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Article

Non-State Actors and Conflict Management in Proxy Wars  

Daniela Irrera

The influence and impact of non-state actors, particularly humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in conflict management and in contemporary proxy wars, has been at the core of several scholarly debates. Peace research scientists developed knowledge about actors and conditions influencing conflict management and peacebuilding at the global and regional level. They have demonstrated that proxy wars survived the Cold War and developed new features. In particular, non-state actors like NGOs, private foundations, and non-profit associations, slowly but firmly entered the conflict management system, providing expertise and new input. International relations scholars investigate the main drivers of global humanitarian phenomena and give empirical reflections suitable for adaptive policymaking. It is commonly agreed that conflicts should be solved, human rights violations stopped, and the most inhumane implications reduced, but questions remain about the effectiveness of intervention and the legitimacy of some actors and tools. The relevance of non-state actors and their roles in conflict management have found in the international relations and peace research an ideal place to develop theoretical and practical implications. Scholars emphasized the various types of actors involved (NGOs, local community representatives, diplomats), and the diverse techniques and approaches developed within and beyond the “traditional” track diplomacy, to conflict transformation. Starting from the assessment of the state of the literature in the current international relations and peace research theoretical debate on civil and proxy wars, those actors who manage conflicts and the methods and techniques they use are explained further. In particular, it is first sustained that nongovernmental actors are engaged in the management of proxy wars in shared agency with governmental ones. Second, conflict transformation is introduced as an interactive technique to manage proxies.

Article

Failing States and Conflict  

Kimberly Marten

As a response to the new policy problems facing the international community after the end of the Cold War, the security studies literature on weak and failing states and their relationship to various forms of conflict emerged. Two sets of events caused policy makers to focus on state weakness as a threat to international security. The first wave of research was generated by the new United Nations (UN)-sponsored peace operations of the post-Cold War era. The second overlapping wave of research followed the al-Qaeda attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and the resulting perception that non-state terrorist groups were likely to use failed or failing states as their base of global operations. There has been no agreement among researchers about how to define the concept or varieties of state failure. As such, it has not coalesced into something that could truly be called a scholarly research program. Nevertheless, a vibrant literature has emerged on the political economy of “ungoverned territories.” Warlords are actors who use a combination of force, charisma, and patronage to control small slices of territory inside of what is purportedly a sovereign state. They usually profit from organized criminal activities that threaten both the peace and the legal institutions of the state, but can be used to help weak states to survive and reconstitute themselves in wartime. Meanwhile, scholars argue whether states should necessarily be reconstructed after they fail, given that many failed states were unnatural and authoritarian postcolonial creations.

Article

Conflict Resolution: Feminist Perspectives  

Simona Sharoni

The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.

Article

Private Military and Security Companies  

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

Russian Security and Nuclear Policies: Successor to the Superpower Arsenal?  

Mariya Y. Omelicheva

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.

Article

International Organizations and Preventing War  

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.

Article

Nuclear Strategy  

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

Civil–Military Relations  

Mackubin Thomas Owens

Civil–military relations is an interdisciplinary area of research, reflecting the work of political scientists, military, sociologists, and historians. History and culture, the constitution of the state and the statutes and practices arising therefrom, changes in the international security environment, technology, the character of conflict, and the changing concept of “soldier-hood” all influence the civil–military relations of a state. There are many possible patterns of civil–military relations that provide different answers to the questions of who controls the military and how, the degree of military influence appropriate for a given society, the appropriate role of the military in a given polity, who serves, and the effectiveness of the military instrument that a given civil–military relations produces. Moreover, there is no “general” or “unified field” theory that successfully explains all of these patterns. For a variety of reasons, Samuel Huntington's institutional theory remains the dominant paradigm for examining civil–military relations. When it comes to the question of civilian control of the military, Peter Feaver’s agency theory corrects some of the flaws in Huntington’s theory. Morris Janowitz and the military sociologists also provide useful insights, especially regarding the question of who serves and related issues. In the case of concordance theory, critics argue that the definition of military intervention sets the bar too low to be meaningful. Ultimately, the patterns of civil–military relations affect national security because of their impact on strategic assessment.

Article

Terrorism and Counterterrorism Datasets: An Overview  

Sara M. T. Polo and Blair Welsh

There has been a dramatic increase in research on terrorism and counterterrorism since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Given its prominence, many scholars have assessed the advancement of the field in terms of publication output and research questions. However, there has also been a significant growth in data collection efforts. Datasets on terrorism and counterterrorism have been developed and revised across a number of levels: the event level, organizational level, and individual level. At the event level, datasets offer cross-national, regional, and subnational coverage of individual terrorist events and their characteristics, such as lethality, targets, tactics, and perpetrators. Organizational-level datasets unveil important characteristics of terrorist organizations—including ideology, capabilities, duration, social service provision, and networks—over time and space. Individual-level datasets contain information on global jihad, online activity, terrorist leaders, and terrorism in the United States. While more limited on coverage, data on counterterrorism focus on hard-power counterterrorism, targeted counterterrorism (e.g., drone strikes and leadership decapitation), and soft-power counterterrorism, which encompasses strategies aimed at raising the perceived benefits of abstaining from terrorism. Many datasets and integration techniques have also been developed to study the practice of terrorism in various contexts, such as civil war and ethnic conflict. Data integration expands and deepens our understanding of the causes, dynamics, and consequences of terrorism in various contexts and sheds light on the relationship between terrorism and other violent and nonviolent tactics. The growth of data collection efforts is beneficial for researchers in the field of terrorism and beyond as well as for policy makers and practitioners.

