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Armed Conflicts Study Case

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This study of armed conflict includes wars, civil wars, revolutions and revolts, rebellions, secessions, coups, genocides, ethnic and political violence, and terrorism worldwide. It also provides the readers with histories of documented conflicts occurring between 1800 and 1999 where about 1500 conflicts have been documented. This essential background information gives researchers insight into the causes, prevention, management and resolution of national and international conflicts. Understanding gained by the research and analysis of these historical conflicts provides guidance for shaping responses to the complex and often contentious peace and security issues concerning current conflicts.

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This is a necessary condition for effective conflict management, resolution, prevention and peace building at the global, regional, and national levels.

I.                   INTRODUCTION

The continuous critical analysis of violent conflicts around the world – their causes, dynamics and consequences has been a major consideration in world affairs. In recent years, many works on major armed conflicts have focused on the analysis of intra-state conflict. Most of such examined the seeming intractability of certain intra-state conflicts and analyzed the reasons for their volatility and persistence.

Also, some have explored specific features of intra-state conflicts in terms of the actors involved, underlying grievances, particular tactics and the involvement of civilians in intra-state conflicts. The internationalisation of some intra-state conflicts was also considered. Yet there is a significant need for works focusing on the role of non-state actors in intra-state conflict, and particular challenges for conflict management associated with their activity. Such is the object of this paper. Also, this research will analyzes violent conflict around the world, its impact on the human security of local populations and wider political consequences. The analysis of multilateral peace operations is another major part of the work. The research takes a comprehensive approach to the study of violence and to the efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. Special attention is devoted to the situating of conflict analysis within international policy on security and development more broadly.


International law as a legal system differs from domestic legal systems. International law derives its basis primarily from state practice and state consent represented in the form of treaties, custom or general principles of law acknowledged by all states or by all principal legal systems. This law can usually be changed by international agreement. Unfortunately, there is no central enforcement authority equipped to resolve disputes similar to the domestic enforcement mechanisms of states. Consequently, if one nation breaks the rules, it is only correctable by coercive pressure from other states.

Regardless intentions legal-political processes through diplomatic methods might and can escalate to the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. This military necessity is armed conflict regardless of the lack of formal declarations of war. War became a politically incorrect term after World War II and the term “armed conflict” is now the preferred term for armed hostilities between states. Consequently, the element of international law governing the relationship between states during armed hostilities is known as the Law of Armed Conflict.

At some point, International law began to include the principal that the means to achieve military victory are not unlimited and that it is bounded by principles of humanity which forbids the infliction of suffering, injury or destruction not actually necessary for the accomplishment of legitimate military purposes. The law of war is to be found not only in treaties, but also in the customs and practices of States, which gradually obtained universal recognition, and form the general principles applied by jurists and practiced by military courts.

The United States of America has always viewed the law of armed conflict as important. Generally, the law of armed conflict represents the fundamental legal basis behind rules of engagement. Rules of engagement are the instructions the United States issues to its armed forces for the purposes of conducting military operations against other states. The Law of armed conflict is used in addition to the Uniform Code of Military Justice by the United States of America to enforce certain obligations of conduct and behavior on individual members of its Armed Forces.

The Law of armed conflict neither authorizes nor prohibits the basic decision to use force. It exists independently of the causes of the conflict and applies regardless of the causes if there is in fact an international armed conflict. The law of armed conflict does not generally apply to conflicts occurring solely within the territory of a state between persons who are nationals of that state. However, insurgents and the state’s armed forces in internal disputes are generally coerced by the international community to abide by the law of armed conflict when there is a general civil war involving sustained armed conflict and the insurgents control a significant portion of national territory.

A.    Armed Conflicts as a By-Product of World Affairs

The continuous critical analysis of violent conflicts around the world – their causes, dynamics and consequences – constitutes a big chunk in the international affairs of the governments around the world.

