“New where old concepts of wars were key components

“New wars” is a term that
exemplifies warfare in the post cold war period. International relations post
cold war has been going through a huge transformation. The cold war brought
about this profound transformation where there has been an emergence of conflict
among state and non-state actors. The term “new wars” comes from this idea that
the change in the world today in terms of globalisation and conflict has
brought a new form of warfare which is described to be “organised violence”. Kaldor
states that “new wars” now aims for “political mobilisation around identity
rather than an instrument of war” (Kaldor, 2013).  Kaldor’s theory states that the wars shifted
from ‘geopolitical or ideological war’ to war which is grounded on ‘identity
politics’ which is gaining the dominance of politics whilst regulating the
population. (Musolino,). According to Newman, the ideas of new wars stem from a
few concepts which this essay will discuss. Newman identified that ‘ethnic and
religious conflict’ is the key characteristic of new wars rather than a
political ideology. He also states that most of the ‘new’ wars today are
intrastate rather than interstate whilst intrastate wars are decreasing
interstate wars are increasing. The characterisation of new wars is also linked
to ‘state failure’ and ‘social transformation’ which are indications of
globalisation and the downfall of communism. (Newman, 2004)

One major analysis of the new wars
concept is that new wars are not in fact new. Kaldor states that post Cold war,
the capability of evaluating “small wars” has been clouded. Most of what had
previously happened in the early modern period, such as brutalities of
civilians and population displacement are characteristics of what the theory of
“new wars” is. The features of ‘old’ wars are portrayed in what today we call
‘new’ wars. However, the concept of new wars is different in the sense that
technology and globalisation are shaping and have an important role to the
theory of ‘new’ wars. An example of this is the first Gulf war between Iraq and
Iran where old concepts of wars were key components of the war especially the
mass killings of millions of civilians however there was a new concept of
‘military technology’ which could be classified as a new war. (Kaldor, 2013)

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

aspect of new wars is communication. Communication has become a “tool of war”
where it is used for the spread of fear and panic which is “new” as in previous
wars communication of this sort was lacking.

As Edward Newman says,
“Globalisation is an important component of the political economy of new wars,
and the starting point is that the ages of globalization is characterized by a
gradual erosion of state authority.” (Newman, 2004). Kaldor suggests that
globalisation has created a crises of identity where people who believe they
are in need of power need to explicit these needs and this is where “identity”
wars are created based on globalisation. Kaldor also argues that globalisation
has led to the hierarchy of society where it is split into two. There are
people who advantage from the consequence of globalisation and there are people
who do not. The people who do not benefit from the results of globalisation are
being isolated and separated from society however, are finding new means to
create an ‘identity’ purely for the gain of power.  


Newman critiques Kaldor’s theory on
targeting civilians and argues that there is no major change in present-day
warfare on targeting civilians deliberately. He also questions Kaldor’s claim
on population displacement being a part of modern warfare. “He argues that figures that appear to
suggest a steady increase in the number of displaced persons are merely
reflecting the increased visibility of the refugee problem as a result of more
reliable methods of data collection and increased attention devoted to the
problem by the international community” (Newman, 2004). Newman also argues that
the features of new wars that Kaldor puts forward are due to the uprising of
globalization and the downfall of communism. The example Newman gives is when
“in 1960 when Belgium withdrew from their colony of the Belgian Congo (the
country that became Zaire, and much later became the Democratic Republic of
Congo). The Belgian withdrawal was accompanied by a compete collapse of
centralized government and order.” (Wright, 2018). Furthermore, Newman argues
that not all new wars are fought because of economic and financial upheaval. “For example the conflicts in Chechnya, India or
Sri Lanka were based on ideological purposes”(Newman 2004)

The need of power is a key
explanation to the definition of ‘new wars’. During the cold war, conflict was
always due to the “struggle of power” (Aston, 2005) “The end of the cold war
meant the reduction of foreign assistance to countries such as Zaire or Somalia
which has been considered strategically important.” (Kaldor, 2005) The root
behind most of the conflicts was the need for power. Kaldor sees ‘new wars’ as
wars which are not international recognised but wars which are locally noticed
and have conflict within the states. These wars can be classified as wars of
race, ethnicity or religion however it’s the hunger of power and identity which
leads to these “new” wars. Even though wars today are based on the need of
power, they still require an identity to pursue that power. For example, the
wars which are based on religion like the Islamist Jihads where they come
together to form an identity for the pursue of power. (Aston, 2005) “An example of how new wars are not
necessarily “new” was the conflict between Christianity and Islam. It has
existed since the death of Mohammed, this has not been a war of identity, but
of power, of who is in control. The fact that there has been a resurgence of
these identities does not mean that they are new or somehow illegitimate
because they have been for many years suppressed by hegemonic forces.” (Aston,

Kaldor believes there are four
differences in wars which were old and new. In previous history of wars, old
wars were fought by the military of the state in war, whereas in new wars
Kaldor suggests that wars are fought by different networks of state and non-
state actors. (Kaldor, 2005) Secondly, the goal of the war. Old wars were
fought in the interest of democracy and socialism whilst new wars are fought
for religious and tribal reasons. New wars try to take lead of the state for a
particular unit rather that to fight for political policies which are in the
interest of the public. (Kaldor, 2005). Thirdly, the method of the wars.

Previously war consisted of the military taking over territories however these
“battles” do not exist as such any more and territory is won or lost by the
means of the population shift. People with a different identity to what is
being tried to achieve lose their ‘home’ and the population moves. This means
civilians are predominantly targeted and war is not fought to eradicate the enemy,
but to displace the population. Lastly, Kaldor suggest that the forms of
finance were different. She stated that Old wars were strongly financed by the tax
income of the state. However, in new wars, especially in weak states finance is
being achieved by the smuggling, or Diaspora support etc. and this is causing
the argument of “distinguishing between those who use the cover of political
violence for economic reasons and those who engage in predatory economic
activities to finance their political cause” (Kaldor, 2005)


In conclusion, new wars have
emerged in the recent decades however all have attributes to wars which have
previously happened as critiques have shown. The characterisation of old and
new wars does not show the transformation of wars over the decades however just
puts certain features into the term “new wars”. The transformation post cold
war and globalisation has led the world today to a power hungry war state where
war is being fought because of the need for power due to globalisation. A “new”
feature of war is communication as in previous wars communication was not
majorly used as a tool of war where as in recent decades communication is used
to spread fear. Mary Kaldor’s theory on new wars suggests that due to the
collapse of communism and the uprising of globalisation “new wars” have emerged
in the recent decades. She also suggests that old wars were fought for
geopolitical reasons and new wars are fought based on culture, tribe and
relgion. However, as Newman suggests the characteristics of what Kaldor states
to be “new” can be seen in wars which have previously happened hence his
argument to say new wars are not in fact “new” (Newman, 2004)