13 August, 2008

The Future of Conflict in the International System

“A new world order -- can emerge: a new era -- freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.” (George H W Bush)

When the US troupes participated in the Persian Gulf War, George H W Bush, president of the United Nations advocated the need to recognize a ‘New World Order’. Many believed that on these lines a new era of peace will evolve among different superpowers and countries. They will learn from the mistakes of the Cold War and work towards development of mankind. Whereas many believe that the stability provided by the cold war has disappeared long ago and conflict will set in soon.

The state of conflict, tension and competition that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) and their respective allies from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s is referred as the Cold War. Throughout this period, rivalry between the two superpowers was expressed through military coalitions, propaganda, espionage, weapons development, industrial advances, and competitive technological development, for example, the space race.
The Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. With the coming to power of US President Ronald Reagan, the US increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressure on the Soviet Union. Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving the United States the sole superpower in the world.

Contrary to popular belief, the number of armed conflicts has not been rising continuously after the end of the Cold War. It appears that a new pattern of conflict after the Cold War is emerging, with prime emphasis on challenges to existing state authority. Several internationally recognized states have lost de facto control over parts of their territory. This may result in renewed fighting along ethnic and territorial lines if states attempt to restore the previous order - but also in the creation of new states or new forms of state if a negotiated settlement is reached.

The post-Cold War period has witnessed a number of ethnically-informed secessionist movements, ethnic nationality, predominantly within the former communist states. An ethnic war or nationalism comprises of two ethnic groups fighting for their ethnic nationalism. After the cold war, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, both of which were followed by ethnic conflicts that escalated to violence and civil war. Conflicts have involved secessionist movements in the former Yugoslavia, Transnistria in Moldova, Armenians in Azerbaijan, Abkhaz in Georgia and Chechens in the Russian Federation. Ethnic nationalism has sustained criticism because of its use by extremists to advocate racist agendas and genocide, such as the case of Nazi Germany and its extermination of millions of Jews and other ethnic and cultural groups during the Holocaust. More recent acts of violence that used ethnic nationalism as a justification include ethnic cleansing such as the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, and Operation Storm in Croatia in 1995. ‘Bosnia experienced an ethnic slaughter whose savagery replayed some of the worst horrors of the Nazi era.’(Stuart J. Kaufman, p1)

The end of the Cold War has called for new approaches to global, long-range defence planning. Potential sources and types of conflict, even if less dangerous, have become more diverse and less predictable. Meanwhile, the range of missions for military forces has placed increasing emphasis on low-intensity and non-conflict capabilities that were considered marginal in the Cold War. Most important, the nature of global security itself has been redefined: Formerly peripheral challenges such as migration and economic competition, together with the more obvious risks associated with the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), now compete with conventional military rivalries for the attention of policymakers and military leaders attempting to formulate plans for upcoming decades. The nuclear arms race was central to the Cold War. Both America and Russia massively built up their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The world greatly changed when USA exploded the H-bomb in 1952. The Russians produced an H-bomb in 1953. USA produced a bomber - the B52 - that could fly 6,000 miles and deliver a nuclear pay-load. Such a development required massive financial backing from the government - something which America could afford to do and which Russia could not. Russia concentrated on producing bigger bombs - a far more cost effective procedure.

This resulted in many other countries like China to develop H-Bombs. By 1986, it is estimated that throughout the world there were 40,000 nuclear warheads - the equivalent of one million Hiroshima bombs. Confronted by such massive statistics, world leaders had to move to a position where they trusted each other more. But does this help us elude from the fact that the future international relations are affected by nuclear deals. The recent example being that of India who gained increased access to nuclear fuels. The neighbour and long time foe Pakistan has strongly opposed this move. ‘Pakistan has warned that a deal leading to increased Indian access to nuclear fuel could accelerate the atomic arms race between the rivals’, according to a letter obtained on Wednesday by The Associated Press. The feeling distrust and fear reign supreme in international ties between India and Pakistan which is similar to Cold War. The US is still under great socio-economic threat from nuclear terrorism. Not only nuclear, but chemical and biological war fares as well. It is trying hard to improve its effort to protect nuclear-weapon data from foreign intelligence services. As stated in the report of Congressional Research Service, “Many believe that sensitive nuclear weapons information has ‘certainly’ been lost [to] espionage.” The US sees future world powers as probable sources of conflict and long-term planning implications for three regions critical to its interests: Asia, the greater Middle East, and Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The overwhelming majority of modern wars have been conducted using the means of conventional warfare. Cold War is no exception. Conventional warfare is conducted by using conventional military weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the opposing army. It is normally fought using conventional weapons. The Cold war got its name because both Russia and America were afraid of fighting each other directly. They supported conflicts in different parts of the world. They also used words as weapons. They threatened and denounced each other. Or they tried to make each other look foolish. The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the few times that the 'rules' of the Cold War were nearly forgotten. This is one of the few examples of the Cold War where the two principle countries actually got involved against each other. Up to 1962, other nations fought out the Cold War on their behalf (USA + China in Korea; USA + North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War etc.) as each knew that a conflict between the two would have the potential to be horrific. The US was on the brink of invading Cuba as it felt threatened by the missile base which was supported by Russia. But eventually it was evaded.

Global terrorism is another face of Cold war. The terrorist activities are inflicted by groups who are indirectly supported by foe nations. These nations cannot fight openly because of international criticism so they help the terrorist groups to create destruction and damage. Terrorism includes those acts which are intended to create fear, are perpetrated for an ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants. Terrorism is also a form of unconventional warfare and psychological warfare. ‘Like the Cold War, the War on Terrorism is being used to justify a variety of security measures which can potentially cause more harm to Americans than anything the enemy can do.’ (Jo Freeman) Terrorism has been used by a broad array of political organizations in furthering their objectives; both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic, and religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments. There is an intellectual consensus globally, that acts of terrorism should not be accepted under any circumstances. This is reflected in all important conventions including the United Nations counter terrorism strategy, the decisions of the Madrid Conference on terrorism, the Strategic Foresight Group and ALDE Round Tables at the European Parliament.
Future scenarios, both global and regional, indicate that the future conflict in the international system will have broad range of challenges. These will likely include traditional contingencies and humanitarian operation against a variety of threats such as terrorism, missile attack, and information operations. But governments will try to completely avoid any point of conflict among nations and will try to sort it out with peaceful techniques.

The future of conflict in the International system is going to be very different from the era of the Cold War.

George H W Bush (11.09.1990) ‘Towards a new world order’ http://www.sweetliberty.org/issues/war/bushsr.htm
Stuart J. Kaufman, 2001 Modern Hatreds: The symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, Cornell University Press, P 1
The Associated Press http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/07/23/india.pakistan.ap/index.html
Congressional Research Service report, Energy Department Urged to Reform Security Efforts, http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2008_7_29.html#C50EF047
Jo Freeman (24.06.2002) Will the War on Terrorism Follow the Path of the Cold War http://www.jofreeman.com/war/coldwar.html

Parimita Chakravorty

No comments: