23 Mar 2015
In thisÂ essay, I attemptÂ to explain and giveÂ a critiqueÂ of the new wars concept. My main objective is to discuss whether of new wars concept is relevant in understanding contemporary war. Various scholars haveÂ writtenÂ on the concept of NewÂ Wars or something similar (Creveld 1991, Fleming 2009, Rice 1988, Holsti 1996, Munkler 2005) but my essay will focus on Kaldor's thesis for two main reasons. First, althoughÂ the works of others contributed to Kaldor's concept, she was the first to coin the term "NewÂ Wars". Secondly, Kaldor's concept of news wars is the original concept.Â However, I also acknowledge that a critique on Kaldor's concept is a partial critique on the entire New Wars school of thought. My essay isÂ structuredÂ in two parts. I willÂ first present Kaldor's mainÂ arguments of the concept. Then I willÂ giveÂ aÂ critique of the concept,Â structuredÂ around these arguments. There have been many critiques onÂ NewÂ Wars (Fleming 2009, Henderson and Singer 2002, Kalyvas 2001, Newman 2004).Â My essay will aim at incorporating some of these main criticisms as well as some of my own.
Kaldor seems to think that the development of New Wars have something to do with the impact of globalization. (Kaldor, 2001:106, Kaldor 2009). Mary Kaldor came up with this concept of new wars by observing the wars inÂ theÂ formerÂ YugoslaviaÂ and Nagorno-Karabakh. She believed these wars,Â including those in Africa (as she would later on discover) were similar. These wars, Kaldor argued were of a new type or category of war (Kaldor, 2001:1). According to Kaldor, threeÂ main characteristicsÂ distinguishedÂ these New Wars from theÂ Old Wars.Â
TheÂ firstÂ characteristicÂ wasÂ IdentityÂ Politics. The political goals in New Wars Kaldor argue, is more about identity politics. (Kaldor, 2001:6). By identity politics, she means "the claim to access to power and to the state apparatus on the basis of a label, be it ethnic, tribal or religious (Serb versus Croat, Sunni versus Shi'ia, and Hutu versus Tutsi)". (Kaldor 2009, 2001:4).These goals are different to those of Old Wars which are "geopolitical (control of the seas or access to oil) or ideological (to promote socialism or democracy)."(Kaldor, 2009).In New Wars we see some kind of new nationalism which is a modern construction. (Kaldor, 2001:155).
TheÂ secondÂ characteristicÂ is changedÂ modeÂ ofÂ warfare. Strategies in waging new wars are different from the Old wars.
Kaldor argues that in 'new wars' battles are rare, and most violence is directed against civilians. (Kaldor, 2001:8). This violence against civilians can be deliberate, as in wars of ethnic cleansing (Bosnia and Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh and Baghdad) or in genocides (Rwanda and now Darfur). (Kaldor, 2009). She argues that the expulsionÂ of peopleÂ with other identities isÂ "theÂ goalÂ of theseÂ wars."(Kaldor, 2001:8) Â TheÂ partiesÂ at war consistÂ of warlords,Â militiaÂ and civilians all mixed together. (Kaldor, 2001:8).This makes it "impossible to distinguish combatants from non-combatants (as in counter-insurgency wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Kashmir)". (Kaldor, 2009).In New Wars, instead of establishing control by winning the hearts and minds of the population, fear is used to control the population. In New Wars, control of territory is not gained by popular support but based on a strategy of displacing those that cannot be controlled; like some sort of cleansing. Most of the time this "cleansing" is based on ethnicity. (Kaldor, 2001:98).These techniques used in New Wars Kaldor argues, "Directly violate international humanitarian and human rights law". (Kaldor, 2009).
TheÂ third and finalÂ characteristicÂ isÂ theÂ establishmentÂ of aÂ Globalized WarÂ Economy. The characteristic mainly touches on how New Wars isÂ financed. Kaldor claims that "a 'new war' economy that is exactly the opposite of the 'old war' economy - one that is globalized, decentralized, criminalized and in which employment is very low."(Kaldor, 2009).New Wars are often financed through criminal activities.(Kaldor, 2001:6).TheÂ economyÂ of Old Wars like theÂ two worldÂ wars Â wereÂ structured andÂ centralizedÂ as opposed to NewÂ WarsÂ which are decentralized.(Kaldor,2009). She further goes on to say that "in 'new wars' taxation falls, and the wars have to be financed by a variety of methods that are dependent on violence. These include looting and pillaging, kidnapping and hostage-taking, skewing the terms of trade through checkpoints, the 'taxation' of humanitarian aid, outside support from the diaspora, smuggling of valuable commodities such as oil and diamonds, and other transnational criminal activities. Whereas 'old wars' were state-building, increasing the revenue base and the power of the state, 'new wars' are 'state-unbuilding'."(Kaldor 2009).
