New Wars (
Last week we made a variety of remarks about Carl von Clausewitz as the leading, albeit, late18th C/early 19th C scholar of War and strategy. many commentators have suggested that Clausewitz's theses in 'On War' make his conception of war fall outside of the kinds of conflict that is characterized by the phrase New wars
and this question of compatibility between Clausewitzian ideas and the concept of New wars has become a significant debate between academics.
It is common to take him to have provided the classical account of 'conventional' war - a war fought between states
where the 'agreement' to go to war is founded on the coalescence of:
a)the policy makers (Govt);
b) the hopes of a people and
c) the insight and strategical imagination of the military -
The 'wondrous' TRINITARIAN formula.
And this organic - HOLISTIC - (very german idea in the 19th C) idea...would express the WILL of a nation to go (successfully) to war
to resolve political or more usually in those days, politico-territorial matters.
And this cashes out that most famous line of Clausewitz that 'war is politics (matters of policy?) by other means'
where politics/policy and war are not separate phases or activities but are enmeshed in as varying alliance as the activity of diplomacy and war move in and out of each other.
Bart Schuurman in his article (Parameters, Spring 2010) exploring whether Clausewitz ideas can address the phenomena of 'New wars' ...outlines Mary Klador's subject-defining theses. And this because: " Many observers concluded that the nature of war had changed and that western armed forces had yet to make the necessary adaptations to the new paradigm."
Mary Kaldor dismisses Clausewitz with the argument that he saw war as “the use of military means to defeat another state”
and this is no longer applicable in today’s conflicts.4 She argues that states are no longer the primary actors in war.
van Creveld along with Kaldor, claims that Clausewitz takes a very state-centric outlook that has become obsolete due to the increase of non-state warfare in recent times
For Kaldor: The State has been replaced by “group[s] identified in terms of ethnicity, religion, or tribe” ...and..."Such forces rarely fight each other in a decisive encounter. "
(Note this carries the implication that Clausewitizian 'classical' warfare has a definite notion of a winner and loser and that this is decided IN a battle...after which post-war political negotiation is back on the table with the losers having to give far more than the winners.)
"Kaldor believes that contemporary conflicts no longer revolve around attaining a specific military victory but that they are matters of political mobilization through the use of violence, which has led to civilians becoming the main targets.
Sometimes objectives are altogether absent and combatants are inspired to maintain a state of conflict because it provides them with lucrative economic benefits.
Kaldor hypothesizes that new wars speed up the processes of state disintegration that gave rise to them in the first place.
In short, she argues that the end of the Cold War saw the demise of interstate war in favour of a new type of conflict characterized by civil strife."
And the way to achieve victory in 'New Wars' given conventional military superiority has limited value in civil wars or counterinsurgencies...
a) no longer rests on the ability to inflict massive destruction but
b) on the ability to wrestle popular support away from one’s opponents, isolating the insurgent or the terrorist from the things he needs most.
An alternative to Kaldor:
William Lind and Thomas Hammes: They contend that the history of war has progressed through several distinct stages and that the world is currently experiencing “fourth generation warfare” (4GW).
In 4GW, high technology empowered western armed forces to face elusive and materially inferior opponents who, through a combination of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and campaigns aimed at undermining western public support, are nevertheless able to pose a significant threat to western security.
They believe that western forces are struggling to effectively utilize their military potential because they are still operating according to the outdated principles and doctrines of earlier generations of war that stressed manoeuvre warfare as exemplified by the concept of blitzkrieg
How a Clausewitzian replies to Kaldor et al.
Herberg-Rothe notes that Clausewitz even devoted a chapter in On War to the warfare waged by non-state actors
and Daase points out:
"the conceptual schema of war which Clausewitz had in mind: the attacker, the defender, violent means, military aims, and political ends. With this schema, diverse forms of political violence can be described and compared without the need to draw strict conceptual boundaries or to identify conceptual core"
"Clausewitz is neither an advocate of the use of unlimited force nor is his analysis of war in any way state-centric and therefore of no utility in analyzing conflicts where actors other than states participate.
Even the most violent insurgents envision their actions as working toward a cause they perceive to be rational, just as the most careful use of force by a state will inevitably spark reactions of violent emotion.
No actor in armed conflict, past or present, has been able to escape the influences of chance and luck."
