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Briefing Paper Series
Bernt Pölling-Vocke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Master of International Relations
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
|Why are wars becoming more domestic?|
is the world becoming more peaceful? Is it becoming more peaceful?
Writing in 1992, Francis Fukuyama concluded that “the end of history
as such” had arrived. The end of the Cold War had freed the world from
the looming danger of a Third World War. The increasing universalization
of Western liberal democracy “as the final form of human government”
was and is progressing promisingly – today, about 62% of the world’s
192 nations are democracies featuring universal suffrage, and even
though recent exceptions exist (Nepal, Kyrgyzstan), it appears as if the
world is becoming more democratic, liberal and thus peaceful. To a
certain degree, Northern institutions as the World Bank, IMF or more
recently, the WTO have actively created this world. Development aid was
and still is tied to convictions similar to those of Cordell Hull, U.S.
Secretary of State from 1933 to 1944, who believed that the fundamental
causes of the two world wars lay in trade warfare and economic
discrimination. Regarding this context, NY Times columnist Thomas
Friedman developed his “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”,
arguing that the globalization of fast-food giant McDonald’s is a good
indicator for the spread of perpetual peace. As “people would rather
buy hamburgers than take up arms” and no two countries with
McDonald’s stores have ever gone to war (except NATO’s invasion of
Yugoslavia, which occurred after the theory’s publication), the spread
of the Big Mac equals the spread of peace.
However, at the same time as war as “a state of widespread
conflict between states” (Wikipedia) has become nearly extinct, state
failures, especially in the developing world, have sustained the
frequency of domestic warfare.
is even questioned whether many of today’s domestic wars even ought to
qualify as such, as the “true essence” of warfare is often missing.
The true essence, in this context, means the willingness of one group
not just to kill, but also to accept death in return. Additionally, some
kind of directing, governmental structure is needed, and the achievement
of “societal issues with the interest of resolving them by force”.
As most contemporary, domestic wars are fought by “bands of thugs”,
often trained by nothing but the repetitious showings of mediocre movies
featuring Sylvester Stallone and friends, most wars more closely
resemble “criminal civil conflicts” then warfare in the traditional
sense. Stallone, in accordance with typical, military procedures, wears
no shirt for 62% of his 138 kills in Rambo I – III and endures a
combined total of 74 sequences of being shot at
“band of thugs”, or modern-day “bandit and pirate bands”, are
often small in number, but satisfied with terrorizing the mostly unarmed
and unorganized civilians within their stomping grounds. The perceived
“war” often is of extreme use, and involved parties might show a
tendency to avoid potentially deciding battles, as the end of war could
equal the end of prosperity. Many combatants are low paid, rely on their
lootings to make a “killing”, and receive personal satisfaction from
murdering and raping.
episodes of limited anarchy after hurricane Katrina devastated New
Orleans (September 2005) explain how “criminal civil conflicts” are
fuelled by the absence of effective governments. True, the warlords and
freed inmates often composing parties in domestic conflicts of failed
states were missing, but nevertheless, a society freed of the shackles
of effective governmental forces lived out its potential for lootings,
homicides and gang rapes almost immediately, while remaining civilians
protected their properties by force. If it needs a few days for the Wild
West to return to the flooded streets of New Orleans, it should come as
no surprise that many failed governments, of which the CIA lists 113
cases between 1957 and 1994, laid out the seeds for domestic conflicts.
Often, these conflicts feature four distinctive stages, namely
“takeover, carnival, revenge, and occupation and desertion”.
“absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and especially the stage of
“carnival” allow the often involved, sadistic minority of society to
live out their stored up dreams, which often means that an entire
society is held hostage by a perilous few. Paramilitary gangs, foreign
mercenaries and convicted criminals get carried away with turning the
social pyramid on its head, and most of what passes for warfare in these
days is “centrally characterized by the opportunistic and
improvisatory clash of thugs, not by the programmed and/or primordial
clash of civilizations”. Disappointingly, human species seem to
require some kind of controlling, powerful superstructure, with the
Western, liberal nation-state appearing as the structure of choice.
conclusion, wars have not become more domestic, but domestic warfare has
not done humanity the favour of extinction, as international warfare
increasingly, but not absolutely, has. International warfare often
required inspiring leadership to call the masses to arms, whereas the
absence of any such leadership leads those dangerous for society towards
the arms. Unstable governments, arbitrarily designed nation states of
the post-colonial era and vacuums of control inspire opportunistic gangs,
wannabe-Rambos or warlords to seize control in the absence of effective
checks. For many, the state of war has become a livelihood, which is why
the total number of wars going on at any one time has increased over the
past decades, whereas no rise in wars starting per year was observable.
If the international community turns a blind eye, local warlords and
their “troops” benefit, and domestic governments are not effectively
in charge of their countries, the world cannot be freed from domestic