KaldorÂ also claimsÂ thatÂ our understanding of war is based on a stylized descriptionÂ of OldÂ Wars. By stylized description, she means statesÂ waging war againstÂ otherÂ states.Â WhereÂ theÂ militaryÂ of statesÂ fightÂ eachÂ other untilÂ oneÂ of theÂ statesÂ surrenders or is defeated. (Kaldor, 2001:15-30). It think it is also important that I mention that Kaldor concept does not seem to suggest New Wars have replaced Old Wars. She claims Old Wars and New WarsÂ coexist. She tries to support this claim when giving anÂ analysisÂ of theÂ Kosovo War. During the Kosovo war, there wereÂ two warsÂ inÂ one. NATO'sÂ SpectacleÂ War againstÂ Milosevic'Â regime (Old War)Â and MilosevicÂ NewÂ War against theÂ Kosovo-AlbaniansÂ insideÂ Kosovo. These two wars "fed off each other". (Kaldor, 2001:154, Jorgen 2010)
The secondÂ editionÂ of Kaldor'sÂ book contains no radical change in material from the first.Â In theÂ new edition, she adds a new chapter titledÂ "TheÂ NewÂ WarÂ in Iraq".Â This chapter is an analysis of the Iraq war in which she concludes that likeÂ the war in Kosovo, the Iraq war isÂ two warsÂ in one. The first war being the Old war, which was a SpectacleÂ War withÂ theÂ invasionÂ of Iraq inÂ a couple of days. This war wasÂ swift,Â withÂ lowÂ casualties,Â high technology etc. (Kaldor, 2001:155, Jorgen 2010). The second war being the New War showing the three characteristics. Identity politics (between the Sunni and Shiites), changed mode of warfare (between insurgents and coalition forces)Â etc. In this chapter, Kaldor tries to explainÂ why IraqÂ war fits her NewÂ Wars theory. (Kaldor, 2001:155).
Several areas of Kaldor's book show lack of clarity and coherency of kaldor's concept, which I would not have expected of a well-defined concept.Â Kaldor in her book mentions often that, notÂ allÂ new Wars are contemporary wars and that NewÂ WarsÂ areÂ a category ofÂ contemporaryÂ war. However, she is not precise as to whichÂ warsÂ areÂ new wars.Â In her book, she only goes into detail about the war scenes she visited which are BosniaÂ and Nagorno-KarabakhÂ wars. She laterÂ on discovers the wars in BosniaÂ and Nagorno-KarabakhÂ had similar characteristics to wars in Africa andÂ "perhapsÂ alsoÂ other places,Â for exampleÂ South-Asia" (Kaldor, 2001:1) but she fails to give concrete examplesÂ of theseÂ NewÂ WarsÂ in Africa and South Asia. Neither does she analyzeÂ these other new wars usingÂ her own framework as she did with the war in Kosovo. On reading her book, it looks like her entire concept of new wars is based on a detailed analysis of just one war and that is Bosnia. If this is the case, it explains why she dedicates an entire chapterÂ on Bosnia, titledÂ "Bosnia-Herzegovina:Â AÂ CaseÂ StudyÂ of aÂ NewÂ War". Given that she knows the war in Bosnia best (Kaldor, 2001:6), I still find that her analysis of the war using the new war concept lacks some detail. Discussing the three characteristics, Identity politics was treated detail but I would not say the same was done for the other two characteristics (changed mode of warfare and globalized war economy). Reading thisÂ chapter was like readingÂ aÂ story of theÂ BosnianÂ war, notÂ an analysisÂ ofÂ theÂ threeÂ characteristics,Â whichÂ one would expect of aÂ caseÂ study. The argument I am trying to make here is that Kaldor seems to createÂ aÂ newÂ categoryÂ of war basedÂ upon an analysisÂ of oneÂ war; theÂ BosnianÂ war, whichÂ I find empirically ratherÂ thin.Â Â
This is lack of coherency and clarity is further exemplified in her new chapter "TheÂ 'NewÂ War'Â in Iraq" where Kaldor, I find tries her best to fit the Iraq war to suit her new wars theory in vain.Â WhenÂ she talks aboutÂ IdentityÂ PoliticsÂ and Iraq, one can clearly understand how Iraq with itsÂ threeÂ ethnicÂ groups:Â Kurds, ShiitesÂ and Sunnis could matchÂ Kaldor'sÂ firstÂ characteristicÂ of NewÂ Wars. However, whenÂ sheÂ goes onÂ to explainÂ thatÂ the changedÂ modeÂ of warfare characteristics,Â theÂ deliberateÂ attackÂ on civilians, ethnic cleansing, (Kaldor, 2006:162-164) Kaldor'sÂ analysisÂ here is a bit problematic and weak. Iraq may be made up of people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds but as Jorgen argues, "itÂ isÂ difficultÂ toÂ seeÂ thatÂ thereÂ hasÂ been muchÂ ethnicÂ cleansingÂ orÂ displacementÂ of peoplesÂ on theÂ basisÂ of identity."(Jorgen, 2010:10).