Keegan, Kaldor, and van Creveld miss the crucial point that:
"Clausewitz describes war as consisting of a first trinity of: violence, chance, and rationality and that he connects these to the secondary trinity of people, armed forces, and government mainly as an example.
This distinction is in fact critical because Clausewitz’s primary trinity implies nothing about the socio-political nature of the entity waging war.
In other words this point taken in tandem with Herberg-Rothes' work suggests that in no way did Clausewitz argyue that War comprises ONLY of State versus State
And as such the argument which we see on Kaldor's article I asked you to look at...namely her claim that New wars are 'post-Clausewitzian' can be argued to be mistaken.
And one might also argue that in terms of methodology, Clausewitz analysed matters in terms a 'dialectic' between ideal models (e.g. his second trinity) and likely realities (which turn on variabilities - e.g. his second trinity where violence, chance, and rationality are in play
This mean that, in a way, Clausewitz's ideas can be seen as not dis-similar to non-linear complexity theories of war which describe war as not proceeding in a neat line as a function of phases and the mechanical interactions of those involved.
causes of New Wars
Very good summary of causes of 'New Wars' emphasising the collapse of modernity, the damage of globalisation, and the weakening of non-Western states due to clientalism and economic dependency relationships: Oberg and Hall, pp. 6-11 The ‘New Wars’ Debate Revisited: An Empirical
ANYWAY...back to Kaldor..and let us see what she says.
My discussion above about New wars and Clausewitz does not, of course, invalidate Kaldor's positive analysis. But the fourth 'thrust' does matter to Kaldor (it is not just a bit of textual scholarship) because she says in the a abstract to her article that: ‘new wars’ should be understood not as an empirical category but rather as a way of elucidating the logic of contemporary war that can offer both a research strategy and a guide to policy
This claim makes the issue for her a meta-theoretical issue...
and not simply an empirical one whereby we can look at particular wars today to gain an observable analysis of the typical factors in play that
somehow do not fit a Clausewitzian or even just a generalised image of a 'conventional' war.
Rather, it would seem Kaldor herself is trying to offer a 'logical' model of contemporary warfare - an abstract idea - an ideal type but with non-Clausewitzian concepts. "Clausewitz was par excellence the theorist of old wars – for him, war was a contest of wills. In my version of new wars, war is rather a violent enterprise framed in political terms"
Four main thrusts of criticism:
1) whether new wars are ‘new’;
2) whether new wars are ‘war’;
3) whether existing data confirms or negates the findings about the nature of new wars; and
But she starts with a quote from the World bank that: "Violence and conflict have not been banished…But because of the success in reducing inter-state war, the remaining forms of violence do not fit neatly either into “war” or “peace”, or into “political” or “criminal” violence."
She sets her view against that of what I might called confined wars - wars between well-demarcated entities - her point being, like that of the World Bank, that wars (if anything 'conflict' might be a more helpful term) blur formerly sharply drawn boundaries, especially between war and crime..and presumably as to how they are fought - fighting well and an ethics or war is not a much valued feature.
fought by the regular armed forces of states
fought by varying combinations of networks of state and non-state actors – regular armed forces, private security contractors, mercenaries, jihadists, warlords, paramilitaries, etc
fought for geo-political interests or for ideology
ought in the name of identity (ethnic,
religious or tribal). Identity politics has a different logic from
geo-politics or ideology. The aim is to gain access to the state for
particular groups. Sense of
identity gets further consolidated in the war itself e.g.
battle was the decisive encounter, capturing territory through military means
battles are rare and territory is captured through political means, through control of the population
largely financed by states; economies were typically centralising, autarchic and mobilised the population,
are part of an open globalised
decentralised economy in which participation is low and revenue depends on
continued violence. Funds are
acquired through loot and pillage, smuggling or the drugs trade, and war
becomes necessary to maintain those sources of income. New wars can also
spread through transnational criminal networks.
