Martin Shaw

War and globality: 

the role and character of war in the global transition

From Ho-won Jeong, ed., The New Agenda for Peace Research, Ashgate, 1999, pp. 61-80


Globalization has generally been understood as a set of processes in economy, culture and society. The literature tends to discuss political changes as consequences of globalization (Scholte, 1997). The state, it is commonly argued, is undermined by globalization. War has hardly ever been discussed in the mainstream globalization literature. In the more specialist literature on war and violence, some linkages have been proposed: trends such as the fragmentation of nation-states, transnational linkages of ethnic communities, transnational refugee movements as a result of war, and global markets in weaponry, have been identified as related to globalization (Kaldor, 1997). The debates on globalization and war have not impinged very substantially on each other. A systematic attempt to integrate the understanding of war with global theory is missing.

In this chapter I argue, on the one hand, that globalization cannot be understood without an understanding of the role of war in contemporary history, and on the other, that war cannot be understood today outside the global context. I aim to show what happens when we write war into globalization and globality into war, and vice versa. The argument involves, therefore, a double revision: our ideas about both globalization and war are transformed in the process.

1 The meaning of globality

Although the literal meaning of the word globalization must be to make things global, there has been surprisingly little discussion, in the academic literature on globalization, of what global means. The adjective has even continued to be very widely used synonymously with world, or even international. And although the process of globalization must surely make things more global, the global as a condition, the outcome of the process, has hardly been named - let alone understood. Only recently have writers begun to use the term globality to describe the condition of a globalized world (Albrow, 1996).

What does global mean? How might globality be constituted? The simple answer indicated by the literature seems to be that it represents the breaking down of spatial limits. It is defined, in some accounts, the tendency of social relations to achieve global reach or scope, together with the intensification of such global interconnections due to the compression of relations of time and space (Giddens, 1990; McGrew, 1992: 23). These tendencies are also connected to the increased understanding of the world as a common human environment. Ecological globalists represent human life as part of the planetary system of our globular Earth.

In social science, however, our common humanity remains a concept of social relations. The fundamental social meaning of globality, we might conclude, is the growing tendency of these relations to develop in a common worldwide framework of meaning (Shaw, 1994: 1-28). Increasingly actors frame their actions with reference to a common world society, rather than in a more restricted framework. This marries with the ecological meaning in so far as the physical environment of human society is increasingly understood as both shaped by and shaping this common social context.

What kinds of actions or social relations constitute a global world? Although in principle globality is constituted by social relations in general, a particular understanding of social relations has dominated the literature. Globalization is widely understood to refer primarlily to economic, and secondarily to cultural relations. In global relations, the market rules, and the marketization of cultural relations, through global communication technologies, completes globalism.

Politics is understood, in this dominant account, principally in epiphenomenal terms. Politics does not constitute globalization, but is affected by it. Political forms, above all the nation-state, are understood as being undermined by globalization. An academic critique of globalization will involve showing that economies are not as de-nationalized and nation-states as ineffective as globalizers suggest (Hirst and Thompson, 1995). An alternative politics, in many radical versions, is one of resistance to globalization. War and violence only enter the discussion as instances of what happens when nation-states are weakened by globalizing forces.

Both the globalizers and resisters have bought the myth of the market, while academic critics contest this myth on its own terms - as though market trends could transform the world and weaken states, even if they have not actually done so to the extent that the globalizers posit. This assumption is, however, historically untenable. Market relations have always depended on authority relations and the organization of violence as much as they have determined them (Mann, 1986). State forms have changed partly because changes in patterns of market activity have created new possibilities for mobilizing power. But the ways in which states and other actors have mobilized violence have had enormous effects on the capacity of market actors to produce and sell commodities. This historical perspective is missing for the most part from globalization debates. A balanced, historically-sensitive account of contemporary processes will try to grasp the mutually constitutive and contradictory relationships between state and markets, rather than accepting a one-dimensional notion of marketization.

2 War in the constitution of the global world order

In the second part of this chapter, therefore, I wish to outline a historical account in which state relations and war play a large part in constituting globality. The emergent global world of the twenty-first century is as much a political order as a form of market economy or culture. Like previous forms of world order, it involves new state forms, rather than the negation of such forms in general. Indeed we may go so far as to say that it is the development of new state relations, new relations of violence and new state forms which are defining globality as a distinct epoch.

Some conceptual clarification is in order. By state relations, I mean the social relations in which state institutions are embedded - what would conventionally be seen as relations between state and society rather than between states. By relations of violence, I mean those social relations in which there is large-scale systematic mobilization of physical force - the relations which have historically bounded the centres of state power. By state forms, I mean the institutional forms of state power - the structures not just of individual centres of state power such as nation-states but of the relations between different state forms.