Some of the statistics in her book on the Iraq war even contradict her new wars theory. Her figures on the Iraq war indicate that the main targets of the new war in Iraq have been the coalition forces in Iraq and not civilians. Jorgen as well argues, "Only small portionsÂ of theÂ attacksÂ areÂ directedÂ towardsÂ theÂ civilianÂ populationÂ per seÂ (lessÂ thanÂ 10 percent).Â Around 70 percentÂ of theÂ attacksÂ in theÂ periodsÂ SeptemberÂ 2003 - OctoberÂ 2004 and January 2005 - July 2005 wereÂ directedÂ towardsÂ theÂ CoalitionÂ forces". (Jorgen, 2010:10). Kaldor also mentions thatÂ "population displacementÂ hasÂ begun toÂ takeÂ placeÂ in partsÂ of Baghdad".(Kaldor, 2006:165).Â If this statement is true then it also seems to contradict the new wars theory. Displacement of civilians (Kaldor, 2006:162-164) is at the heart of the new wars theory notÂ somethingÂ thatÂ begins according to kaldor's statement, three years after the war has started. My argument here is that when one uses Kaldor's framework of analysis, it is understandable and clear how identity politics in Iraq fits the new wars theory. The other characteristics; changed mode of warfare in particular does not seem to fit Kaldor's theory.Â
Changed mode of Warfare
StatisÂ KalyvasÂ argues,Â "ContraryÂ to whatÂ KaldorÂ argues, massÂ population displacementÂ is nothingÂ new as suggested by suchÂ classicÂ warsÂ asÂ theÂ Russian, Spanish, andÂ ChineseÂ CivilÂ wars."(Kalyvas, 2001:110). Edward NewmanÂ in his article claims that there has been populationÂ displacement in almostÂ everyÂ war be it civil war or wars among states. To support his claim, NewmanÂ goes on to useÂ theÂ Second WorldÂ War asÂ an example. QuotingÂ Anthony Beevor, (Beevor, 2002:37) Newman argues that during the Second World WarÂ 8, 5 millionÂ peopleÂ from eastern Germany were displaced when theÂ Red ArmyÂ was advancing. (Newman, 2004:178).This displacement according to Newman was the "largestÂ panicÂ migrationÂ inÂ history". (Newman, 2004:182-183).
Relying on Dan Smith's research to support her argument on new wars, Kaldor claimsÂ thatÂ atÂ the start of theÂ twentiethÂ century,Â 85-90 % of casualtiesÂ in war wereÂ military. (Smith 1997) Since thenÂ the figures have changed with theÂ proportion of civilianÂ to militaryÂ casualties inÂ war constantlyÂ increasing,Â and isÂ nowÂ atÂ approximatelyÂ 80 % of allÂ casualtiesÂ in war. . (Kaldor, 2001:100, Jorgen, 2010:11).Â I find this argument problematic.Â Edward Newman points out, relying casualty figures of older wars can be risky because it is impossible to ascertain if these figures are right. (Newman, 2004). Kaldor uses Dan Smith as her source for these older figures to claimÂ thatÂ "atÂ theÂ beginning of theÂ twentieth century betweenÂ 85 and 90 percentÂ of war deathsÂ wereÂ military".(Smith 1997:14).however Smith in his work doesÂ notÂ provide any evidence to support such a claim. Melander, Oberg and Hall on this argument also argue that these sorts of claims cannot be ascertained due to lack of accurate data. (Melander et al, 2009:507). This makes one question if Smith could be considered a reliable source. For Kaldor to rely on Smith to support her theory raises questions on her new wars theory as well.Â CountingÂ casualtiesÂ whetherÂ civilianÂ or military isÂ notÂ an easyÂ task.Â Dan Smith even admits,Â "DataÂ on war deathsÂ areÂ supremelyÂ unreliable."(Smith, 1997:101).There has been debates amongst scholars on howÂ toÂ countÂ war casualties, which just goes on to show how relying on older war figures can be problematic.(Spagat et al, 2009, Obermeyer et al, 2008). Â According to SpagatÂ et.al, "Estimating theÂ number of fatalitiesÂ causedÂ by wartimeÂ violence remainsÂ anÂ extraordinarily challengingÂ taskÂ whateverÂ methodsÂ areÂ used."(Spagat et al, 2009:946).Â One could also addÂ theÂ increasingÂ problemÂ ofÂ distinguishingÂ civiliansÂ fromÂ combatants as a reason for cautionÂ when relying or creatingÂ trendsÂ on casualtiesÂ inÂ war. (Jorgen, 2010:12).
Kaldor'sÂ in her thesis claims thatÂ NewÂ WarsÂ are muchÂ moreÂ brutalÂ than Old Wars. This I would argue needs to be further substantiated. Some old wars were brutal. TheÂ Holocaust is a very good example.Â TheÂ siegeÂ of Yang-Chou in ChinaÂ in 1645 by theÂ Manchus, which leftÂ about 800 000 dead is another example. (Melander et al, 2009).So for Kaldor to claim that new wars are more brutalÂ isÂ ahistorical. (Jorgen, 2010:13).
Globalized War economyÂ
Kaldor claimsÂ the New War economy isÂ decentralized as opposed to that of the old wars, which are centralized. Her claim is based on her comparison of the World wars (old wars) with minor wars of the twentieth century (new wars) .However; I find this comparison a little bit unfair or unbalanced. Fleming as well also questions the appropriateness of comparing major wars like the world wars to minor wars. (Fleming, 2009:224).The main reason is the difference in scale when comparing any war to both world wars. AccordingÂ to Kaldor, New wars developed from Guerrilla tactics during the Cold war. (Kaldor, 2001:7-8). I would suggest a much better comparison of Old and New wars would be for her to compare New Wars to guerilla warsÂ of theÂ Cold War. (Jorgen, 2010:14).
Clausewitzean conception of war
Another mainÂ argument of Kaldor's concept seems to be based on the fact that we have the wrong conception of war. She argues that we continue to see war as it wasÂ during theÂ FirstÂ and SecondÂ World Wars when militaries of states fought each other until one surrendered or was defeated. This stylized conception of war according to Kaldor has now changed.(Kaldor,2001:59).Martin Van Creveld seems to make the same point.(Creveld,1991).Chapter two of Kaldor's book is all about the stylized conception of war. I disagree with kaldor's statement. As Jorgen argues " itÂ isÂ hard toÂ believeÂ thatÂ our conceptionÂ of war, letÂ usÂ characterizeÂ itÂ theÂ westernÂ conceptionÂ of war, isÂ informedÂ notÂ by theÂ practiceÂ of war itself,Â butÂ moreÂ by theÂ theoriesÂ of aÂ well-known butÂ littleÂ readÂ PrussianÂ strategicÂ thinkerÂ of theÂ earlyÂ 19th Â century."(Jorgen,2010:18).It is difficult to imagine that given the various terrorist attacks, uprisings, insurgencies that have occurred in this century, our conception of war could still be limited to just states fighting each other. What if Kaldor's assumption is wrong? What if the way we understand war is not just limited to states fighting each other? What if her stylized description of Old Wars is wrong? If this is the case then this makes her argument and concept flawed.
