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76th anniversary of WWII and the contemporary trends of warfare

8th May 2021 marked the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II on the European continent. The 'absolute' war led to the death of nearly 75 million people, which included 20 million troops and more than 40 million unarmed civilians; the majority of the killings can be attributed to genocide, mass atrocities, bombings, diseases, etc. H. G. Wells's famous prediction, nearly a century ago, that the world has witnessed the 'peace to end all peace' lead to the horrors of WWII, proxy wars during the cold war, and presently, violent conflicts increasingly impact civilians disproportionately. Today, the world witness different forms of conflicts, including territorial disputes, civil wars, ethnic divide, terrorist insurgencies, etc.   

In 2021, turbulence is witnessed throughout Eastern Europe; Europe and Russia are poised in conflict over the Donbas and Crimean region of Ukraine. Since 2014, the conflict has resulted in more death of more than 13,200 individuals, with nearly 31,000 injured. Moreover, the Nagorno Karabakh war between the former Soviet Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020 alone claimed the lives of more than 5000 military personals and as many as 143 civilians.  

The Middle Eastern region is also engulfed in Wars; as a part of broader Arab Spring protests, states such as Yemen and Syria are embroiled in deadly civil wars. As of 2021, at least 350,000 individuals have been killed in Syria and 130,000 in Yemen. The proxy wars between regional powers, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, and internationalization of the issue through the involvement of countries, such as Russia, the USA, and China, have spawned the worst humanitarian crises in impoverished Arab nations. 

Moreover, Myanmar witnessed civil unrest in the aftermath of a military coup in February 2020; the number of killed and detained have reached 860 and 5000, respectively. Ethiopia is also involved in conflict over the country's Tigray region, and Israel and Palestine are fighting over Sheikh Jarrah's eviction. In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the outlook of the states remains highly uncertain. Other easily identifiable points of escalation include South China Sea, Korean Peninsula, and the Kashmir issue. 

However, all conflicts do not fit the picture that one may have in mind while thinking of war. For example, Mexican Drug War is not a traditional manifestation of a state-centric and military-dominated paradigm of warfare. The Mexican government is involved in conflict over violent drug trafficking cartels; the war has resulted in the killing of more than 350,000 people, with at least 70,000 internally displaced individuals. 

In the wake of the novel Covid-19 Pandemic, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, has urged for a global ceasefire. He asserted that the deadly virus does not take into account our self-proclaimed divisions on the basis of nationality, religion, or ethnicity; it impacts everyone relentlessly. In the wake of such dangerous circumstances, violent armed conflict ranges globally, with women, children, and the disabled being the most vulnerable. The protracted conflicts and wars have ravaged state institutions, political structures, and health care systems; therefore, it is imperative to enact a global ceasefire to jointly focus against the common non-conventional threats.  

Evolving nature of 21st century conflict- increase in complexities of warfare

In the 21st century, a new war debate has emerged, rendering Clausewitzian notion and traditional state-centric paradigm of security obsolete and short of realizing evolution in the nature of warfare. To understand the nature of contemporary conflicts, it is imperative to comprehend wars in the context of globalization, global interconnectedness, and the evolution of political authorities. The involvement of international media, mercenary troops, international agencies, NGOs, diaspora volunteers, and advancement in military technology has given present-day war a new face (Kaldor, 2012). Therefore, as opposed to the twentieth century, twenty-first-century wars are characterized by the following features: 

  1. Violent exchanges between a group of states and non-state actors; conflicting parties are organized in loose horizontal coalitions instead of military organized with hierarchal structure;
  2. Conflict due to identity politics contrary to ideological clashes or territorial expansion; war is likely to occur under the pretext of ethnicity, religion tribes, etc., 
  3. Attainment of political goals as opposed to physical control of population via fear and terror;
  4. Financing wars through means other than state; includes predatory and exploitative measures.

Breaking up of cultural and socioeconomic divisions due to globalization has redefined patterns of politics underlying contemporary conflicts. In order to deal with contemporary phenomenon rising out of contemporary causes and exhibiting evolutionary characteristics, the twenty-first-century approach to war incorporates a whole spectrum of approaches to conventional warfare. Modern military strategies include information warfare, psychological warfare, economic warfare, cyber warfare, paramilitary operations, and terrorist activities such as ferocity, criminal behavior, and coercion. These multi-dimensional strategies are, for the most part, well-coordinated and systematically directed within the sphere of the battlefield to obtain a collective political advantage in the conflict. 

Ways to curb war related violence in the present day

In the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations was formulated to govern interstate relations and prevent the eruption of violent conflicts. The contemporary nature of threats and their complexities requires bold and imaginative responses, such as

  • Perceiving inter-state relations within the context of globalization, states must enhance their corporation, develop civil society and public sector, and bridge institutional constraints to enable coherence between human rights, politics, and development.
  • States much reach an accommodation between varying parties through reconciliation, mediation, and finding common interests.  
  • Structural causes that ignite the conflict situation must be dealt with, as opposed to operational prevention of the crises. Such an approach involves institutionalization of the system of law, strengthening of non-violent channels, and accommodation of conflicting interests, such as weak democracy, historical grievances, ethnic tensions, etc. 
  • The strategy of normative change must be executed; it calls for the development and institutionalization of formal principles and informal expectations with the intention of formulating a new context for conflict management.

Written By: Olivium's Staff


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