In the early modern period, the growth of market activity within feudal authority relations did not lead directly or simply to the development of capitalism. Transformations of polity both responded to and facilitated the growth of market relations. The main political form which emerged has been understood conventionally to have been the nation-state. In fact, the early modern state form was the state within the European inter-state system, the modern character of which was first defined in the Treaty of Westphalia. This system only gradually acquired a modern national (and hence inter-national) character as the state came to be understood as based socially on the nation.

The high modern state form, the national-and-international state system of the first half of the twentieth century, was thus the result of a long historical transformation. Its development was intertwined with what have been seen as earlier stages of globalization. And the modern European state was imperial as much as, indeed to some extent before it was national. The dominant form within this system was the nation-state empire. Extending the authority of European state centres to non-European territories embedded these states in worldwide social relations. It meant, too, that early forms of world economy were based on forms of world-empire: there were separate imperial worlds, characterized by more or less discrete economic and cultural as well as political relations (Shaw, 1997).

The national-and-international, European-dominated world economy and cultural universe prefigured globalization but it was not, in the contemporary sense, a global world. It is instructive to understand why. It is not because worldwide, transcontinental connections were weak - on the contrary, clearly they were growing, and took the forms of international trade and communication. It is not because boundaries of empires were impermeable - clearly both commerce and culture partially transcended them. It is, however, because the boundaries of these empires, however permeable, were always potentially, and often actually, borders of violence. There were more or less discrete territorial ‘monopolies of legitimate violence’, as Weber (1978: 54) suggested: empires were ‘bordered power containers’ (Giddens, 1985). In such a divided world, globality was still a dream.

Critics of the idea of globalization often argue that the pre-1914 world was characterized by similar levels of international trade, if not cultural interchange, to the contemporary world (Hirst and Thompson, 1995). We see now why they miss the point. The fundamental difference between the pre-global and the globalizing world is not economic, or even cultural, but political. The pre-global world of the late nineteenth century was a divided world of competing nation-state-empires; the emergent global world of the twenty-first century is a world in which political unification has occurred so that territorial boundaries between state jurisdictions are no longer, in many cases, borders of violence. Instead of the violent competition of empires or blocs we have an emergent global authority structure in which nation-statehood, while more universal, is also largely delinked from its historical context of war. Fundamental transformations of state relations, relations of violence and state forms have taken place.

How has a global order emerged, historically, during the twentieth century? Has there simply been a spontaneous growth of commercial and cultural intercourse, so that borders have shrunk in significance? We have only to state this thesis to see see how untenable it is as a summary of twentieth-century world history; we can then begin to place globalization in its historical perspective. On the contrary: in order to move from the imperial order of 1900 to the global world of 2000, the world has had to move through a momentous, violent transition, through a century of world war and cold war.

The nation-state-empire international system led to total war: the extreme marshalling of economy, society and culture by rival national-imperial states, in which autarky threatened to supplant international commerce, and genocide any cosmopolitan culture.

Total war in turn generated the politics of totalitarianism, and the Orwellian spectre of a world completely divided between rival ideological as well as imperial blocs. Only from this extreme manifestation of the national-international world order - from its most destructive and worldwide violence - did the possibility of global order emerge. The worldwide common experience of mass slaughter and victimization, and the worldwide common determination to avoid experiences of the same kind, led to a widely-shared vision of a new world order in 1945, based on the cooperation of nation-states in the new United Nations system. It was the ‘dialectics of war’ (Shaw, 1988) which first thrust to the fore the possibility of globality.

The prospective global world of 1945 was stillborn because of Western-Soviet rivalry. Nevertheless 1945 was the fundamental turning point in the movement towards globality. In a further development of the paradox, the Cold War for all its danger was the political structure in which the infrastructure of globality was nourished. The victory of 1945 abolished the structure of competition between nation-state-empires which was the culmination of the national-international world order. Of the rival empires of the first half of the twentieth century, Austria-Hungary had disintegrated after 1918: now Germany and Japan were fundamentally defeated, and Britain and France, although victorious, were emasculated, and their world systems were transformed into components of a worldwide Western order of independent states. Only the United States and Soviet Russia remained, the new superpower hegemons of a period in which state-blocs replaced nation-state-empires.

