The debate over whether or not there is anything new about the new wars is prevalent. Different writers and literature take various stands on the subject with some agreeing that there is indeed something new about the new wars, while others disagree. Writers like Newnan say the differences are overrated and are often generalizations about civil wars while others like Kaldor, and Munkler point to various features like funding, actors, and tactics that distinguish old wars from new wars. Deciding whether there is anything new about the new wars depends on what it is in relation to, that is what it is being compared to. Take for instance, Mary Kaldor in her book "new and old civil wars" she compares new wars, which are generally considered civil and intrastate to old and classical wars like the world wars, which were interstate wars. Newnan, Kalyvas and others on the other hand compare new civil wars to old civil ones. The purpose of this paper is to show that depending on what is considered new wars and what it is being compared to; the answer to the question differs. Therefore, some features such as (funding and tacticts) can and should be considered new about new wars while other features (like participants) are not so new. Considering these various factors and different views, I will show how certain things about new wars can be new and also not considered new depending on point of consideration and how others are not new. This paper will first consider new wars from the point of civil intrastate wars in relation to old interstate wars (interstate being old wars while intrastate represents new wars). It then goes on to consider it from the point of "old" civil wars: that is those occurring before and during the early early 20th century as "old wars" in relation to "new" civil wars: those that occurred from the late 20th century onwards as "new wars".
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According to Munkler (2005:16), 'the new wars should be defined first of all in contrast to classical inter-state wars and that what is new and distinctive about them should be analyzed within that framework'. Going from this point, what then is war? It is 'an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will' (Clausewitz 1976:75). This is what is considered the classical war (also referred to as old wars in the sense of interstate wars) under this definition, it is concluded that "our" refers to a collective body, a state. Therefore, war 'in the Clausewitzean definition, is war between states for a definable political end i.e. state interest' (Kaldor, 2001:15).She goes on to describe "new wars" as organized violence, which commonly comes in the form of civil wars and terrorism. Considering civil intrastate wars (new wars) as the new and common mode of warfare as opposed to the interstate old wars like both world wars, allows for elements that are considered new in relation to the new wars to be developed and apparent. For instance, different state bodies organized old wars. It was one nation against another. The new wars however are mostly intrastate wars within a nation with external parties often aiding them along. A good example is the 1976 civil war in Mozambique that was supported by South Africa in attempts to destabilize the Frelimo regime, which opposed apartheid (Discussed in Turshen 2001). In the new wars, groups within a nation oppose one another or the state body. It is often conflict between different ethnic groups within a nation. For instance, the Nigerian Biafra war where the Igbo ethnic group tried to secede from the country leading to a civil war (Golbalsecurity.org), or based on different religious beliefs and ideals coupled with struggle for political power.
New wars (intrastate wars) in relation to old (interstate) wars lacks well defined war periods in the sense that war was declared before it commenced in old wars (Munkler 2005). Old wars'therefore had a precise definition in time, beginning with the declaration of warâ€¦it is this model of interstate conflict which essentially shapes our idea of war: that is, a contest between soldiers' (Munkler 2005:11-12). New wars however often show a different pattern where the distinction between factors that distinguished wartime from peacetime in the old wars is blurred; this blurring of conflict periods is considered a new feature of the new wars (intrastate wars i.e. civil wars in general). The various distinctive factors discussed by Kaldor (2001) as the elements that defined wartime during the eighteenth century are often ignored during new wars. The distinction between public and private is blurred in the sense that in the new wars, people are attacked in their own homes and communities for lack of designated battlefields and battles flare up and could take place anywhere. The most important distinction; the distinction between civil and military, is often completely ignored in new wars with most of the conflicts occurring between militant civilian groups. The idea that war should be between state actors is also not a rule often adhered to by the new wars, which involve both state and non-state actors. These clear-cut differences between factors involved in the old inter-state wars are the exact opposite of the new wars (intrastate).
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The new kind of war is characterized with identity politics (Kaldor 2001). This means in new wars it is about what you identify with, what group, beliefs, and traditions. The new war is about power, it is a fight to gain power based on personal identities 'in contrast to the geo-political or ideological goals of earlier wars' (Kaldor 2001:6). Take for instance the Rwandan case where civil war was started based on ethnic identities and struggle over political position and power between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups (discussed in Caplan 2007). They are often 'less principled in political terms, less focused on the attainment of some political ideal' (Snow 1996 in Newman 2004:177).
Also new to the prevalent new mode of warfare (civil wars or intrastate wars) is the type of war economy. The new war economy has become globalized and decentralized (Kaldor 2001). According to Newman (2004:179),
the environment [is] characterized by the collapse of the formal economy and public authority, and the exploitation of this by organized criminal groups. Conflicts in Burundi, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Liberia, Congo, and Angola, among others, reflected some degree of these factors in the 1990s.