To conclude I would say Mary Kaldor's New War concept could not be used to understand contemporary warfare as a whole. New Wars is just a category of contemporary war. They coexist alongside other wars. To be fair to Kaldor, her thesis did not seek to prove otherwise. What Kaldor's concept has succeeded in doing was to merely group wars that exhibited similar characteristics together. However, for Kaldor to suggest that this group of wars indicates some sort of shift and should be in a separate category is somewhat premature. As Newman's article suggests; a historical perspective is needed.(Newman, 2004).As Jorgen notes in his article, " OneÂ hasÂ toÂ believeÂ inÂ theÂ possibilityÂ of war developingÂ inÂ somewhatÂ chronologicalÂ trendsÂ to believeÂ thatÂ theÂ developmentÂ of war followsÂ such globalÂ patterns Â asÂ KaldorÂ believes, theÂ theoryÂ of NewÂ WarsÂ isÂ dependentÂ upon suchÂ trends."(Jorgen, 2010:19). Â Newman also says thatÂ "AtÂ leastÂ throughoutÂ theÂ 20th century,Â itÂ wouldÂ beÂ moreÂ accurateÂ to concludeÂ thatÂ theÂ presenceÂ or absenceÂ of certainÂ factorsÂ isÂ bestÂ explainedÂ by theÂ peculiaritiesÂ of specificÂ conflictsÂ ratherÂ thanÂ linearÂ historicalÂ changes." (Newman, 2004:180).
Kaldor seems to be in a rush to create a new category of war but she is not the only one. Quoting Jorgen, "MostÂ militariesÂ ...spend muchÂ energy inÂ trying toÂ createÂ newÂ categoriesÂ of war. TheÂ mainÂ reason for thisÂ urgeÂ isÂ of courseÂ thatÂ they wantÂ to createÂ doctrinesÂ and recipesÂ for handlingÂ theÂ challengesÂ createdÂ by theÂ wars they face. But,Â if oneÂ facesÂ somethingÂ thatÂ oneÂ findsÂ unfamiliar,Â thatÂ doesÂ notÂ meanÂ thatÂ itÂ isÂ unfamiliarÂ in history,Â and thatÂ itÂ therefore needsÂ aÂ newÂ categoryÂ to becomeÂ understandable."(Jorgen, 2010:19-20). I agree with the notion that to understand wars better we need to categorize them but if there are too many categories the aim becomes pointless. What could done instead is to re-examine and develop existing categories of war rather than creating new ones every time we come across something unfamiliar. Kaldor tried to do something similar when she on analyzing the wars in Chechnya, Kashmir and the Israel-Palestine conflict concluded that they did not fit her new wars theory.
Henderson and Singer are quite right is suggesting that Mary Kaldor's new war thesis looks similar to Low Intensity conflicts.(LIC)(Henderson and Singer,2002:171-172).Kaldor's experience of war in former Yugoslavia and Nagorno-Karabakh has made her see and understand war in a different light . However, this does mean that war has changed to the point of being given a new category. Her three characteristics of the New Wars concept when applied to any analysis of contemporary wars prove to be weak and incoherent. Quoting Henderson and Singer "StrippedÂ of theirÂ lexicalÂ veneer, Kaldor'sÂ "newÂ wars" areÂ notÂ muchÂ differentÂ fromÂ theÂ LICsÂ fromÂ which sheÂ admitsÂ theyÂ derive." (Henderson and Singer, 2002:172).
The News Wars theory has served a purpose in understanding contemporary warfare in that it has stimulated debate on contemporary war. By creating a New Wars category, Mary Kaldor has invigorated discourse on contemporary warfare. Her concept also gives further insight when one tries to understand the causes behind some wars of the twenty first century .By her own admission he says that "WhatÂ many of theÂ criticsÂ of theÂ 'newÂ wars' thesisÂ missÂ isÂ theÂ policyÂ implicationÂ of theÂ argument.Â By describingÂ theÂ conflictsÂ of theÂ 1990sÂ asÂ 'new', I wanted toÂ changeÂ theÂ way policy-makersÂ andÂ policy-shapersÂ perceivedÂ theseÂ conflicts."(Kaldor, 2005:210).If this was her main aim, I would argue that her thesis was successful in drawing attention to these wars. However if her aim was to create a concept for an academic analysis of contemporary wars, her concept and characteristics of New Wars do not merit to placed as a separate category from the other wars.
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