In the bloc order, the state forms of the national-international system were largely preserved. Blocs were, formally, alliances of national states, and hence of national societies and cultures. In this sense, the bloc order of the Cold War was still a national-international order. However, while the Soviet bloc was little more than a reconstructed and expanded Russian empire in totalitarian guise, the Western bloc was the incubator of new state relations, relations of violence, and state forms. Within the Western bloc, economy and society were increasingly integrated transnationally. Borders of violence between the major Western states were abolished: relations of violence were transferred to the border with the Soviet bloc and other lessers borders within Third World regions. The state form of the new era was no longer simply the nation-state within the inter-state system. The nation-state now existed only in the context of the panoply of military alliances and international economic institutions which constituted the wider Western conglomerate of state power.

This ‘Western state’ (Shaw 1997) clearly had semi-global functions during the Cold War period. The United Nations system was only partially able to function as a set of global institutions during the Cold War. But some institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which were dominated by the West, had effective global scope. Institutions of the broad West, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and of the narrow West, such as the Group of Seven, largely set the perameters of global economic management. The Western state also dominated the so-called Third World - through the post-colonial linkages of large parts of Asia and Africa with Britain, France and other former imperial powers, as well as the continuing dependence of most of Latin America on the United States. In all these ways, the Western state had a genuine worldwide reach its Soviet rival always lacked.

The world in the Cold War period was dominated, therefore, by a very attenuated form of the national-international order which reached its climax in the Second World War. On the one hand, the results of that war were the emergence of a new bipolar bloc system of military conflict, which can be seen as the final form of the old national-international world order. On the other, however, the world war and the Cold War itself led to the development of much of the superstructure (the UN system) and infrastructure (the Western state) of a global order which would fundamentally transcend the national-international world.

Two general conclusions can be drawn from this discussion. First, state relations can be seen as defining the nature of world order, including the possibility of globality. The old national-international world order was clearly constituted by certain forms of state, the relations of violence and their role in organising national and international society. The world order of the Cold War years could not be seen as a decisive break from the old order because at its centre was the bipolar military conflict of the major state-blocs. Despite all the developments which pushed towards globality, the structures of the Cold War - in society as well as in state forms - inhibited global developments.

Second, just as state relations define world orders, so changes in state relations are necessary to transform these orders. The military, political and social crisis of 1945 represented the first, most important stage in the transition from national-internationality to globality in world order. But it was only a beginning. It required a further transformations of state relations to bring it to fruition. The economic and social movements within Cold War structures could lay the foundations for a global world. Only a further shift in state relations could bring it into existence.

3 Understanding the contemporary global transition

We have two major images of contemporary world transformation. On the one hand, there is globalization, understood as the economic and cultural changes which undermine statehood and borders. On the other, there is the idea of the post-Cold War period, in which big conflicts of major states are replaced by violent but relatively minor fractures of states and societies. These understandings may sometimes be brought together in ad hoc ways, but we have no theoretical framework which enables us to make sense of the entirety of both processes.

This chapter proposes, in the light of the proceeding discussion, that we see the current period as one of transformations which complete the major change in world order begun with the Second World War. In short, bloc-system of the Cold War was a transitional form, between the high national-international order of the first half of the twentieth century and the emergent global order of the twenty-first. The beginning and end of the Cold War transition were marked by the two major military and political crises, that of 1945-47 in which the Cold War emerged from the conclusion of the Second World War, and that of 1989-91 in which global order emerged from the collapse of the Cold War.

It is curious that globalization discussions are usually only contingently related to the end of the Cold War. And yet the simplest reflection will show their linkages: it is no accident that globalization became a dominant theme in the 1990s after the Cold War ended. Although the term globalization, first used in the 1960s, has been in common use since the 1970s and became increasingly connected to the understanding of market liberalization in the 1980s, it is in the 1990s that it has dominated social-scientific and to a considerable extent political debate.

Market liberalization was not sufficient to bring globalization to the fore, or enough to define a global order. Economic and cultural liberalization played their parts in making the end of the Cold War inevitable, undermining the viability of the autonomous economic projects of Soviet-bloc and Third World Communist states as well as their insulation against Western political ideas. However, only changes in military-political state relations could allow globality full scope. It was the collapse of the Soviet state-bloc - which threatened in 1989 to bring down with it the Chinese Communist state - which opened the former Communist world to full involvement in world markets and communications. Globalization in its conventional economic and cultural senses depended on the military and political transition of the end of Cold War.

