How have certain modern conflicts been described as ‘New Wars?

Whilst ‘old’ wars have sometimes been referred to as ‘interstate industrial warfare’ which involve wars between states being fought by armed forces in uniform, with decisive encounters being decided on one battlefield, ‘new’ wars have been described by Mary Kaldor as ‘intra-state’ wars. In the last 20 years we have seen a paradigm shift; from armies with comparable forces doing battle on a field to strategic confrontation between a range of combatants using different types of weapons .

These so-called ‘new’ wars which involve the use of civilians as both targets and objectives to be won, have been said to have been led by globalisation, due to the fact that the integration created has led to “fragmentation,” as seen in the Yugoslav wars with these wars being wars on identity. An identity war is a conflict in which the quest for cultural regeneration, expressed through the demand that a people’s collective identity is publicly and politically recognised, is a primary motivation for conflict.

These ‘new’ wars have constructed new sectarian identities (religious, ethical or tribal) that undermine the sense of a shared political community. They recreate the sense of political community along the new lines through purpose of fear and hate. These ‘intra-state’ identity conflicts have been prominent in many recent conflicts, with the Iraq war and The Arab Spring seeing the recurrence of tensions between the Shia and Shiite Muslims.

Furthermore, conflicts in the Congo, Rwanda and Sudan were also fought on the lines of ethnicity, with ethnicity also being a real cause in the Yugoslav wars with Slavic Christians being pitted against Bosnian Muslims. Furthermore, ‘new’ wars have differing characteristics to ‘old’ wars. As mentioned earlier, ‘old’ wars traditionally saw conventional armies fighting against each other, however with ‘new’ wars, we have seen a blurring between civilians and soldiers.

This can be seen through the feminization of war, which has been seen in conflicts such as Rwanda, and the use of child soldiers in conflicts throughout Africa including Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Congo. This change has meant that women and children have become the main targets and victims of war and armed conflict in today’s conflicts. It estimated that 75% of all African wars are fought by children, and whilst rape has traditionally been a by-product of war for many centuries, it is now thought that War Rape is genuine military tactic.

War Rape has been seen primarily in Rwanda where it is thought that 1 million women were raped and in the Yugoslavian Wars where ‘Rape Camps’ were set up. As one UN peacekeeper working in Africa put it, “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict. ” ‘New’ conflicts have also seen new tactics come in to play aside from ‘War Rape. ’ Often’ ‘new’ conflicts have seen the occurrence of ‘Asymmetrical’ wars.

Asymmetric warfare exists when two combatants are so different in their characters, and in their areas of comparative advantage, that a confrontation between them comes to turn one side’s ability to force the other side to fight on their own terms. Tactics used in these conflicts are often Guerrilla warfare and low-intensity hit and run conflict. An obvious example of this is seen in the conflict in Afghanistan through the use of IEDS and roadside bombs.

Essentially such strategies used in the ‘war of the flea’ involve inflicting pain over time without suffering unbearable retaliation in return. Lastly, ‘new’ conflicts differ from ‘old’ conflicts through their funding. Whilst ‘old’ conflicts were funded through the state, as seen in the WW2 and the entrance into ‘total war’, ‘new’ wars are characterised by funding through the criminality of war.

This illegal funding has been seen in Sierra Leone, where funding was acquired through the selling of blood diamonds, in Afghanistan where the Taliban are funded through the selling of opium, and finally in the Bosnian war, where counterfeit cigarettes funded Para-military groups involved in ethnic cleansing. To conclude, recent modern conflicts have been classified as ‘new’ conflicts as they differ through their legitimacy, funding and tactics.