Old and New Wars
In discussing the difference between “old” wars and “new” wars in his essay “The Transformation of War,” Martin Van Creveld describes the “Clausewitzian” as the essential characteristic of the “old” view of war. (Van Creveld, 1991, p.ix) This view portrays “old” wars as characterized by WWI and WWII, where the entire globe was considered the battlefield for imperial powers, entire societies were industrialized for military production, the greatest advances in mass-production, science, and rationalization were used to create the most violent weapons of mass destruction the world had ever known. The nation-states drafted or enlisted vast segments of the population base to build huge armies, navies, air forces, and nuclear weaponry, and the military command of each nation used this force with unrestrained power, even against civilian populations. The “old” war pattern led to hundreds of millions of individual deaths across the world during the course of the 20th Century.
In a different interpretation focusing on media, Heidi Schaefer writes in “Old Wars New Wars”:
“The famous photograph of a man being executed by a shot to the head by South Vietnam Lt. Colonel Ngyen Ngoc Loan, Saigon Chief of Police… taken by Eddie Adams, in 1968, on a side street in Saigon and later won him… a Pulitzer prize. In Adams’ obituary, the Washington Post wrote on this defining image of the violence of war in the first half of the twentieth century: ‘It was war in its purest, most personal form.’” (Schaefer, 2009)
Thus, in evaluating the definition of “old” wars, it can be stated that on the global or international level, “old” wars operate on the Clausewitzian model of “total war” and mass-mobilization of societies that cause immense amounts of social and economic destruction. On the local level, “old” wars operate as in the Eddie Adam’s photo, the brutality of a man shot in the head, the passion of the scene, the emotions, and desperation are all caught on camera and recorded as a “total history”. In using this understanding to build a conception of “new” wars, these can be seen as “conflicts” that operate on a limited or isolated basis globally, generally in failed States or in surgical military operations led by the hegemonic powers. Where “total war” characterized the old paradigm, “contained war” is symbolic of the new. This may also include increased systematization, de-personalization, and abstraction of violence so as to understand that State violence becomes more “stylized” in the operation of “new” war, as in a “cosmopolitan” police action. Additionally, there is a greater tendency to covert action, marginalized conflicts, lack of media coverage of non-central States, and disappearance of history that suggest in the local operation of “new” war, there is an inherent secrecy or hidden aspect that relates to containment, and can be seen as contrary to the Eddie Adams model. This means the media may not be centrally present in the “new” wars; the violence may not be recorded and broadcast in graphic imagery, but rather masked and stylized by the State in Hollywood manner in order to continue status quo operations with violence contained to the destruction of media-driven stereotypes of “foreign enemies” and “terror”.
In reviewing the academic literature on the definition of “old” war and “new” war, there is a consistent theme of scholars writing on the subject to identify the 9/11 attacks as ushering in a new paradigm in the conduct of war. In “Old Laws, New Wars: Jus ad Bellum in an Age of Terrorism,” William K. Lietzau writes:
“At 8:46 on the morning of 11 September 2001, a handful of terrorists propelled the globe into an era of profound change… Whether or not recognized, acknowledged, or asserted, 9/11 and the response thereto brought forth a nascent legal regime that will alter the way nation states apply the rule of law in combating terrorism.” (Lietzau, 2004)
Yet, the war on terrorism, never-ending by definition and likely to create more aspects of what it seeks to eliminate through the use of force than if it were not to engage militarily displays a hidden tendency. The Military-Industrial Complex in advanced economies profits off of the continual conduct of war. This leads to a vast concentration of defence contracts in the hands of private companies with a very small minority ownership in the population. The system of representative government promotes the acquisition and sale of laws by special interests, and the combination of armed coercion, physical challenge and profit creates and disproportionately dominant cartels of political force that dominate power asymmetrically in the “new” war, wage war that is unreported and against the will of its own democratic people. This leads to a new form of politics isolation and suppression of minority interests in society politically, and refers to the context in which the peace process is repressed in Western societies as the regime, unbound by common power, fights a “new” war against old colonial models of foreign policy. The protest aspect of the “Moral Left” can be seen as an underlying element of the “new” wars, and this often contributes to the further stylization of conflict, the concealment of violence by clandestine operations, and the “spinning” of media representations of war in a way distinct from that of classical “old” wars.
