited to conflicts
between states. Nonetheless, from a realist perspective, conflict is endemic to
the human condition. However, realists tend to focus conflict between, rather
than within, states (Steans, 2005, p.98).
On the contrary, structuralists regard the interstate system as reflecting the
interests of elite groups, i.e. international capital, and functioning to
manage conflicts to arise from the differences inherent in capitalism.
Political struggles take a number of forms but can be reduced to two types. The
first type is conflict and struggles among different sectors of capital, which
may take the form of inter-state conflict when nationally based capitalist
classes attempt to increase their share of the global product or their access
to resources. The second type is conflict and struggles among opposed social
classes – capital and labour. The first type of struggle is squabble, although
it is often a brutal and bloody one, over the share of global wealth and resources,
which leaves the capitalist system intact. Conversely, the second type is a
much more fundamental conflict between those who defend the capitalist system
and those who want to reform it.

 

Overall, the end of the Cold War
has not drastically altered the dominant patterns of war that had been in place
for the previous fifty years. The ‘new’ forms of conflict are for the majority
not new as such but have received more Western attention since the end of the
Cold War. While they are often characterised by great brutality, the absence of
heavy weaponry and superpower support means that casualty levels are distinctly
lower than during the Cold War. RMA technologies have dramatic potential, but
so far had little impact on US operations. Although war is less common and less
deadly than in the post-war era, it remains a brutal and inhumane form of
politics. Thus, the forms of warfare that are currently prevalent are directly
related to the globalised international economy. Likewise, structuralists, for
example like Marx, helped us to understand that the issue of war is connected
with historical materialism, class struggle and communism (Buecker, 2003, p.53). In such a communist
society, as Engels explained, “it will not occur to anyone to disturb internal
peace”, nor would a communist society fight an aggressive war, as they know
“that in war it will only lose men and capital”, so exceeding the gains of
possible territorial occupations (Buecker, 2003,
p.54). From this, it shows that the only war a communist society would
fight is a defensive war. Further, war could be the promoter of revolution.
Marx never devised binding rules that would suggest the reaction to threats of
war. He believed that war is related to economics. In this regard, Marx
distinguished war in early capitalism from a war in modern capitalism. The war
in early capitalism was a common form of interaction between states for
colonies and trade competition. In comparison, modern capitalism was
characterised by the drive for peace, as military action could have a tragic
impact on the ‘stock market’. Hence, the real cause of war is not an economic
crisis but a political crisis (Buecker, 2003,
p.54).

 

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