"You can trace the origins of the conflict in
Just on the matter of financing of wars, Kaldor wants to suggest that money comes from "new forms of predatory private finance include loot
and pillage, ‘taxation’ of humanitarian aid, Diaspora support, kidnapping, or smuggling in oil, diamonds, drugs, people, etc."
do not forget that there is some evidence that strong states highly motivated
by their own issues and religious biases have been funnelling money to ISIS etc
The 'virality of New wars
"...whereas old wars tended to extremes as each side tried to win, new wars tend to spread and to persist or recur as each side gains in political or economic ways from violence itself rather than ‘winning’. Whereas old wars were associated with state building, new wars tend to contribute to the dismantling of the state. It is this logic of persistence and spread that I have come to understand as the key difference with old wars."
and the breaking of normative/ethical boundaries
the assumption in old wars was that you remain neutral between the sides and provide aid to the civilians.
In new wars you can’t distinguish between civilians and combatants so very often the humanitarian aid
goes into the pockets of the militias.
Second, you can’t be both neutral and impartial because usually one side is violating human rights and you
end up tolerating those violations.
Third, and this is becoming very clear in
The idea that there is an easily identifiable space between the two warring sides that is free of warfare does not hold
when violence is directed against civilians. Humanitarian agencies become targets too.
From the image of Old wars to new wars
"war consists of a conflict between two warring parties, generally states or proto-states with legitimate interests, what I call ‘Old Wars’...
policy-makers recognise the shortcomings of the stereotypical understanding, there is a tendency to treat these wars as anarchy, barbarism, ancient rivalries, where the best policy response is containment, i.e. protecting the borders of the West from this malady.
...The use of the term ‘new’ is a way of demonstrating ...a logic that is different from ‘old wars’ and which therefore dictates a very different research strategy and a different policy response. In other words, the ‘new wars’ thesis is both about the changing character of organised violence and about developing a way of understanding, interpreting and explaining the interrelated characteristics of such violence."
ad to the more concrete 'empirical' aspects that structure the practice of new wars:
a) symmetrical to asymmetrical forms of war - sheer efficiency of fighting trad wars makes it diffiicult to win (another anti-Clasewitizian point by Kaldor)
b) Secondly, new forms of communications (information technology, television and radio, cheap air travel) have had a range of implications. Even though most contemporary conflicts are very local, global connections are much more extensive, including criminal networks, Diaspora links, as well as the presence of international agencies, NGOs, and journalists. The ability to mobilise around both exclusivist causes and human rights causes has been speeded up by new communications. Communications are also increasingly a tool of war, making it easier, for example, to spread fear and panic than in earlier periods – hence, spectacular acts of terrorism.
c) globalisation has not led to the demise of the state but rather its transformation, Perhaps the most important aspect of state transformation is the changing role of the state in relation to organised violence.
On the one hand, the monopoly of violence is eroded from above, as some states are increasingly embedded in a set of international rules and institutions.
On the other hand, the monopoly of violence is eroded from below as other states become weaker under the impact of globalisation.
And the factor Kaldor sees as the turning point characteristic: Identity politics as the motivation of new war. But not just this, it is also about the way that a 'new war' is waged.
"Identity politics is about the right to power in the name of a specific group; ideological politics is about winning power in order to carry out a particular
"Typically, in new war contexts, for example, access to the state is about access to resources rather than about changing state behaviour"
Is this true? Has the so-called struggle for
a caliphate courtesy of
Can we draw an operational distinction between identity and ideology vis-a-vis new wars?
Kaldor's quote from Keegan was rather good: ‘The great work of disarming tribes, sects, warlords and criminals – a principal achievement of monarchs in the 17th century and empires in the 19th – threatens to need doing all over again’
The other key notion in Kaldor is: new wars as WAR. She sympathises with:
Mueller: ‘most of what passes for warfare to-day is centrally characterised by the opportunistic and improvisatory clash of thugs, not by the programmed and/or primordial clash of civilisations –although many of the perpetrators do cagily apply ethnic, national or ideological rhetoric to justify their activities because to stress the thrill and profit of predation would be politically incorrect’.
She glosses this
New wars can be described as mixtures of war (organised violence for political ends), crime (organised violence for private ends) and human rights
violations (violence against civilians). The advantage
of not using the term ‘war’ is that all forms of contemporary violence can be
regarded as wholly illegitimate, requiring a policing rather than a
political/military response. Moreover, much contemporary violence – like
the drugs wars in
or gang warfare in major cities – appears to have a similar logic to new wars.