It is important to remember, though, that not all academics agree that the “new” conflict is confined to super-states, late-capitalist democracies, and western populations. Instead, one aspect of the “new” war is that it is contained beyond Western economies and is mainly restricted to the world’s super-poor nations as a theatre of confrontation. This is exemplified by Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Dafur, the Balkans, Sierra Leone and other post-Vietnam conflicts. In “Old and New Wars” (2003), S. Mansoob Murshed, the author has written:
“We are used to viewing war as something that happens between states. Contemporary wars, however, mostly occur between groups within the same country, and primarily within the developing world.” (Murshed, 2003)
While others, such as Murshed, doubt whether it is apparent that these tensions and civil wars might easily be settled through peaceful discussion of problems and appeal to the unfounded existence of conflicts such as Rwanda, the other part of the problem is weapons trafficking to emerging regions and efforts to create international states and national identities from a divided and poverty-stricken local populace. Economic growth continues according to the strategies of the State and the “foreign” global companies in the developed world, and this values little the misery or local voices of citizens in developing countries who are the casualties of the “new” battle. Through this, it can be inferred that the 9/11 attacks violated the containment model of the “new” war that restricted aggression to developed nations and the “third world” arenas, but that the classic or Clauswitzian elements of the “old” war were conditioned or contained in the “police” reaction of the American army. The stylization of violence by enhanced de-personalization can be seen in the growing preference for satellite monitoring, military air strikes, cruise missiles, and predator drone attacks on ‘boots on the field’ as violence is gradually abstracted through technology and connected to the ever smaller minority influence of democratic institutions.
In “New and Old Wars” by Mary Kaldor, the distinction between the “old” wars and “new” wars is most strongly developed. She writes that,
“In the context of globalization… war between states in which the aim is to inflict maximum violence is becoming an anachronism. In its place is a new type of organized violence which could be described as a mixture of war, organized crime and massive violations of human rights. The actors are both global and local, public and private. The wars are fought for particularistic political goals using tactics of terror and destabilization that are theoretically outlawed by the rules of modern warfare. Kaldor’s analysis offers a basis for a cosmopolitan political response to these wars, in which the monopoly of legitimate organized violence is reconstructed on a transnational basis and international peacekeeping is reconceptualized as cosmopolitan law enforcement.” (Kaldor, 1999)
This combination of organised crime, abuse and human rights abuses is a concept that must be extended fairly, as Chomsky and others have pointed out, to Western economic forces and emerging nations. (Chomsky, 2008) Terrorism by militant forces such as al-Qaeda, the PLO, Hamas, Basque separatists, Sri Lankan rebels, Columbian drug cartels and groups such as the Red Army Brigade have contained an “underworld” aspect of illegal crime in the wider context of Western perception. Yet organised crime may often be seen as an intrinsic feature of the Military-Industrial Complex itself, or of the political parties that mobilise state repression and use it as a way of concentrating collective influence and profit. All sides of the “new” conflict include aspects of organised crime, and it is necessary to see “shock and awe” tactics and government reform as a form of state warfare and totalitarianism, as opposed to the ideal of fair and peaceful dialogue between human beings and self-determination as a function of the debate of political problems. (The Chomsky, 2008)
The acknowledgement of the moral problems of war in the broader sense, within the larger global peace movement, is another element of the “new” war that applies to the “old” war. As a paradigmatic illustration of the “old” type of fighting, examples may be offered of how “yellow journalism” is used first to build a feeling of nationalism or patriotism within the people, and then to persuade the crowd to wage war on fervour focused on a one-sided or one-sided framing of issues. The fall of the Lusitania or the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and also the Pearl Harbor, all carry on this theme of modernism and classical warfare. Post-Vietnam, anti-war and pacifist forces in community became united in the aftermath of the civil rights protests and political campaigns of the 1960s, and these communities combined shape what may be termed counter-culture. After Vietnam, Western states can no longer successfully wage fighting in the old way because of opposition and civil instability. Thus, the domestic dimensions of anti-war protests condition and restrict the state’s reaction theoretically, but do not fully limit it to application, but rather push it through further clandestine acts, greater confidentiality, greater societal differences linked to police power and mass surveillance, and aspects of domestic security that are much more severe than many of the worst elements of modernist.
