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Article

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.

Article

Mediation is a process of managing or resolving a conflict through the intervention of a third party, based on the consent of the combatants. It is one of the primary diplomatic tools available to third parties seeking to decrease violence, find joint agreements on conflictual issues, and transform bellicose relationships. There are different types of mediators. While mediators are always individuals, the mediating agency providing the basis for mediation in interstate conflicts and civil wars can be a single country, formal or informal groups of countries, regional or global intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations inside or outside the country in conflict, or even, occasionally, individuals acting on their own. These different types of mediators all take actions bringing the parties together toward an agreement on the substance of the conflict or on the procedure for managing it, without relying on the use of direct force or a law-based authority. However, they differ in their motivations, styles, access to—as well as leverage over—the parties, degree of biasness and neutrality, and their ability for internal coordination. On the path from war to peace, mediation plays an important role. Mediators contribute with marginal but important tasks in the process, including the diagnosis of the problem, getting the parties to the table, finding a formula for a settlement, and helping to work out implementation guarantees as well as many other duties. In order to perform these tasks, mediators need to build trust, mount pressure, and sometimes do both. However, mediation is not the only factor and often not the primary one behind the peaceful settlement of armed conflicts. Whereas there are many structural similarities when mediating between governments (interstate conflicts) versus between governments and nonstate armed actors (civil wars), the primary difference is that civil war contexts are permeated more intensively by issues relating to international recognition, power asymmetry, fragmentation, and complexity.

Article

Stephen Biddle

Military effectiveness is defined as the ability to produce favorable military outcomes per se, incluuding the outcomes of minor skirmishes at the tactical level of war and the outcomes of wars or even long-term politico-military competitions at the strategic or grand strategic levels of war. An alternative, narrower definition equates “effectiveness” with skill, the ability to make the most of one’s material resources, or qualities such as “integration” and “responsiveness.” Regardless of definition, military effectiveness is a central issue for international relations and lies at the heart of key policy debates. Until very recently, military effectiveness had generated little sustained interest from scholars. However, a new generation of academics, armed with new methodologies and analytical approaches, has begun to pay more attention to the subject. Contemporary literature on effectiveness describes three classes of candidate determinants: numerical preponderance, technology, and force employment. Despite increasing attention to effectiveness per se and to non-material contributors to effectiveness, especially force employment, many topics deserve further consideration in future research. These include maritime warfare, amphibious warfare, space warfare, and cyber warfare, chemical, biological, or nuclear combat operations; effectiveness in non-combat missions such as peacekeeping, nation building, signaling, or humanitarian assistance; systematic differences in military behavior for non-state actors, or for state actors in the developing world; and the roles of organization, logistics, leadership, morale, ethnic homogeneity, civil–military relations, and social structure, for example, as determinants of military effectiveness.

Article

Nationalism has made a significant contribution to state formation, but also to state deformation, secessionist movements, and wars. In international relations, nationalism has emerged as a particularly pressing problem over the question of disputed territorial boundaries. Indeed, nationalist movements seeking to change or revise boundaries by either negotiation, stealth, or force have been one of the most fundamental causes of both international and internal conflict in the modern era. The case of Bosnia-Hercegovina is a classic example of a long-running nationalist conflict which has had a profound empirical implications for both the social sciences and the humanities. The massacre at Srebrenica, ruled as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, had a considerable impact beyond the Balkans and the Netherlands. While discussing genocide and crimes against humanity in fair historical context within parts of Serbia and enclaves within Republika Srpska and Montenegro today has remained a difficult and challenging task, a growing number of scholars have shown interest in comparative genocide and the way in which events can be meaningfully compared. The case of Bosnia has also provoked numerous debates in other areas, including the role of sexual crimes in war; obfuscation and genocide denial among extreme nationalists; issues of citizenship, reconstruction, and peacekeeping; the shortcomings of the international community (with particular reference to the United Nations); and the role of international law, especially the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Article