Most fundamentally this motivation consists of a basic willingness to wage war, but motivations may be analysed more specifically. Motivations for war may be different for those ordering the war than those undertaking the war. For a state to prosecute a war it must have the support of its leadership, its military forces, and the population. For example, in the third Punic War, Rome’s leaders may have wished to make war with Carthage for the purpose of annihilating a resurgent rival; the army may have wished to make war with Carthage to exploit the great opportunity for plunder while levelling the city of Carthage. But the Roman people may have tolerated the war with Carthage on account of the demonisation of the Carthaginians in popular culture, since there had been rumors of child sacrifice. Since many people are involved, a war may acquire a life of its own — from the confluences of many different motivations. Various theories have been presented historically to explain the causes of war:

Historians tend to be reluctant to look for sweeping explanations for all wars. There are some conditions and situations that make them more likely, but there can be no system for predicting where and when each one will occur. Social scientists criticize this approach, arguing that at the beginning of every war some leader makes a conscious decision, and that they cannot be seen as purely accidental. Still, one argument to this might be that there are few, if any, “pure” accidents. One may be able to find patterns which hold at least some degree of reliability, but because war is a collective of human intentions, some potentially quite fickle, it is very difficult to create a concise prediction system.

Psychologists such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings, especially men, are inherently violent. While this violence is repressed in normal society, it needs the occasional outlet provided by war. This combines with other notions such as displacement, where a person transfers their grievances into bias and hatred against other ethnic groups, nations, or ideologies. While these theories may have some explanatory value about why wars occur, they do not explain when or how they occur. In addition, they raise the question why there are sometimes long periods of peace and other eras of unending war. Nor do they explain the existence of certain human cultures completely devoid of war. If the innate psychology of the human mind is unchanging, these variations are inconsistent. A solution adapted to this problem by militarists such as Franz Alexander is that peace does not really exist. Periods that are seen as peaceful are actually periods of preparation for a later war or when war is suppressed by a state of great power, such as the Pax Britannica.

If war is innate to human nature, as is presupposed by many psychological theories, then there is little hope of ever escaping it. One alternative is to argue that war is only, or almost only, a male activity, and if human leadership were in female hands, wars would not occur. This theory has played an important role in modern feminism. Critics, of course, point to various examples of female political leaders who had no qualms about using military force, such as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir.

Other psychologists have argued that while human temperament allows wars to occur, this only happens when mentally unbalanced people are in control of a nation. This school of thought argues leaders that seek war such as Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin were mentally abnormal, but fails to explain the thousands of free and presumably sane men who wage wars on their behalf.

A distinct branch of the psychological theories of war are the arguments based on evolutionary psychology. This school tends to see war as an extension of animal behaviour, such as territoriality and competition. However, while war has a natural cause, the development of technology has accelerated human destructiveness to a level that is irrational and damaging to the species. We have similar instincts to that of a chimpanzee but overwhelmingly more power. The earliest advocate of this theory was Konrad Lorenz. These theories have been criticised by scholars such as John G. Kennedy, who argue that the organised, sustained war of humans differs more than just technologically from the territorial fights between animals. Ashley Montagu strongly denies such universalistic instinctual arguments, pointing out that social factors and childhood socialisation are important in determining the nature and presence of warfare. Thus while human aggression may be a universal occurrence, warfare is not and would appear to have been a historical invention, associated with certain types of human societies. Others have attempted to explain the psychological reasoning behind the human tendency for warring as a joined effort of a class of higher intelligence beings at participating in, experiencing and attempting to control the ultimate fate of each human, death.

Several anthropologists take a very different view of war. They see it as fundamentally cultural, learned by nurture rather than nature. Thus if human societies could be reformed, war would disappear. To this school the acceptance of war is inculcated into each of us by the religious, ideological, and nationalistic surroundings in which we live.

Many anthropologists also see no links between various forms of violence. They see the fighting of animals, the skirmishes of hunter-gatherer tribes, and the organized warfare of modern societies as distinct phenomena each with their own causes. Theorists such as Ashley Montagu emphasize the top-down nature of war, that almost all wars are begun not by popular pressure but by the whims of leaders, and that these leaders also work to maintain a system of ideological justifications for war.

