In international politics, it is sometimes said that a new order is on the way – or even a new world order. In the spring of 2011, many hoped that the Arab Spring would herald a new and better order in the Middle East, which could also have positive consequences for the rest of the world. In 2014 – with the critical civil war situation in Syria as the most striking example – we see that one order is not always replaced by a new and better one. Upheavals can also lead to chaos and long-term conflict.
- What is a serious armed conflict?
- Where are the most serious conflicts?
- What is the conflict trend?
- What factors promote peace?
In Syria, the death toll in the civil war through 2012 and 2013 has probably risen to more than 130,000 , and frequent episodes in other Arab countries carry reports of deaths, destruction, stagnation, refugees and other things that belong to conflicts.
2: Serious armed conflict – where?
The world’s most serious armed conflicts are found within the black ring (ellipse) in the front page map, namely in
- Africa – from Congo and north
- Middle East
- West Asia
- South Asia
It is in these regions that the conflicts are most numerous, most deadly and devastating. In particular, we find these conflicts in low-income countries in Africa. Measured in the number of deaths and refugees, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan / South Sudan and Egypt are worst off. At the very end of 2013, the Central African Republic has also entered this sad overview.
At the same time, the conflict in South Sudan has escalated into a full-blown civil war. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia have all experienced war for several years. In the last couple of years, the total numbers of conflict victims have risen to a higher level than in a long time. The reason is clear – it is in the civil war in Syria.
As the map shows, close to all the serious conflicts are civil war . This is the typical war of our time , and it has been the situation for a long time. There are hardly any intergovernmental wars anymore. In intergovernmental wars, the war often took place with a formal start and end in the form of declarations of war and a contractual peace agreement. The conflict was also characterized by regular, uniformed armies and by an important distinction between civilians and military and between combatants and prisoners of war. In today’s wars, the distinctions between war and peace and between soldier and civilian are more diffuse .
This article mainly covers only the most serious armed conflicts – especially the number and tendencies for these. Many conflicts therefore fall under the radar of the article. The scope and tendencies in the situation picture for the world’s conflicts may be somewhat different if medium- and low-intensity conflicts are included (see Fig. 1). If this type of conflict were taken into account, as HIIK ( Department of Conflict Research in Heidelberg ) does, the description of the conflict picture would be somewhat gloomier.
Some of these conflicts may escalate to high-intensity conflicts, while others do not – partly as a result of preventive work, mediation or early firefighting, including internationally.
3: Internationalized civil war – outside involvement
As part of globalization , what happens far away often has consequences here – and vice versa. Modern communication makes movements easier than before – both as an opportunity and in time and price. What happens in one country is influenced from the outside, especially from the surrounding region. Although civil war is the typical war of our time, it often has ripple effects for the surrounding countries – even for more distant countries. Keywords: economic downturn, refugees, spread of violence and crime.
According to securitypology, SIPRI (Stockholm peace research institute) then talks about internationalized civil war . Civil war in one country can spread to one or more neighboring countries: In Lebanon, there are clear signs that parties from the civil war in Syria and Lebanese like-minded people see themselves benefiting from expanding the battlefield to Lebanon and attacking the enemy’s allies there. One example is Sunni Muslim groups in Lebanon who are trying to assist Sunni insurgents in Syria by attacking Shiite Muslim groups in Lebanon (eg by bombing raids). Then they send a warning to Lebanese Shiites not to get involved in Syria. There is also international civil war when the terrorist organization al-Shabab in Somalia carries out terrorist attacks in neighboring Kenya.
In any case, many civil wars “produce” refugees ; most flee to neighboring countries, but some also to more distant countries. If the number of refugees from one country becomes sufficiently large, this in turn could lead to tensions in the host country, not least if there are fighters among the refugees. In addition, civil wars often contribute to weakening state power and to increasing the room for maneuver for criminals.
In several civil wars, there are also movements from the outside in – weapons, money or soldiers. Although both triggering and underlying causes lie in one country, supplies from outside will often act as throwing gasoline on the fire. They can cause a conflict to grow far beyond what local resources dictate – thus prolonging and sharpening some local conflicts.
During the Cold War , the superpowers each supplied the United States and the Soviet Union with their local parties / clients. These were then able to fight much longer, harder and more destructively than they otherwise would have been able to do – in proxy wars . The superpowers did not fight directly, but let local parties almost act as their deputies. Well supplied with weapons and money from their respective superpowers.
In the civil war in Syria, it is becoming more and more clear that fighters from outside are actively contributing on each side – it could be jihadists on the rebel side or Hezbollah on the government side. Several thousand such internationalists participate on both sides. Could the war have ended earlier if warriors from outside – internationalists – had been stopped? How would the war have gone without them?
In the case of Syria, there are many who today talk about a regionalization of what began as an internal conflict. External powers in the Middle East – such as Iran and Saudi Arabia – have interests in and support their respective Syrian parties. In this sense, there is a lot about the civil war in Syria that is gradually reminiscent of a proxy war.