Article

Refugee Protection, Securitization, and Liminality  

Yvonne Jazz Rowa

The existing scholarship has widely examined security vulnerabilities and challenges within the forced migrant context. A myriad of factors along the complex trajectory of pre- and post-flight have contributed to a dire state of human security. Notably, the protection system has played a major role in the institutionalization of liminality and securitization, and inadvertently intensified refugees’ preexisting vulnerabilities. The literature on global institutions of protection within an evolving global migration landscape exposes the systemic securitization entrenched in the international instruments of protection; for the most part, the protection mechanisms are intrinsically exclusionary. There are also challenges and dilemmas of disentangling security from migration that render conceptual conflations and resultant mechanisms of institutionalization inevitable. Essentially, the architecture of the instruments of protection informs the mechanisms for response. The systemic contradictions within these regimes are therefore likely to be reflected and replicated in their operationalization. The overall dynamics expose humanitarianism and security first, as oppositional imperatives, and secondly, as enduring dilemmas that institutions of protection continuously reconciliate.

Article

Disaster Diplomacy  

Carmela Lutmar and Leah Mandler

Almost every disaster brings up hope that natural disasters can somehow open up space for peaceful diplomatic interaction between parties in conflict, be they warring states or warring domestic factions. Advocates of “disaster diplomacy” argue that while earthquakes, floods, windstorms, and tsunami result in human tragedies, these events also generate opportunities for international cooperation, even between enemies. While quantitative research focusing on disaster and conflict clearly shows the connection between the two phenomena, the causal effect is not always straightforward. Certainly, conflict-prone zones suffer from higher vulnerability and risk than places where people reside in peace, just as frequently disaster-stricken areas provide more opportunities for conflicting parties to clash. However, the chicken-and-egg question remains to be clarified as most disasters in conflict zones are complex, long-term disasters exacerbated by human activity. At the same time, more detailed case studies of individual disasters substantiate the claim that natural disasters sometimes encourage diplomacy, but also emphasize significant differences in circumstances and conflict characteristics among others.

Article

Israeli Foreign Policy  

Aviad Rubin

The main principles of Israeli foreign policy emerged during the pre-state period and were shaped by Zionist ideology and the lessons of the Holocaust. The primary goal of this policy was, and still is, to secure a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel, and a safe haven for world Jewry. Another dominant factor in the shaping of the foreign policy of Israel was the need to encounter the country’s challenging geostrategic situation—small territory; lack of natural resources, until the discovery of natural gas depots in water in the Israeli exclusive economic zone during the last decade; fragile Jewish communities around the world; and a hostile neighborhood. Combined together, these considerations are the issues that rank high on the agenda of Israeli foreign policy and affect Israel’s relationship with the international community, ranging from the global superpowers to third world countries. After maintaining a relatively steady foreign policy program throughout the 20th century, in the 21st century the state made some significant policy shifts, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu’s consecutive governments. These included a halt in Israeli–Palestinian negotiations for peace; a high-profile campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program; more emphasis on the maritime domain; and strengthening ties with illiberal leaders around the world. In 2021, the seeming epilogue of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister leaves an open question about the relative weight of structural and ideational factors vs. powerful political agents in the design of Israel’s foreign policy.

Article

Neutrality Studies  

Pascal Lottaz

The study of neutrality, as an academic subject in the fields of history and the social sciences, is concerned with the politics, laws, ethics, economics, norms, and other social aspects of states and international actors that attempt to maintain friendly or impartial relations with other states who are—or might become—parties to international conflict. In this regard, neutrality studies is a subject of international politics in its broadest sense, encompassing international law and international relations. It is an open space that has been explored through various academic lenses, including (but not limited to) realism, liberalism, constructivism, and poststructuralism. Most neutrality research in the early 21st century is focused on particular periods or forms of neutrality. To discuss this topic, it is helpful to distinguish two levels of analysis. First, there is historical research that describes the observable phenomenon of neutral behavior and its related effects, in other words, specific instances when countries (or actors) remained neutral. This is mostly the domain of historians. The second level is the moral, legal, political, and ideational assessment of neutral situations, which are theoretical discussions that treat issues (including but not limited to) the underlying reasons and the larger impact of neutrality on specific conflict dynamics, security systems, identities, and norms. Ideological debates often occur on this level since theoretical assessments of neutrality depend heavily on the subjective framing of the conflicts they accompany.