The combination of these stress factors according to Heinsohn usually heads for six different exits:

1.                  Emigration (“non violent colonization”)

2.                  Violent Crime

3.                  Rebellion or putsch

4.                  Civil war and/or revolution

5.                  Genocide (to take over the positions of the slaughtered)

6.                  Conquest (violent colonization, frequently including genocide abroad).

Religions and ideologies are seen as secondary factors that are being used to legitimate violence, but will not lead to violence by itself if no youth bulge is present. Consequently, youth bulge theorists see both past “Christianist” European colonialism / imperialism and today’s “Islamist” civil unrest / terrorism as results of high birth rates producing youth bulges.

Wars are seen as the result of evolved psychological traits that are turned on by either being attacked or by a population perception of a bleak future. The theory accounts for the IRA going out of business, but leads to a dire view of current wars. Studies of endemic violence and tribal warfare in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea demonstrate that intertribal warfare is highest in those parts of the country where population densities are greatest and pressure on land and other resources is thereby maximized. Similarly, evidence of organized warfare in the Ancient World, in pre-dynastic Mesopotamia and in Ancient Egypt, suggests that organized systematic warfare only appeared after population densities had increased, and there was increased pressure upon limited ecological resources.

Rationalist theories of war assume that both sides to a potential war are rational, which is to say that each side wants to get the best possible outcome for itself for the least possible loss of life and property to its own side. Given this assumption, if both countries knew in advance how the war would turn out, it would be better for both of them to just accept the post-war outcome without having to actually pay the costs of fighting the war. This is based on the notion, generally agreed to by almost all scholars of war since Carl von Clausewitz, that wars are reciprocal, that all wars require both a decision to attack and also a decision to resist attack. Rationalist theory offers three reasons why some countries cannot find a bargain and instead resort to war: issue indivisibility, information asymmetry with incentive to deceive, and the inability to make credible commitments.

Issue indivisibility occurs when the two parties cannot avoid war by bargaining because the thing over which they are fighting cannot be shared between them, only owned entirely by one side or the other. Religious issues, such as control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, are more likely to be indivisible than economic issues.

A bigger branch of the theory, advanced by scholars of international relations such as Geoffrey Blainey, is the problem of information asymmetry with incentives to misrepresent. The two countries may not agree on who would win a war between them, or whether victory would be overwhelming or merely eked out, because each side has military secrets about its own capabilities. They will not avoid the bargaining failure by sharing their secrets, since they cannot trust each other not to lie and exaggerate their strength to extract more concessions. For example, Sweden made efforts to deceive Nazi Germany that it would resist an attack fiercely, partly by playing on the myth of Aryan superiority and by making sure that Hermann Göring only saw elite troops in action, often dressed up as regular soldiers, when he came to visit.

Intelligence gathering may sometimes, but not always, mitigate this problem. For example, the Argentinian dictatorship knew that the United Kingdom had the ability to defeat them, but their intelligence failed them on the question of whether the British would use their power to resist the annexation of the Falkland Islands. The American decision to enter the Vietnam War was made with the full knowledge that the communist forces would resist them, but did not believe that the guerrillas had the capability to long oppose American forces.

Thirdly, bargaining may fail due to the states’ inability to make credible commitments.[21] In this scenario, the two countries might be able to come to a bargain that would avert war if they could stick to it, but the benefits of the bargain will make one side more powerful and lead it to demand even more in the future, so that the weaker side has an incentive to make a stand now.

Rationalist explanations of war can be critiqued on a number of grounds. The assumptions of cost-benefit calculations become dubious in the most extreme genocidal cases of World War II, where the only bargain offered in some cases was infinitely bad. Rationalist theories typically assume that the state acts as a unitary individual, doing what is best for the state as a whole; this is problematic when, for example, the country’s leader is beholden to a very small number of people, as in a personalistic dictatorship. Rationalist theory also assumes that the actors are rational, able to accurately assess their likelihood of success or failure, but the proponents of the psychological theories above would disagree.

Rationalist theories are usually explicated with game theory, for example, the Peace War Game, not a wargame as such, rather a simulation of economic decisions underlying war.