With the war on terror being fought at the expense of trillions of US dollars to the consumer, business interests barely pay taxes, and the Military-Industrial Complex exerting a dark and controlling impact on government deep inside the corridors of power, as Eisenhower described in his farewell speech, “new” wars are being waged in the atmosphere of “spin” democracy, where the state must at all costs. Victims of conflict in the developed world, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, are somehow always perceived as “other,” less individual, or less important than national identification communities, relatives, and families that suffer locally. The irrationality mentioned in the use of aggression in civil war wars and failing states is still apparent in the super-powers, yet they still seek to uphold the icons of dominance in the media in the operation of the “new” battle. Yellow journalism changes how often war images are staged, war articles are “enhanced” for the newspapers, reporters are “embedded” to provide prejudice and flattering coverage rather than “real” journalism, and objective assessments of facts and truth, such as those leading up to the Iraq war, are overlooked by mainstream media “news” to pursue a stronger relationship with the control of the state. The underlying irrationality of this structure resides in the uneven application of beliefs and principles to individuals around the globe. This affects societal, democratic, economic and human rights. For example, “collateral damage” is regularly and casually acknowledged in developed countries, but it is atrocities and terrorism in the West. (Chomsky, 2008) The divide is focused solely on the failure to enforce the same basic principles fairly across societies, but these divisions may be tracked back to the deepest historical origins of human society in the psychology of war.
What is unusual in several respects in the “new” war is that it is waged in the historical consciousness of the atrocities of the Second and Second World Wars, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Holocaust, and some of the worst symbols of the “old” war. As a consequence, late-capitalist, liberal cultures are gradually fragmented traditionally in a way close to that which has existed in America’s segregation or civil rights and women’s suffrage periods. After Vietnam, the U.S., Britain, France, and other developed imperial powers missed the ability to create a traditional hegemony with the popularity of post-WII anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements that led to the founding of today’s “developing nations” “New” war, applying existing forms of colonialism related to natural resource accumulation to old models, but not fresh ones. In this sense, the spiritual strength of opposition in domestic politics is related to solidarity with anti-colonial movements and developing nations as a way of figuring out the growth above confrontation and building globalisation on the grounds of international peace rather than world conquest. But this remains politically a minority view in Western nations, unrealistic in the media, unrepresented in political parties, and dominated by the usage of domestic police services operating under the same model as the military worldwide. Police impose justice and morals domestically, beyond the prevailing principles of capitalist hegemony, while military police enforce foreign law worldwide by the U.N., NATO, the “coalitions of the willing,” and other ad hoc organisations that are seen as a sign of state control. The paradigm of the police and the reference to authoritative justification in legislation is a central aspect of the “new” battle, but the challenge is still the misuse of control and the growth of the police state.
Hersch Lauterpacht is cited as suggesting that.”…If international law is, in some ways, at the vanishing point of law, the law of war is, perhaps even more conspicuously, at the vanishing point of international law.” (Lietzau, 2004) This is a “old” view of war. In Clausewitz’s “total war” all rule vanishes, whole nations are attacked, ethnic cleansing is systemic, holocaust is industrialised, and cities are flooded with nuclear bombs. In the “new” battle, hegemonic forces, which arose triumphant from the previous round of world wars, and which have a powerful capitalist economy founded on the foundations of hegemony, forced labour, and exploitation of national wealth traditionally in colonialism, all attempt to extend and protect their dominance as long as possible, as well as to broaden this structure of superiority internationally in such a way that it does. The “new” war is completely legitimate, fully justified in the newspapers, in the UN, in international law, even though the records are forged to suit the agenda and there is little democratic oversight of the members. The “new” war of Western imperialism is therefore distinct from the “new” war of intra-state wars in the developed world. The foundation of the decision is that if the super-power has established its national interest in an area linked to political or economic interests, there would be a relative reaction. Where this is still the foundation of the “old” international policy of battle, there is no reform, but the tactics of reasoning and the symbolic reasons change, with conflicts scarcely officially proclaimed in the Constitution, police acts and standing armies perpetually, and, ultimately, a persistent state of war is conducted against an ever-present extremist “evil” in culture, both internally and abruptly.
In “New’ and “Old” Civil Wars: True Distinction? ‘Stathis Kalyvas challenges the foundation of judgement invoked by this interpretation of historical paradigms and indicates that much should be done regarding a shift in the spiritual consciousness of the war communities themselves. For eg, he’s writing:
“According to this argument, ‘new’ civil wars are different from ‘old’ civil wars along at least three related dimensions–they are caused and motivated by private predation rather than collective grievances and ideological concerns; the parties to these conflicts lack popular support and must rely on coercion; and gratuitous, barbaric violence is dispensed against civilian populations. Recent civil wars, therefore, are distinguished as criminal rather than political phenomena. This article traces the origins of this distinction and argues that it is based on an uncritical adoption of categories and labels, combined with deficient information on ‘new’ civil wars and neglect of recent historical research on ‘old’ civil wars. Perceived differences between postcold war conflicts and previous civil wars may be attributable more to the demise of readily available conceptual categories caused by the end of the cold war than to the end of the cold war per se.” (Kalyvas, 2001)
This critique is significant since it indicates that there might not be a radically new form of war currently being fought, but rather a modified way of perceiving and justifying war in Western cultures after first Vietnam and then 9/11. “Old” and “new” war theories in this context may be related to a change of consciousness connected not only to Vietnam’s anti-war movement and counter-culture, but also to the success of the anti-colonial uprising in people’s liberation struggles across the world, and to the shifting attitudes of the West since 9/11. The legalistic application of aggression betrays the underlying spiritual framework of civilization and, by its very essence, it is the collapse of the democratic process. If civil contact existed or functioned well, there will be no battle. Instead, fighting reflects collective violence, community and societal trends of violence, which can be replicated through time and culture from the early days of stone arms to the iron age, industrial war, and nuclear M.A.D. To a significant extent, the anti-war curriculum, counter-culture, and “Moral Left” movements have contributed to a wider recognition of the ideals of global peace as the ultimate objective of humanity. It might or may not be simpler to mobilise the State to fight, as demonstrated by the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq; the State may continue as directed by domestic political leadership, while it may take influence and control of the institutions. What distinguishes from the “old” and the “new” meanings of battle is the social basis of how wars are justified and “spun” to Western voters and how they are critically evaluated in the media. The internet has as much effect on this as it relates to the free sharing of content on alignment classes in forms that are faster and cheaper than traditional print or mass media connected to concentrated authority.
In “A Violent Peace,” Paul Rogers writes:
“While nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction will be major features of the coming decades, the main methods by which the world’s powerful states, especially the United States, seek to maintain their control of international security are through the appropriate use of conventional forces. Threats are seen to stem from a possible revival of a belligerent Russia, or of an increasingly powerful China, together with the activities of ‘rogue states’ and terrorists and even of ideological or religious movements, especially militant Islam. The western military are making the transition to post-Cold War forces that can keep the lid on threats to western security. Global reach, rapid deployment forces, counterinsurgency, and missile defences all have their role to play, and there is a persistent emphasis on control from a distance, especially if it can involve a minimum of risk.” (Rogers, 2001)
Rogers locates the critical moment for the emergence of the new paradigm in the end of the Cold War, for this changed the ideological justification for militarism in the West as there was no longer an expansionist Socialist-Communist enemy with industrial powers and nuclear deterrent. The new paradigm targets “rogue states” as any major military power that significantly challenges the status quo of the current international order. In this view, hegemony is established in the post-imperial era through international law and the control of international institutions by the dominant economic powers of late-capitalism who seek to preserve their monopolies and any imbalances of power as that leads to a further concentration of wealth and authority in minority status groups locally. “Rouge States” such as Serbia, Iraq, Iran , North Korea, and others are eliminated in a pattern that may have begun with Panama or Grenada post-Vietnam but dates back to “Rough Riders” in Cuba or post-war clandestine operations in Europe and elsewhere to control the free, domestic politics of sovereign nations or institute regime change.
In building a summary from the view that war, State violence, and its organization represents a moral wrong, a breakdown in civil society, and a type of policy that exists in government structures and thus can be changed, there is a critical view that is far different from the Clausewitzian or the Machiavellian principles of modern warfare. It is also possible on this basis to judge the actions of the State in war historically, and apply the same standards of idealism to all sides of a conflict impartially. Yet, because the military industrial complex operates on principles of “realism” that use idealism only in Orwellian terms, the process Rogers describes can be seen as a “violent peace” or characteristic or global hegemony where entrenched late-capitalist powers maintain control and expand through globalization.
