"War no longer exists"
- General Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force. "With the distinction between a state of war and a state of peace thus effectively blurred, we are entering a time in which a state of peace can at the same time be a state of emergency."
- Slavoj Žižek, "Are we in a war?"
The past quarter century witnessed the primary terrain of global security shift from the international to the intra- and trans-national. Post-Cold War, mass violence has become development in reverse — the unmaking of sovereignties, economies, and societies. Contemporary mass violence not only poses a direct challenge to the spread of democratic norms, it also calls into question the ability of states and international organizations to use effective military force to uphold humanitarian norms, defeat irregular armies, and rehabilitate collapsed governments. Mass violence also challenges social science; scholars have struggled to keep pace with new dynamics and patterns of armed conflict that appear to defy and transgress existing conceptual schema and traditional levels of analysis.
Though understandings of late warfare have been deeply affected by the international milieu of the 1990s, the global scene has undergone immense changes during the past decade. These changes have yet to be fully appreciated when it comes to the study of mass armed violence, particularly:
- The events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent “war on terror”
- The refinement and attempted codification of the principles and practices of humanitarian intervention under the rubric of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine; and
- The ensemble of global forces converging into a potentially nonlinear and catastrophic environmental breakdown, bringing with it unknowable social, political, and economic ramifications
With these changes in mind, this workshop seeks to accomplish three aims:
- To offer a critical evaluation of the state of the study of armed conflict, particularly after a decade of intensive research within competing paradigms (e.g., New Wars vs Greed/Grievance).
- To assess this literature within these new and changing international contexts, one markedly different from the immediate post-Cold War reality that gave birth to the recent renaissance in the study of “civil wars.”
- Implications for democratic governance and the efficacy of military interventions will be assessed, particularly for those states most tasked with these responsibilities.