B.     Role of Tribunals

Tribunal is a generic term for any body acting judicially, whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an advocate appearing before a Court on which a single Judge was sitting could describe that judge as ‘their tribunal’.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a tribunal usually refers to one of three instances of ecclesiastical courts: a diocesan tribunal; a provincial tribunal, that is, of more than one diocese and commonly referred to as an appellate court; and the Sacra Rota Romana, or Sacred Roman Rota, the highest court of appeals.

Many bodies that are titled ‘tribunals’ are so described to emphasize the fact that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, Employment Tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. Private judicial bodies are also often styled ‘tribunals’. The word ‘tribunal’ is not conclusive of a body’s function. For example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.

In the politics and government of Commonwealth states such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as the Republic of Ireland a public inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by the government. In some Commonwealth Realms a public inquiry is also known as a Royal Commission.

A public inquiry differs from more general inquiries or reviews in that evidence submitted to the inquiry is heard in a public environment. Interested members of the public and organisations may not only make (written) evidential submissions as is the case with most inquiries, but also listen to oral evidence given by other parties.

An inquiry is usually chaired by a well-known and well-respected member of the upper echelons of British society, such as judge, lord, professor or senior civil servant. The conclusions of the inquiry are delivered in the form of a written report, given first to the government, and soon after published to the public. The report will generally make recommendations to improve the quality of government or management of public organisations in the future.

Typical events for a public inquiry are those that cause multiple deaths, such as public transport crashes or mass murders. However in the UK, the Planning Inspectorate, an agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government, routinely holds public inquiries into highways and other transport proposals.

Pressure groups and opposition political parties are likely to ask for public inquiries for all manner of issues. The Government of the day typically only accedes to a fraction of these requests. Inquiries are requested not only for the genuine public good, but also in attempt to make the Government look bad – either by allowing the inquiry to go ahead and uncover mistakes by the Government or by making the Government refuse and leave the impression that they have something to hide. A public inquiry generally takes longer to report and costs more on account of its public nature. Thus when a government refuses a public inquiry on some topic, it is usually on these grounds.

Tribunals of Inquiry are invested with the powers, privileges and rights of the Irish High Court. It is not a function of a Tribunal to administer justice, their work is solely inquisitorial. Tribunals are required to report their findings to the Oireachtas. They have the power to enforce the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of relevant documents. Tribunals may consist of one or more persons, though the practise has been to appoint a Sole Member. Tribunals may sit with or without Assessors (who are not Tribunal members). Sittings are usually held in public but can, at the Tribunals discretion, be held in private.

C.    Symbiotic Relationship of Armed Conflicts vis-à-vis Tribunals

Perhaps, the most important, and challenging, task for the peace researcher is to establish and maintain a systematic perspective on the general condition of peace in the global system. Without that, progress toward greater peace can not be gauged and social policies can not be properly evaluated. Measuring systemic peace is a necessarily holistic endeavor. Peace is an absolute term and, therefore, a universal condition. The quality of peace can not be improved simply by displacing violence and war to a different setting, or separate category, or by concentrating misfortunes with the less fortunate (ghetto-ization). At the “state-level of analysis” this distinguishes peace from war (and “not-war”), which is a conditional event, and security and insecurity, which are relative terms. At the more general “individual-level of analysis” the quality of peace contrasts directly with the total incidence of violence in the global system, that is, a “human security” perspective. There are many dimensions to violence but only a few are currently measureable at the holistic, global level. The most prominent dimension of violence is lethal violence, and the most dramatic form of lethal violence is organized, military action, or war. Much of what we know about the systemic qualities of peace derives originally from the classic study of inter-state war. More recently, systematic research in organized violence has expanded to cover internal uses of organized violence, that is, situations where organized violence takes place within the sovereign boundaries of a “state.” However, it has only been with the advent of the 20th century’s “world wars” that the problem of organized violence has been extended beyond the immediate, dyadic focus of research to the regional and global foci. Globalization is not simply an economic process but, rather, the term for the technological movement away from the dyadic analysis of “independent events” toward complex, inter-dependent, “systems analysis.” The most fundamental questions for peace researchers at the present time include: “What is the general quality of peace and is it improving, stagnating, or deteriorating?” Where, and under what conditions, is organized violence most likely to occur?” “How do we understand the quality of peace in its many systemic variations, both successes and failures?”

