Kristin P. Johnson
One of the biggest challenges in studying internal conflict is the fact that internal strife and instability is not the norm. Across diverse groups, societies, and regimes, cooperation even in the context of contention is typical. However, conflicts that occur along ethnic or nationalist lines are often the most protracted, violent, and difficult to resolve in the long term. Civil wars can be divided into two distinct types: ethnic/religious wars (identity), and revolutionary wars (nonidentity). The distinction between these conflict types is based on whether cleavages within a society occur along ethnic lines or along lines that cut across ethnic divisions and are focused on issues including class, ideology, or seeking significant policy changes. Several scholarly traditions and theoretical approaches exist to explain identity mobilization along ethnic or nationalist lines, the contributing factors that explain the transition from mobilization to the exercise of political violence, the duration of identity-based conflicts, and the long-term prospects for settlement of the conflict. These theories can be organized by societal, political, and economic theoretical approaches. Explanations of conflicts based on sociology and comparative politics focus on the formation and maintenance of identity. Macro-level structural explanations for internal conflict focus on the capability or capacity of the state and the distribution of political authority within a political system as critical components in the emergence of conflict. Economic theories consider the feasibility of opposition and the motivation of individuals to choose rebellion.
Olga Martin-Ortega, Johanna Herman, and Chandra Lekha Sriram
The relationship between human rights and armed conflict is rooted in historical debates among religious, philosophical, and international legal scholars about the nature of a just war, and appropriate conduct in war, which also have come to underpin and international humanitarian law. An understanding of the links between human rights, war, and conflict can begin with conflict analysis, as human rights violations can be both cause and consequence of conflict. In the most general sense, grievances over the denial or perceived denial of rights can generate social conflict. This may be the case where there is systematic discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, religion, language, gender, or other characteristics. Alternatively, human rights abuses can emerge as a result of violent conflict. A conflict may have been undertaken by the parties primarily out of concern to promote a political or ideological agenda, or to promote the welfare of one or more identity group(s), or over access to resources. Human rights are also potentially transformative of conflicts and may make their resolution a greater challenge. Thus, conflicts that begin as conflicts over resources, religion, or ethnic or territorial claims, may, as they progress, create new grievances through the real and perceived violation of human rights by one or more parties to the conflict.
The reality of war has always been connected with political, economic, and social dynamics, as opposed to the notion that it is held within the confines of the battlefield. International political sociologists argue that practices of war and peace are positioned at the crux of institutional continuities and societal change, and that it is wrong to presuppose a dichotomy between the domestic and the international. As a result, scholars have become interested in the study of warfare, which, apart from military history, encompasses various themes such as the nature of human conflict and issues of defense policy, logistics, operations, and strategic planning. One particular study is International Political Sociology (IPS), a field of research that is concerned with how wars draw boundaries, how they influence political authority and trajectories of power, and how these are integrated in the global sphere. Meanwhile, International Relations (IR) is a formal subject that addresses the origin of war, how it impacts the dealings of the international system, and the institutional arrangements that might restrict or enhance war as a determinant of state relations. The study of International Relations is rife with various analytical perspectives, from realism to neo-realism and liberal internationalism, all of which exhibit how war continues to have a central place in scholarly disciplines.
The internet has emerged as an important medium for terrorists. Two key trends can be discerned from cyberterrorism: the democratization of communications driven by user generated content on the internet, and modern terrorists’ growing awareness of the internet’s potential for their purposes. The internet has become a favorite tool of the terrorists because of the many advantages it provides, such as easy access; little or no regulation, censorship, or other forms of government control; potentially huge audiences spread throughout the world; anonymity of communication; fast flow of information; interactivity; inexpensive development and maintenance of a Web presence; a multimedia environment; and the ability to influence coverage in the traditional mass media. These advantages make the network of computer-mediated communication ideal for terrorists-as-communicators. Terrorist groups of all sizes maintain their own websites to spread propaganda, raise funds and launder money, recruit and train members, communicate and conspire, plan and launch attacks. They also rely on e-mail, chatrooms, e-groups, forums, virtual message boards, and resources like YouTube, Facebook, and Google Earth. Fighting online terrorism raises the issue of countermeasures and their cost. The virtual war between terrorists and counterterrorism forces and agencies is certainly a vital, dynamic, and ferocious one. It is imperative that we become better informed about the uses to which terrorists put the internet and better able to monitor their activities. Second, we must defend our societies better against terrorism without undermining the very qualities and values that make our societies worth defending.
Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson
There are various approaches, both simple and complex, to systemic conflict. The simpler ones include balance of power, polarity, concentration, polarization, and democratization. More complex systemic approaches to conflict range from power transition and relative power cycle to leadership long cycle and world-systems. Some of these programs continue to generate scholarly interest and produce new findings, while others have been beset with little activity. Yet, none of these research programs have captured enough scholarly attention to be fully “mainstreamed.” That is, they have not been co-opted as central interpretations of international politics. The theoretical literature on simpler approaches to systemic conflict persists today but was more common prior to the mid-1970s. Since systemic analyses were not well developed in the first two or three decades after World War II, scholars grappled with what systemic analyses meant. One question is whether we should differentiate between a global system and its multiple regional subsystems. Complex systemic research programs have declined in analytical popularity after peaking in the 1980s, in large part because perceptions of the world situation changed in the 1990s. Whether “traditional” system dynamics will regain its lost status in light of the globalization processes perceived to be at work remains unclear, but there is cause for optimism about the future contributions of systemic theory as research programs in this area have expanded to include new topics and issues, along with new theoretical developments in other areas that will be pertinent to systemic perspectives.