Elena McLean and Muhammet Bas

Natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanoes, or pandemics routinely have cross-border implications. Transboundary risks of natural disasters tend to be the greatest for neighboring countries but often extend regionally or even globally. Even disasters with seemingly localized impacts contained within the national borders of a given state may have indirect short-term or long-term effects on other countries through refugee flows, conflict spillovers, volatility of global commodity prices, disruption of trade relations, financial flows, or global supply chains. Natural disasters may increase the risk of interstate conflict because of commitment problems, reduced opportunity costs of conflict, shocks to status quo divisions of resources, or demarcation of territories among countries, or because of leaders’ heightened diversionary incentives in favor of conflict. In some cases, disasters may have a pacifying effect on ongoing hostilities by creating opportunities for disaster diplomacy among conflict parties. Population displacement in disaster zones can send refugee flows and other types of migration across borders, with varying short-term and long-term socioeconomic and political effects in home and host countries. Adverse effects of natural disasters on regional and global economic activity shape patterns of international trade and financial flows among countries. To mitigate such risks from natural disasters and facilitate adjustment and recovery efforts, countries may turn to international cooperation through mechanisms for disaster relief and preparedness. Regional and global governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are common means to initiate and maintain such cooperative efforts.

Article

Stephen Zunes, Hardy Merriman, and Maria J. Stephan

Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the use of strategic nonviolent action as a method of political struggle worldwide, pressing governments and other institutions to change policies and even successfully ousting autocratic regimes. This has led to a growth in scholarly research on the history and dynamics of such popular civil resistance movements, along with growing empirical evidence indicating that nonviolent means are generally effective than armed resistance. Such nonviolent civil resistance is distinguished from pacifism in that it is not predicated on a principled commitment to nonviolence but out of recognition that it is the most effective means of popular struggle under the particular circumstances. Some theorists of nonviolent action advocate a more pluralistic model of power than found in traditional political science literature, emphasizing the withdrawal of consent, while others emphasize a structural analysis whereby the civil resistance targets pillars of support of a regime or other power holders. There are hundreds of methods of nonviolent resistance, which can be utilized in different circumstances and in varying phases of a struggle, which tend to result in higher levels of popular mobilization and defections by security forces and other regime supporters than armed methods.

Article

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.

Article

Paul F. Diehl

Peace is an elusive concept with many different meanings. Traditionally, it has been equated with the absence of war or violence, but such “negative peace” has limited value as it lumps wildly disparate situations together, such as rivalries (India–Pakistan) and close political relationships (e.g., European Union). Nevertheless, this conception remains the predominant approach in theory, research, teaching, and policy discourse. “Positive peace” definitions are much broader and encompass aspects that go beyond war and violence, but there is far less consensus on those elements. Conceptions include, among others, human rights, justice, judicial independence, and communication components. Best developed are notions of “quality peace,” which incorporate the absence of violence but also require things such as gender equality in order for societies to qualify as peaceful. Many of these, however, lack associated data and operational indicators. Research on positive peace is also comparatively underdeveloped. Peace can also be represented as binary (present or not) or as a continuum (the degree to which peace is present). Peace can be applied at different levels of analysis. At the system level, it refers to the aggregate or global conditions in the world at a given time. At the dyadic or k‑adic level, it refers to the state of peace in relationships between two or more states. Finally, internal peace deals with conditions inside individual states, and the relationships between governments, groups, and individuals. Aspects of peace vary according to the level of analysis, and peace at one level might not be mirrored at other levels.

Article

Peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding have generated considerable interest in the areas of education, research, and politics. This can be attributed in part to the growing recognition that there are limits to violence and that proactive violence prevention is more cost-effective than reactive conflict prevention. Peacebuilding became part of the official discourse when the United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali introduced the concept of post-conflict peacebuilding in the Agenda for Peace. The agenda specified four areas of action relating to preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. Two important documents have helped bring peacebuilding to the mainstream: the 2000 Brahimi Report, a response to the failures of complex UN peacekeeping in the 1990s, and In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights, which led to the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission. Conflict prevention and peacebuilding have also been mainstreamed in the European Union and in most of the foreign offices of the member states. A central focus of studies on peacebuilding is the interrelationships between peacemaking, political change, development, peacekeeping, and reconciliation. Despite the progress made in terms of research, there are a number of gaps and challenges that still need to be addressed. Many analysts, for example, leave the end state vague and implicit and make no systematic differentiation between different types of peace. With respect to context, two salient issues require more attention: the qualities of a peacebuilder and the role of integrative power. The widest research gap is found in the planning of the peacebuilding process.