Complex, societal systems defy comprehension but they are not immeasureable. Information and communication resources and technologies continue to improve and, as a result, there are some very general observations concerning the quality of the peace that can be made with reasonable confidence. The ending of the Second World War in 1945 provides a good beginning point for measuring the general quality of the peace. It also marks a turning point in the ways that information is generated, collected, and distributed. The rise of the independent media has been crucial in establishing a more objective perspective on the human condition and it is probably no accident that the rise of the independent media has paralleled a global trend toward greater democracy, the so-called “third wave of democratization.”


The enormous increase in the global population of forcibly displaced persons beginning in the mid-1980s is difficult to ascertain. There are surely some reporting issues involved but it appears that the magnitude of the increase may be best explained by a confluence of at least four factors: 1) armed conflicts are more likely to be located in poorer countries; 2) the protractedness of societal conflicts progressively challenges the ability of societies to meet and maintain basic needs production; 3) there is a breakdown in distinctions between combatants and non-combatant populations; and 4) there is a tremendous expansion in the numbers and capacities of non-governmental organizations willing to provide humanitarian assistance to war-torn societies.

It is a fact that the poorer countries account for a disproportionate share of the global warfare totals across the period. Warfare totals for the bottom two quintiles of states increase steadily through the contemporary period, reaching their peaks in the 1980s. The poorest countries are distinguished from the middle quintile of states in which warfare remains fairly steady until a dramatic increase in the latter 1970s. Countries in the second quintile experience the highest magnitudes of warfare throughout the period. This may be explained simply by pointing out that they have more capacity than countries in the bottom quintile to make war but less capacity than the upper quintiles to manage conflict. At the peak, over half of the poorer countries are consumed by societal warfare. What distinguishes the lowest quintile is the persistence of warfare in the 1990s; this helps to explain the perceived dramatic increase in serious humanitarian crises in the 1990s.

Readily apparent are the much lower levels of warfare in the upper quintiles. Especially fortunate are the states in the upper quintile where little or no serious political violence takes place for the entire time span. Of course, this good fortune goes a long way to explaining the difficulty of mobilizing “political will” in the richer countries to recognize, let alone meaningfully address, the complex problems associated with armed conflicts in the poorer countries.

Ethnic warfare became the hot topic in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War as a virtual cornucopia of these seemingly intractable (and previously “invisible”) social identity conflicts exploded onto the world scene and captured the public and policy eyes. In order to more fully assess the impact and importance of ethnic conflict in the post-Cold War period it will be helpful to place that particular type of societal conflict into the larger context. Figure 7 compares trends for three distinct types of warfare, ethnic, revolutionary, and interstate. The perceived “sudden rise” in ethnic wars in the 1990s appears to be a curious outcropping of the more general, systemic changes. As the Cold War ideologies wax and wane in the late 1980s, the support they lend to both interstate and revolutionary intrastate wars is eroded and those types of warfare greatly diminish. Ethnic wars, which had previously paralleled the trend of revolutionary war, continue to rise through the late 1980s and early 1990s as separatists and other political entrepreneurs attempt to take advantage of the vast changes in political arrangements that accompanied the transformation of the post-Cold War world system. Ethnic wars stand out like a “sore thumb” in the 1990s’ security environment. Also, notice that the long-term trend in ethnic warfare increases relatively smoothly as compared to the other warfare trends. As the goals of social identity conflicts are suffused with non-negotiable identity issues, these conflicts tend to persist and, so, are less susceptible to settlement or resolution by warfare. Thus, ethnic warfare trends are less ammenable to periodic fluctuation.


Cite this Armed Conflicts Study Case

Armed Conflicts Study Case. (2016, Jul 21). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/armed-conflict-essay/

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