John O’Loughlin, Clionadh Raleigh, and Frank D.W. Witmer
Analysis of civil and international conflict is an important component of the fields of political science and international relations. The theories that animate the study of conflict have focused on a combination of economic and ethnic–ideological motivations, along with political and systemic factors such as alliances and support from external benefactors. However, few studies have presented a coherent and compelling account of the persistence and patterns of conflict since 1945. Many conflict studies that consider spatial phenomena ignore the particularities of the data and the context of spatial relationships. Three strands of research on spatial analysis of war can be identified: studies that explored how neighboring states influence the propensity for the international spread of disputes; studies that lend support to both spatial heterogeneity and dependence explanations of civil war patterns in developing states; and work that incorporates space into quantitative civil war studies by modeling how subnational characteristics affect civil war risk. In general, the qualitative literature on conflict has provided insights that help to identify predictive variables for quantitative analysis, in particular the local spatial distribution of violence and its trends over time. This is evident in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violent events have erupted since independence in 1960. Despite the substantial progress in conflict research, there are a number of areas that deserve further investigation, including the specific contextual factors that govern the ebb and flow of conflict such as terrain, forest cover, distribution of supportive and opponent populations.
Patrick M. Morgan
Nuclear strategy involves the production of nuclear weapons for political ends as well as the goals, means, and ways in which they are, or are planned to be, used. The roots of nuclear strategy can be traced to World War II, when nuclear scientists, as well as American and British high-level officials, began thinking about how nuclear weapons could be harnessed. Several ideas then emerged that became central to nuclear strategy, but largely ignored in early postwar American military planning. Aside from war-fighting, the United States’s grand strategy and national security policy soon focused on containment as the way to deal with communism around the world. Containment was politically and intellectually well-suited for emphasizing nuclear deterrence as a means of preventing the Cold War from escalating into war. The theory and resulting strategy was dominated by two problems: the stability problem and the credibility problem. As for actually fighting a nuclear war, strategies include demonstration explosions to curb enemy military actions, preventive and preemptive attacks, and retaliation after being attacked. The design and implementation of nuclear postures and strategies have been beset by numerous deficiencies, such as accidents with nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Fortunately, nuclear strategy did not give rise to what many feared—a self-sustaining security dilemma that made insecurity overwhelming and impossible to dispel.
Chiara de Franco
Contemporary conflicts and warfare are invariably connected to some recurrent elements: globalization; the decline of the State; the emergence of transnational relations, both cultural and economic; late capitalism; post-industrialism; the end of ideologies and metaphysics; and the rise of the “society of spectacle” and the information age. These elements are all generally recognized as being the distinctive characteristics of postmodernity. The media plays an important role in understanding conflict dynamics and in illuminating some characteristics of postmodern conflict. The literature on the relationship between the media and conflict develops concepts and theories which are essential for understanding the role of the media in the evolution and conduct of contemporary conflicts. This literature focuses on two different aspects: firstly, the specific activities of the mass media, i.e. the media coverage of conflicts, and secondly, the interaction between the media and the political and military decision-making processes. Following either the powerful media paradigm or the limited effects hypothesis, these works develop in the same period very different concepts like propaganda and the CNN effect. It is important to keep in mind that these concepts are the result of an attempt to clarify the existing conceptualization of the role of the media in present conflicts and do not represent consolidated categories as such.
Genocide is described as the most extreme form of crime against humanity; Winston Churchill even called it the “crime with no name.” The word “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who embarked on a mission to persuade the international community to accept genocide as an international crime under international law. In 1946, the first session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring genocide as a crime under international law. This resolution became the basis for the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, introduced in 1948. However, it would take another fifty years before the Genocide Convention would establish an International Criminal Court that would prosecute international war criminals. In the 1990s, special ad hoc tribunals were created for Yugoslavia and Rwanda to deal with international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. In reaction to the failure of the international community to deal with genocide in Rwanda, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the norm of “the Responsibility to Protect.” The Genocide Convention was tested in the case brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia (originally Serbia and Montenegro) in 1993. It was the first time in history that a sovereign state was placed on trial for the commission of genocide. The implications and ramifications of the International Court of Justice’s ruling that the Serbian government did not commit genocide in Bosnia became a subject of considerable debate among legal scholars.
Martin S. Edwards and Jonathan M. DiCicco
International organizations (IOs) such as the United Nations play an important role in war prevention. In theory, IOs reduce the risk of war between belligerents by improving communication, facilitating cooperation, and building confidence and trust. In practice, however, IOs’ war-preventing capacities have sparked skepticism and criticism. Recent advances in the scholarly study of the causes of war have given rise to new and promising directions in research on IOs and war prevention. These studies highlight the problems of interstate and intrastate wars, global and regional organizations, preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping, and the relationship between IOs and domestic institutions. They also offer novel insights that both complement and challenge studies of traditional concepts such as collective security. An interesting work is that of J. D. Fearon, who frames war as a bargaining process between rational states. Fearon articulates a central puzzle of international relations: since war is costly, the question that arises is why rational leaders of competing states choose to fight instead of pursuing less costly, nonviolent dispute settlements. Three general mechanisms account for rational, unitary states’ inability to identify an alternative outcome that both would prefer to war: bluffing about private information, commitment problems, and indivisibility of stakes. Despite the obvious progress in research on IOs and war prevention, there remain methodological and theoretical issues that deserve consideration for further investigation, two of which are: the interaction of domestic and international organizations, and the implications of variations in IO design.