6 July 2014
The Rise of Intrastate Conflict: Why We Can’t Let Down Our Guard Quite Yet
Since World War II ended the world has seen a decline in interstate war and an increase in intrastate war. This change has caused many to feel that we could be in our “safest” era of international politics but, I do not believe this to be the case. While I believe that democratic peace and deterrence will continue to keep interstate conflict to a minimum the new threats involved with intrastate war should not be ignored. In this essay I will discuss the possible reasons behind this current period of interstate peace and furthermore why it does not mean the world has entered the “safest” era of international politics.
Realists would have us believe that war is inevitable and that another interstate war is just a matter of time however, this is not true. If we consider the constructivist view it clear that the meaning that humans bring to objects and ideas such as anarchy shape the way our society views threats. If we as a society were to change our views on the idea of anarchy then the realist theory would fall apart and we could enter a time of peace simply because we would no longer feel threatened. For those who would doubt this claim let me provide a quick example. During the Cold War the United States had certain ideas about communism that created a state of hysteria which is known today as “The Red Scare”. McCarthyism ran wild and our country began a witch hunt of sorts for Communists within America. Knowing this information consider this question: If the word “Communism” had a different meaning within America would it have changed the reaction American citizens had during this period of time? Some may disagree but I believe the overwhelming answer to this question is yes. If American citizens hadn’t felt threatened by the idea of communism then the hysteria wouldn’t have taken hold in the first place. This being said I believe that this time of interstate peace is no accident and I do not believe as some realists would that we will be headed towards more interstate conflict anytime soon.
The decrease in interstate conflict is due to: advancement in military technology, globalization, and the influence of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs). While there are many reasons for our time of peace it is my belief that these three are the most essential. First, the advancement in our military technology has a lot more to it than the development of nuclear weapons. While nuclear weapons have played a key role in deterrence they are not the sole reason behind this period of interstate peace. Instead, we must look at the technology being created by private contractors such as drones and robots. With the technology we have today we no longer have to place real humans on the front line and more importantly we have weapons that are able to collect intelligence. This is the direction we are headed internationally and that means more wars are going to be fought off the battle field. It is almost possible to argue that we are still in a time of war but it isn’t about destroying airports or military bases anymore. Instead it is about acquiring as much Intel on other nations as possible which is leading us to what some would call cyberwar. China has been attacking America through the internet for years trying to hack into our databases and gain information. In this way, maybe we are still in a period of interstate war but maybe the war itself is changing?
Technology is also key in explaining globalization and the way in which citizens around the globe are able to connect with one another easier. This is key in explaining our period of peace because when the globe is as connected as it is today the audience cost of partaking in an interstate conflict could be detrimental especially to a democratic nation such as the United States. Globalization has also contributed to the growing influence in IGOs. While IGOs tend