The 20th century was oneof great events and developments in every part of human life. The century was marked by the deadliest wars, deadliest weapons and unprecedented interconnectedness. The destructive power of A-bombs and the interconnectedness that transformed world into a global village infused the traditional wisdom about conflict resolution with great confusions. New conflicts demanded new solutions. Globalization transformed the traditional theatre of conflict; war.
War in the 21st century has acquired a whole new character. The state, which was once the almighty Leviathan, has lost its monopoly over violence, and the erosion of its monopoly over violence from globalization has transformed the character of war. The wars of today are not fought between states; rather there is network of state and non-state actors which includes mercenaries, private security companies, hired thugs, and many more such actors etc. Globalization has unleashed a plethora of problems by undermining state sovereignty. Globalization, which was supposed to encourage cosmopolitan politics and cooperation, ended up creating more divisions.
‘New Wars’political, technological and economical developments highlight the need for evaluation of old ideas and encourage the need for new ideas. As the aphorism goes “modern problems require modern solutions”, wars of today are modern and they require modern solutions as the traditional ones are not adequate enough
Mary Kaldor, professor at the London School of Economics, is among those scholars who have acknowledged the impact of globalization on the character of war. In her book, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, she highlights this change in the character of war. Highlighting the difference between new and old, she wrote that new wars are different from old wars because of who fight these wars, for what reason these wars are fought, how these wars are financed and the way these wars are fought. Old wars were fought by states, financed by states, were waged for ideological purposes and battles were the defining character. However, in new wars; actors are networks of state and non-state actors, which are to a greater extent privately financed and direct confrontation between opposite forces is rare. Kaldor is of the view that this change in the character of war is caused by globalization. Kaldor is of the view that this transformation is a consequence of globalization and disintegration of state.
Along with globalization, clash of symmetrical opponents can destroy the world. The advent of nuclear weapons has changed the traditional military logic. In fact, any war according to the old military logic, is simply not beneficial anymore. War between nuclear powers will leave neither party at benefit, since the costs of such victory cancel the benefits it holds. Avoiding direct war serves the political interest better than waging one. This change in military logic is evident from the change in tactics of the wars of today. Today’s wars are fought through guerillas, and counter-insurgency tactics are the tactics. The majority of conflicts involves one state and one or more than one non-state actor. These are battles between wolves and shepherds where wolves attack the flock while shepherds try to save the sheep.
However, it is not the change in military logic and innovation of new types of weapons that have transformed the character of war. Rather transformation in politics is the defining element of this change. Politics of ‘new wars’ is identity politics which is very different from the politics of old wars. Old wars were largely driven by ideological politics, whereas new wars are driven entirely by identity politics. In the words of Professor Kaldor, “Identity politics is about right to power in the name of a specific group whereas ideological politics is about winning power in order to carry out a particular ideological programme”. Globalization prompted groups to securitize their identity. War for these actors is either a mean for keeping their identity or claiming lands in the name of that identity.
Another dimension of the problems caused by globalization for the concept of war is the proliferation of capitalism. The ideas of capitalism and free market motivated such actors who saw a potential for profit in war. These actors established private security firms and were up for grabs for the highest bidder. Companies like Titan and Blackwater are profit-maximizing companies whose only motivation is the accumulation of wealth. These institutions introduced in the concept of war further complexities, and the legitimacy of violence further degenerated. These developments underline the need for a new conceptualization of war. To address these complexities and set the basis for future exploration, Kaldor defines war as a “mutual enterprise” rather than a “contest of wills”. The reason illustrated by Kaldor is that the latter makes the elimination of the enemy the ultimate objective of war whereas the former suggests that both sides are interested “in the enterprise of war, rather than winning and losing, for both political and economic ends”. Although it is very difficult to discern what means one employs for what ends, the protracted conflicts all around the world and the industry which these wars fuel paints a different picture a picture very close to the concept of war as mutual enterprise rather than a contest of wills.
War in nuclear age, where symmetry in capabilities will, eventually, lead to MAD, cannot have the same character it once had. Mankind, frightened by the destructiveness of these weapons and compelled by their natural instinct to clash, is trying to fight the new wars with new weapons according to old principles. This is commendable but not practical as this undermines the capabilities of new weapons by considering them just another weapon of war. Concepts of limited war show the appreciation of this reality. There political, technological and economical developments highlight the need for evaluation of old ideas and encourage the need for new ideas. As the aphorism goes “modern problems require modern solutions”, wars of today are modern and they require modern solutions as the traditional ones are not adequate enough.