BUT...Kaldor is not purely analytical, she engages with a normativist approach to 'new wars' where she says:
"the political element does have to be taken seriously; it is part of the solution. Articulating a cosmopolitan politics as an
alternative to exclusivist identity is the only way to establish legitimate institutions that can provide the kind of effective
governance and security that Mueller is proposing as a solution. ...Overcoming fear and hostility does not necessarily
come about through compromise, even if that is possible, because compromise can entrench exclusivist positions;
rather it requires a different kind of politics, the construction of a shared discourse that has to underpin any legal response." (p.6)
The Kaldorian definition of war.
"I have defined war as ‘an act of violence involving two or more organised groups framed in
political terms’. According to the logic of this definition, war could either be a ‘contest of wills’
or it could be a ‘mutual enterprise’. "
A contest of wills implies that the enemy must be crushed and therefore war tends to extremes.
A mutual enterprise implies that both sides need the other in order to carry on the enterprise of
war and therefore war tends to be long and inconclusive.
‘New wars’ tend to be mutual enterprises rather than a contest of wills. The warring parties are
interested in the enterprise of war rather than winning or losing, for both political and economic
reasons. The inner tendency of such wars is not war without limits, but war without end. Wars,
defined in this way, create shared self-perpetuating interest in war to reproduce political identity
and to further economic interests.
The hostility that is kindled by war among the population may provoke disorganised violence
or there may be real policy aims that can be achieved. There may be outside intervention aimed at
suppressing the mutual enterprise or the wars may produce unexpectedly an animosity to violence
among the population, undermining the premise of political mobilisation on which such wars are
So Kaldor wants to get away from a 'winner takes all' notion of (old) wars and see it as a mutual enterprise
where in so bizarre way each side may benefit even if they are antagonists..and the way to resolve this is a
kind of liberal cosmopolitanism. She writes:
"if we understand the ‘War on Terror’ as a mutual enterprise – whatever the
individual antagonists believe – in which the American Administration shores up its image as the
protector of the American people and the defender of democracy, those with a vested interest in a
high military budget are rewarded and extremist Islamists are able to substantiate the idea of a
Global Jihad and to mobilise young Muslims behind the cause, then action and counter-reaction
merely contribute to ‘long war’, which benefits both sides." (p. 12)
in post-Clausewitzean terms, the proposed course of action is very different; it has to do with both with the
application of law and the mobilisation of public opinion not on one side or the other, but against
the mutual enterprise" (p.13)
But Kaldor also re-iterates her leftist credentials with late-60s talk about the Military-industrial complex
as a form of 'mutual enterprise' - she explains it thus and thereby forces the pace of a logic of war expansionism -
(remember Thucidydes 'fear' argument - the suspicion of each other (but in this case driven by M-I interests) see
a build up of arms and antagonisms that spill into conflict activity)
"the military-industrial complex was not to be dismantled at the end of the cold war, it needed an excuse to produce the
next generation of weapons. During the 1990s lots of people tried to develop new justifications and they invented all these
military-industrial complex is a deep
structure, in the
reason why we are purchasing Trident and are stuck in
this difficult relationship with the
– it’s not a vulgar Marxist point I am making. Why do we feel
steel industry or the coal industry? Why do we feel the defence industry is the one industry we can’t allow to be run-down?
There you touch not just on economics but on our deepest assumptions about security – assumptions that shape our political
and economic structures. " (Interview, p.20, 2007)
Her kind of liberal cosmopolitanism:
On the one hand, the American notion of cosmic struggle between good (the West) and evil (Islam) and,
on the other hand,
an alternative notion based on the project of extending an internal rule of law, respect for human rights and global governance.
Although the European Union tends towards the latter approach, it seems to be caught between the two paradigms.
"Central to your vision of a cosmopolitan political alternative is the rise of a global civil society as the centrepiece of
global legitimacy spreading the values of multi-culturalism and human rights... My argument is that civil society is the
arena where we debate different models of governance. It is the medium through which a social contract is negotiated. Today,
we are in the process of establishing a global civil society alongside international law and global institutions." (Interview, p.25, 2007)
The problem with Kaldor here is that it covers all the bases - it could be this and it could be that...
It tends to becomes a catch-all big baggy monster of a theory..and in the end no theory at all because it lacks clear discriminations!
It's a bit loose!