In the new wars, the economies of the country are degenerated because of conflict, which slows down production. This is because the war is often in a country and not outside of it. Therefore, the economy of countries experiencing conflict in the form of new wars takes hits that affect their economy more directly. Because of this, they become reliant on external factors: countries donating aids, arms and weapons or even tactics. The war economy becomes one based on the perpetuation of robbery (needed to continue financing the war) and violence to instill fear in the hearts of the people. (Munkler 2005)
Also to be considered a new feature of the new wars in terms of intrastate war (new war) in relation to interstate wars (old wars) is the source and method of funding. The funds and aids for the new kind of war come from outside party support and little form the government itself. Rebels and non-state actors of the war get funds from external parties in the form of 'remittances from the diaspora, 'taxation' of humanitarian assistance, support from neighboring governments or illegal trade in arms, drugs or valuable commodities such as oil and diamonds' (Kaldor 2001:9) while also plundering and looting to fund their war activities. The old wars were state funded, with the states in combat funding their own soldiers. In instances where they received help from outside sources and other countries, it was in the form of soldiers from alliances like those during the cold war. They did not usually come in forms of weapons and funds from antagonistic rival states to insurgency groups within a state. This can be seen in the case of Sudan aiding and supporting the LRA rebel group in Uganda (Discussed in International Crisis Group 2004).
The participants and victims of the new wars from the point of intrastate in relation to interstate (old) wars are also a new type. They now include non-state actors versus state actors. It is the military and police force against civilians and not other military forces. The actors mostly involve rebels and their gangs, local warlords, child soldiers and often times mercenaries against themselves, civilians, the police and military forces with little or no support from the public at large. Thus, 'the deliberate targeting and forcible displacement of civilians as a primary objective of violence' (Newman 2004:168) characterize new wars. New wars as Kalyvas (2001) points out are different from the old ones because they are fueled by the idea of loot, lack public support, and involve extreme violence. Kalyavas (2001:102) also notes that 'old civil wars were motivated by broad, well-defined, clearly articulated, universalistic, ideologies of social change, whereas, new civil wars tend to be motivated by concerns that often boil down to little more than simple private gain'. In the new wars, most of the casualties are attributed to civilians as opposed to the military. This is because the new wars are fought not against other military groups as pointed out earlier but against civil state members. According to Munkler (2005) majority of the victims of new warfare are civilian (80%) and only a few military men (20%).
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The tactics employed in the new wars are also new to warfare in relation to the distinction between interstate wars ('old wars") and intrastate wars (new wars). The new wars tactic to warfare draws on the experience of both guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency' (Kaldor 2001:7). The strategies employed by the new wars are a series of hide and seek attack, and retreat games. Actual confrontation with the opposing force is avoided with the combatants attacking each other from points of considerable advantage. With the use of the guerrilla tactic, a major battle putting an end to the conflict does not occur. The old wars however involved actual confrontations in the form of battles with winners and losers and designated battle grounds (Munkler 2005), 'the new wars lack what characterised the interstate wars: the decisive battle' (Munkler, 2005:12).This decisive battle often precedes the end of interstate wars and was considered the center of gravity of the conflict (Clausewitz 1976). Clausewitz (1976:260) stresses the importance of a battle in his book "On War" by saying that: 'our conviction that only a great battle can produce a major decision is founded not on an abstract concept of war alone, but also on experience. Since time began, only great victories have paved the way for great results.' The lack of a decisive battle allows civil wars to go on for long periods of time (Uganda's war lasted for over 18 years) and more difficult to bring to an end. Also, unlike old wars which are ended with peace agreements, the end of new wars are marked through peace processes (Munkler 2005) and are evident 'when the overwhelming majority of people behave as if there were peace, and have the capacity overtime to compel the minority to behave in that way too' (Munkler 2005:13).
These distinctions are all valid and constitute new as it is being analyzed in the context of civil intrastate wars being the new and common mode of warfare. That is intrastate wars have somewhat replaced interstate wars and are the prevalent modes of warfare seen in recent years. However, the distinctions and attributes considered new become somewhat flawed when new wars are put in the context of "new "civil wars( those from the latter part of the 20th century onwards as new wars) and are related to "old" civil wars (those occurring up to the early part of the 20th century as old wars). From this point of view (Kalyvas 2001), new wars are not considered civil wars in general but have been broken down further in such a way that "new wars" represent new civil wars that were fought post-Cold War era from the latter part of the twentieth century onwards. While "old wars" represent civil wars fought before and during the cold war era (from this point on, "new wars" refer to new civil wars and "old wars" to old civil wars unless otherwise stated). In this context, it becomes more an issue of intensity and prevalence rather than "newness". As Newman(2004:179) points out 'it is important to determine what is genuine departure or change from the past, whether some of the characteristics of 'new wars' are more an issue of degree than of kindâ€¦albeit with fluctuationsâ€¦due to the nature of specific conflicts'.