“Some quite fundamental rethinking of our attitudes to security is necessary. Countering socioeconomic divisions and embracing sustainable development are actually core requirements for stable international security. In one sense this is nothing new and has been a common argument in writings on environmental and development issues for a couple of decades, such as the Brandt and Bruntland reports. What is different is the need to link this to thinking on international security so that the prevailing paradigm of a western elite maintaining its security, if need be by military means, is recognised as not just unsustainable but actually self-defeating. There are many impressive arguments that a polarised and constrained world is not acceptable on the grounds of morality and justice. From a security perspective, it cannot and will not work. An alternative security paradigm is required.” (Rogers, 2001)
In this statement, Rogers recognizes that “new” wars are related to old drives for natural resources and economic expansion into new markets, and that the rhetoric of “democracy” that serves as a justification for this stands on the same basis as the Romans attempted to extend and maintain their empire through the use of symbolic idealism in the popular rhetoric of imperialism to mask the motives of State power. As the age becomes corrupt, so do the values if the fundamentals relating to economic development are not met worldwide, while militarily dominant cultures consume at rates of conspicuous consumption hundreds or thousands of times that of the world’s poorest people. That this pattern of economic consumption cannot be exported globally, that it is unsustainable environmentally, and that it rests on a fundamentally unjust militaristic basis which imposes policy internationally by physical force little different from organized crime on a mass-scale, are just a few of the conclusions that can be drawn from this reading. In recognizing the way that global poverty is related to “new” war in that its victims, living and breathing humans in the developing world with lives, families, hopes, and goals that have no value to the hegemonic military powers and can be seen as “collateral damage” for “shock and awe” policies, there is the inherent characteristic that symbolizes both aspects of “new” war fundamentally.
Where superpowers exert their military force through increasingly de-personalized ways such as predator drones, air strikes, cruise missiles, and the like rather than armed occupation, or when they justify the collateral damage of regime change operations in the developing world, they implement policy on a double-standard that would not be viewed as acceptable, for example, if another foreign State or alliance attempted to implement a similar policy on their own sovereign nations. The hegemonic powers economically do not value the life of the world’s poor, while consuming at levels way beyond what is sustainable environmentally. Militarily, the hegemonic powers do not value the life of the poor in the developing nations, refusing to see their own military actions as terrorism as Chomsky has written. On the contrary, the hyper-reactive media aspects of modern late-capitalist democracies creates a hysteria around every terrorist event that occurs, leading to ever more exaggerated responses by the State, and the introduction of policies that question the civil liberties of the democracies themselves. As Rogers suggests, this is inherently a policy that cannot work, it will fail despite the trillions in collective resources spent on “new” war and police actions against terrorism.
- Caparini, Marina, Alexandra, Andrew, Baker, Deane-Peter (2008), Private Military and Security Companies -Ethics, Policies and Civil-Military Relations (London: Routledge).
- Chomsky, Noam (2008), The Culture of Terrorism, Pluto Press, 1988. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=nhMcEPWTkIMC
- Duffield, Mark (2001) Global Governance And The New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security (London: Zed Books).
- Kaldor, Mary (1999), New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford University Press; 1999.
- Kaldor, Mary (2010) ‘New Wars’, The Broker; http://www.thebrokeronline.eu/en/Dossiers/Special-report-Who-is-the-enemy/New-wars
- Kalyvas S.N. (2001), ‘New and Old Wars: A Valid Distinction?’, World Politics, Vol.54, pp.99-118.
- Holsti, Kalevi Jaakko (2001), The State, War, and the State of War, World Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
- Lietzau, William K. (2004), Old Laws, New Wars: Jus ad Bellum in an Age of Terrorism, Max Planck UNYB, 2004
- Melander, E., Oberg, M., and Hall J. (2009) ‘Are ‘New Wars’ More Atrocious? Battle Severity, Civilians Killed and Forced Migration Before and After the End of the Cold War’, European Journal of International Relations, 15(3): 505 – 536.
- Murshed, S. Mansoob (2003) Old and New Wars, BICC Bulletin, No. 26, 1 January 2003.
- Newman, Edward (2004) ‘The ‘New Wars’ Debate: A Historical Perspective is Needed’, Security Dialogue, Vol. 35(2), 173-189
- Parker, Sara (2008) “New Wars”: The Case of Sierra Leone, APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California, Feb 22,; http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/4/5/6/9/pages245697/p245697-1.php.
- Rogers, Paul (2001) A Violent Peace, The Ploughshares Monitor, September 2001, volume 22, no. 3; http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/monitor/mons01d.html
- Schaefer, Heidi (2001) Old Wars New Wars, Leeds Met Gallery 18.9.09-17.9.09, Exhibition essay, 2009; http://www.heidischaefer.net/oldwarsnewwarsessay.pdf
- Van Creveld, Martin (2001) The Transformation of War, Simon and Schuster, 1991; http://books.google.co.in/books?id=mHLIKApIEA8C