Article

Peace research is a component of the field of international relations (IR) that focuses on the causes of war and violence as well as the conditions of peace. The origins of peace research can be traced to the works of Plato, Thucydides, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant. The central debate in peace research revolved around the question of whether peace is to be defined simply as the absence of war and direct violence (“negative peace”) or the whether the concept encompasses both the absence of war and direct violence plus the presence of social justice (“positive peace”). Three primary waves of peace studies worldwide since its beginnings between the world wars can be identified: the first wave, roughly from the 1930s to 1960s, focused largely on the causes of war; the second wave was concerned with radicalization and democratization of peace studies; and the third wave saw the rise of two dominant fields—those of nuclear weapons, arms control and disarmament, and conflict resolution/management. During the 1990s, there was a renewed attention to research on topics such as sanctions, peacemaking, the concept of a culture of peace, environment, development, and conflict. Peace research and peace studies have in some ways brought about a transformation not only of dominant power structures, but also of the very concept of power itself. However, there are areas that need improvement, such as developing alternatives to armed conflict and injustice.

Article

Valentina Bartolucci

Scholarly attention on both Peace Studies (PS) and contemporary security issues, in particular “terrorism” and “counterterrorism,” is notable and has been growing in recent decades. Several academic institutions now offer undergraduate and postgraduate modules on “Terrorism Studies” (TS) and PS all over the world, and in recent years there has been growing interest in both areas. Still, the two fields have long remained stubbornly distant and only a few scholars have investigated the interaction between Peace and Terrorism Studies. This article, building on the openings produced by seminal contributions on the possible intersection between the two areas of research, seeks to review such contributions and point to some commonalities and issues affecting both fields to finally underline fruitful areas of cross-pollination. To achieve its aim, the article is structured in the following way: it begins with an investigation of characteristics common to both fields as well as common issues affecting them, then reports the results of a preliminary review of the most relevant contributions investigating the possibilities of crossroads between Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies. The contributions succinctly reviewed in this article are full of important considerations (theoretically and empirically informed) about the feasibility and desirability of intersections between TS and PS and are particularly welcomed for opening up new avenues for research. However, given the initial stage of this enterprise, they should be better regarded as excellent launch pads for stimulating further research and for encouraging more dialogue between disciplines.

Article

The political economy of violent conflict is a body of literature that investigates how economic issues and interests shape the dynamics associated to violent conflict after the Cold War. The literature covers an area of research focusing on civil wars—the predominant type of conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s—and an area of research focusing on other types of violent conflict within states, such as permanent emergencies, criminal violence, and political violence associated to turbulent transitions. The first area involves four themes that have come to characterize discussions on the political economy of civil wars, including research on the role of greed and grievance in conflict onset, on economic interests in civil wars, on the nature of conflict economies, and on conflict financing. The second area responds to the evolution of violent conflict beyond the categories of “interstate” or “civil” war and shows how political economy research adapted to new types of violent conflict within states as it moved beyond the “post-Cold War” era. Overall, the literature on the political economy of violence conflict emphasizes the role of informal systems behind power, profits and violence, and the economic interests and functions of violence underlying to violent conflict. It has also become a conceptual laboratory for scholars who after years of field research tried to make sense of the realities of authoritarian, violent or war-affected countries. By extending the boundaries of the literature beyond the study of civil wars after the Cold War, political economy research can serve as an important analytical lens to better understand the constantly evolving nature of violent conflict and to inform sober judgment on the possible policy responses to them.