Civil wars involve the same concept regardless of era in which it occurred, they 'are intrastate conflicts over power and rule that are settled by violent means' (Munkler 2005:23) and as Madame de Stal observes in Kalyvas (2001:114-115) ' "all civil wars are more or less similar in their atrocity,[and] in the upheaval in which they throw men" '. Take for instance the participants of the new wars (in terms of intrastate wars being "new wars" versus interstate wars being "old wars") that were considered new would not be considered so when put in the context of old civil wars :that occurred before and up to the early twentieth century like the Nigerian Biafra war (as old wars) in relation to new civil wars occurring from the latter part of the twentieth century and onwards (as new wars). The idea of child soldiers is not a new concept to civil war itself. Old wars like that of the American civil war (Discussed in Ronsen 2005) often included child soldiers who enlisted voluntarily into the army, 'historical analysis suggests that between 250,000 to 420,00 boy soldiersâ€¦served in the[American civil war] union and confederate armies' (Ronsen 2005:5). Child soldiers defined as 'any persons under eighteen years of age who is recruited or used by an army or armed group' (Ronsen 2005: 3) are an increasingly more apparent attribute of the "new" civil wars rather than an entirely new concept. Human right activities and the media have just drawn more attention to it in recent years (Ronsen 2005). Many of the recent African wars like the genocide in Rwanda and the war in Sierra Leone (discussed in Ronsen 2005), Sudan, and Mozambique have included the abduction and training of kids to become weapons of destruction and violence. According to Honwana (2006:11) '(b)etween 8,000 and 10,000 children in Mozambique participated in the conflicts as soldiers, most fighting with RENAMO [the Mozambique national resistance group that fought for independence]'.During the war in Angola, about a million children were involved in the war as both victims and soldiers. (Honwana 2006).
Also the idea that in new wars (civil intrastate wars in general replacing interstate war as the now common type of war), the specific targeting of civilians as victims is a new feature will not suffice in the context of "new" civil war (as new wars) in comparison to "old" civil wars (as old wars). Newman (2004:182) states that 'one couldâ€¦ argue that conflict has become more limited in terms of its civilian death tollâ€¦since the end of Cold War', he supports his claim by stating that various post-colonial conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East resulted in large numbers of civilian losses in comparison to recent civilian death tolls. Considering the fact that civil wars are internal, it is almost inevitable for civilians to get caught in the cross fires, so deeming civilian death and victimization new, is somewhat superficial. Rosen (2005) notes that all wars involve some sort of civilian casualties and given the nature of civil wars in particular, they often result in high civilian fatalities. Basically, be it civil wars occurring before and up to the early 20th century or those that have occurred since then, civilians will seem targeted, however, this may not always be the issue because each civil war case and circumstance differs.
Warlords, which are considered a new characteristic of the new wars under the context of intrastate and interstate wars, would not be regarded as new features in the "new" civil war (new wars) and "old" civil war (old war) context. Warlords are people who organize racketeering in a society experiencing civil unrest. A warlord by definition '"refers to the leader of an armed band, possibly numbering up to several thousand fighters, who can hold territory locally and at the same time act financially and politically in the international system without interference from the state in which he is based"' (Duffield 1997 in McKinlay, 2000:48). McKinaly (2000) draws a parallel between new wars warlords, the barons of European states and Chinese warlords with the exception being that barons and Chinese warlords had a responsibility to protect the civil society, a responsibility they fulfilled when the need arose. The modern warlords however, with all their plundering and atrocities often have a negative effect on the civil society and more often than not, have no social responsibility to the community. Their victims were members of the society; they stole from them, recruited from them and oppressed them. Warlords used refugee camps as their stock room both for resources to enhance their roles as crime warlords like foodstuffs to sell and sustain themselves and to increase their fighting force by recruiting refugees from the camps into their armies (Munkler 2005). Warlords have played a major role in ensuring the continuation of new wars (civil wars in general) because of the benefits they derive from the chaos of war and looting that accompanies it. Regardless of the slight difference in roles between war lords that existed in "old" civil wars and those existing in "new" civil wars, the point remains they have always existed and are therefore not a new feature.
New wars in the context of "new" civil war and "old" civil wars as shown above mostly has little or nothing new about it, however degree and prevalence of certain new war factors are different and more obvious than they used to be as does the use of their techniques. The underlying fundamentals of civil wars remain the same. That is, it is war within a nation, involving or targeting civilians depending on the circumstances surrounding the conflict. The answer to the question "is there anything new about new wars" in this context leans to the negative side. There is very little to show that there is in fact anything new about new wars. However, answering the question of whether there is anything new about new wars in the context of civil "intrastate" wars being the new and common mode of warfare (regardless of when it occurred before or during the 20th century) yields a response that is definitely leaning towards the positive side. As discussed above, in this context various elements of warfare are considered new starting from funding to the involvement of state and non-state actors, and most importantly that the new wars are mostly intrastate wars as opposed to wars between states.