Article

Jennifer D. Sciubba

The late 20th century brought the dawn of global population aging, the culmination of decades-long shifts to lower fertility and longer life expectancy. These novel age distributions—larger proportions of older persons relative to working-age or youth—bring with them a plethora of questions about the political, economic, and social causes and consequences of such aging. There are multiple theoretical perspectives and ways to measure population aging, and decisions about approaches, definitions, and measurements can make a dramatic difference on the results of studies of its impact. Some scholars approach the study of aging through a generational lens, others through chronological age, dependency ratios, or other measures of age structure. Studies of the implications of population aging fall into three major categories: political, economic, and social. Political demography studies often focus on the political power of various age groups and attempt to assess the degree to which intergenerational conflict is emerging as the sizes of age groups change and their demands on services like entitlements shift alongside. Political demography studies also look at voter behavior and preferences to assess possibilities for reform of age-related policies, like retirement, healthcare, and education. A separate branch of political demography examines the military implications of population aging, particularly its effect on the willingness and ability of a state to use force. Of the few studies that show a link between aging and war, empirical results are inconclusive, meaning that it is just as likely a state with a high median age will be belligerent as not. Studies on the economic implications of population aging look at the changing nature of the labor market itself and on the possibility of macroeconomic growth in the face of demographic change. Finally, research on the social impact of population aging is mostly concerned with individual- and family-level well-being, as the care demands of an aging population create pressures on individuals, families, and social safety nets. There are many controversies and debates over the impact of aging, including debates over the relative weight of demographic factors and whether population aging is a trend warranting celebration or alarm. In all, there are far more questions about the implications of aging than there are answers, and the projected development of this trend means that more questions constantly arise. Lingering questions surround historically rapid demographic aging, new sets of aging states at different speeds, shrinking populations, the intersection between migration and aging, and the intersection between aging and climate change. The field is ripe for more comparative aging work in general.

Article

Peter J. Dixon, Luke Moffett, and Adriana Rudling

The devastation brought by war leaves behind irreparable loss and destruction. Yet over the past 100 years there has been a concerted effort by states, both within their territory and following conflicts with other states, to resolve the past through reparations. As a legal and political tool, reparations can affirm values in a postconflict society through recognising suffering and responsibility, as well as helping those most affected by the conflict to cope with their loss. However, the scale of harm and damage of war may devastate a state’s capacity to redress all victims, and states may have more pressing priorities to reconstruct and encourage development. While the guns have been silenced, the motivations and ideologies that fueled and justified violence may continue, politicising debates over which victims are deserving of reparation or absolving the responsibility of certain actors, causing reparations to be delayed or dropped. Where reparations are made, furthermore, assessments of their effectiveness in meeting their goals are both challenging and necessary. This article addresses these issues, providing a snapshot of the key debates in the area, the continuing gaps, and the need for further research.

Article

Berenike Prem and Elke Krahmann

While early private military and security companies (PMSCs) were likened to mercenaries, today most scholars agree that PMSCs constitute a new phenomenon. They are organized as legitimate corporate entities, have a distinct legal status, and provide a wide range of military and security services. This definition reflects the evolution of the PMSC industry, which has moved beyond combat services to supply everything from transport, logistics, and maintenance to military and police training, demining, intelligence, risk analysis, armed and unarmed protective services, anti-piracy measures, border protection, and drone operations. Not only have PMSC services diversified, but so has their client base. In addition to industrialized and failed states, transnational corporations, international organizations, and even NGOs increasingly make use of PMSCs. There are several explanations for the growing recourse to these companies. Functional explanations see the employment of PMSCs as a rational response to the glaring gap between demand and supply in the market for force. Ideational and constructivist approaches, by contrast, impute national differences in the outsourcing of military and security services to dominant beliefs and norms about the appropriate relationship between the state and the market. The consequences of using PMSCs, including the accountability, effectiveness, and state control of PMSCs, issues of gender and racial equality, and theoretical implications for the location of political authority and the public good character of security are key issues. So is the question of suitable forms of regulation for the industry, including national and international laws, informal industry self-regulations, and hybrid regulatory approaches such as multi-stakeholder initiatives and standard setting schemes.

Article

According to the democratic peace theory, democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies. Contrary to theories explaining war engagement, it is a “theory of peace” outlining motives that dissuade state-sponsored violence. The proposition that democracies are more peaceful than autocracies has spawned a huge literature. Much of the relevant quantitative research has shown that democracies indeed rarely, if ever, fight each other, although they are not necessarily less aggressive than autocracies in general. Although, statistically, the probability of war between any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states. According to scholars, the democratic peace theory can elaborate on the empirical phenomena previously explained by the earlier dominant research program, realism in international relations; in addition, the initial statement that democracies do not, or rarely, wage war on one another, has been followed by a rapidly growing literature on novel empirical regularities. This democratic peace proposition not only challenges the validity of other political systems, but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasizes balance-of-power calculations and common strategic interests.

Article

Bronwyn Leebaw

Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.

Article

Vesna Danilovic, Joe Clare, and Colin Tucker

Reputation in the context of international relations is an actor’s attribute as assessed by others from its past behavior. Interest in how reputational concerns can affect the dynamics of conflict arose in the canonical works by Schelling and the subsequent wave of deterrence research. Concerned primarily with the Cold War strategic issues, with some exceptions such as Huth who in 1988 analyzed it in the broader historical scope, scholarly attention to the role of reputation declined in the immediate post-Cold War period only to resurge in the 21st century. The last two decades witnessed a renaissance that resulted in unpacking the notion of reputation into several types and examining its influence in a number of areas, ranging from deterrence, compellence, to other types of militarized conflicts, civil wars, alliance choices, and sanctions, as well as issues of compliance with international commitments in institutional and cooperative studies. In such richness of research, the role of reputation in deterrence and strategic conflict in general, where it originated, still draws the largest amount of research as well as controversies. Besides several different conceptual and theoretical approaches, especially in the rationalist and psychological literature, there is methodological diversity as well, encompassing formal-theoretic models, large-N quantitative analyses, and survey experiments.

Article

Emily O. Goldman

The term “revolution in warfare” refers to a pronounced change or discontinuity in warfare that radically alters the way a military operates and improves relative military effectiveness. Revolutions in warfare emerged as a subject of considerable debate in the 1990s in the wake of the United States’s resounding victory over Iraqi military forces in the Persian Gulf War. These debates highlight three different concepts: military revolution, military-technical revolution, and revolution in military affairs. During this period, the idea of an “information technology” revolution in military affairs became deeply embedded in American defense planning and evolved into a call for “transformation,” or more precisely transformational innovation. Two lines of critique have been leveled against the revolution in warfare concept and the revolutionaries themselves. The first, advanced by Stephen Biddle, claims that an RMA is not currently under way. Rather, what we are witnessing is the continuation of a century-long increase in the importance of skill in managing complexity. The second insists that the RMA as a policy direction is a risky path for the United States to pursue because it will undermine the country’s power and influence. There are also two schools of thought that explain the causes of revolutions in warfare: the “economic determinist” school and the “contingent innovation” school. A number of questions remain unanswered that need further consideration in research, such as whether the United States and its allies should continue to prepare for a “long war” against violent extremists, or whether transformation is dead.

Article

The Cold War was a period of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers engaged in a nuclear arms race. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some scholars perceived that Russia’s military-industrial complex has deteriorated considerably, and that the country has fallen behind the United States and Europe in the area of information technologies and other strategically important sectors of national economy. Others insist that the image of Russia’s political irrelevancy and demotion of the country to a status of a “small” or even “medium” power is mistaken. The new Russia, they argue, has never surrendered its claims as a great power. Discussions about Russia’s global role have been fueled by its continuing nuclear standoff with the United States, along with growing concerns about its plans to develop more robust nuclear deterrents and modernize its nuclear arsenals. There is substantial scholarly literature dealing with Russia’s foreign, security, military, and nuclear policy, as well as the role of nuclear weapons in the Russian security framework. What the studies reveal is that the nuclear option remains an attractive alternative to Russia’s weakened conventional defense. Today, as before, Russia continues to place a high premium on the avoidance of a surprise attack and relies on its nuclear capabilities for strategic deterrence. There are a host of issues that deserve further investigation, such as the safety of Russia’s nuclear sites and the regional dimension of its nuclear policy.