So how should we understand the current transition? It is clearly not a change of the fundamental socio-economic relations, but a process in which capitalist market relations are intensified and achieve universal scope. It is fundamentally a transition in state relations, with important implications for economy, society and culture - especially in those regions which during the Cold War were removed from full participation in world markets. Globalization is about incorporating more or less the whole world into a single system of authority relations centred on a single set of state institutions. It is, in the terminology of International Relations, a unipolar world, in which a (however imperfectly) integrated raft of Western and United Nations state institutions dominates more or less the entire world society. In this sense, globality is constituted by politics, and globalization is an essentially political transition.

The transition to a global world is complete only in limited senses. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, there is no longer a potentially equal alternative centre of world authority and power. It is unlikely, therefore, that there will be another world crisis of equal significance to the crisis of 1989-91. In other senses, however, it is profoundly incomplete: it has a deeply unfinished, contradictory and unstable character. Global authority relations are formally centred on a fundamentally weak set of institutions, in the UN system, with very limited legitimacy in world society, authority over national centres of state power, and resources and capacities to formulate, let alone enforce, global norms or policies. Global authority depends excessively on the Western state, and indeed on the United States, and is mediated overwhelmingly by the inter- and intra-state politics of the West. Many states outside the West are relatively weakly integrated in global and Western state institutions - and some are weakly embedded in society. Global state relations at the end of the twentieth century represent, manifestly, a relatively weak, unstable and variable framework for global society.

The transition to the twenty-first century is one which remains, therefore, highly problematic. The events of 1989-91 made it possible to envisage a global world in a way which was not fully possible during the Cold War. But these events did not, in themselves, bring a new global world order into anything like full and coherent existence. On the contrary, in this sense the transition has hardly begun. States, it has been suggested, are often ‘institutional messes’. The emergent global state relations and forms of the early twenty-first century are the biggest, but also the messiest set of institutions in world history, and many crises are likely to mark their continued development and consolidation.

4 The role of war in the global transition

There has been a profound transformation in the role of war in the transition from the national-international to the global world order. In the national-international order, the dominant form of war was international, or to be precise inter-state, particularly between the major centres of state power in the world. At the same time, there were important forms intra-state, or civil, war, and a dialectic of inter-state war, revolution and civil war was part of the overall pattern of state relations during this era. During the Cold War period, the major form of war was inter-bloc, but since direct bloc war never became ‘hot’, the secondary forms of war, both inter- and intra-state, were the forms within which bloc conflict was also manifest. Whereas in the early decades of the Cold War period, many important wars were about the dismantling of European empires, later they were more about the rivalries of independent centres of state power and the shape and forms of local states. While most wars had a Cold War aspect, few were simply or predominantly expressions of Cold War rivalries.

The transition to the Cold War thus involved the suppression of the major forms of inter-state war which had produced the catastrophic violence of the first half of the twentieth century. However, many wars were still connected with the decline of the dominant imperial relations of the previous period, as well as resulting from the new state relations of the post-imperial era. Similarly in the contemporary global transition, the end of the Cold War has removed the major danger of war, inter-bloc or superpower conflict. But while it has removed some of the basis of secondary conflicts which were connected with the Cold War, wars have also arisen from the disintegration of Cold War forms.

It is important to emphasize the significance of the end of inter-bloc conflict, since this major gain is too often taken for granted in contemporary debate. However unlikely intercontinental nuclear war was during most of the Cold War period, even the slightest possibility of such a war (and at times there was clearly more than that) imbued the whole world order with the danger of the most catastrophic imaginable war - a sense which became acute in times of crisis. The removal of this threat has created a powerful presumption of peace as the normal basis of global relations. It is also important to emphasize the effects of removing Cold War underpinnings for wars like that between Iran and Iraq, and in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Angola. Although the end of the Cold War by no means resulted in a simple end to these wars - in each situation, new violence arose in the early 1990s - it did reduce some of their supports, and certainly changed their political roles, and may in the longer term be seen as the beginning of pacification.

The 1990s have however been far from the decade of peace which the end of the Cold War seemed to herald. On the contrary, they have seen such a rapid spread and transformation of warfare that the term ‘new wars’ has been used (Kaldor, 1997). The key question for contemporary analysis is how far these wars of the are short-term effects of the transition of 1989-91, and how far they reflect deeper structural characteristics of state relations in the global era. Clearly the collapse of the Soviet and Yugoslav multi-national states in 1991 has spawned a series of wars in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans, some of which continue towards the end of the decade. While these wars have been represented as civil and more precisely inter-ethnic wars, they mostly involve conflicts about which elites shall control which successor states and which territories. They involve exaggerated forms of the general problems of the transition from state-controlled industry to market relations which has occurred throughout the ex-Communist regions. They both generate and mobilize extreme forms of the general criminalization of the economy in these regions.

The post-Soviet and post-Yugoslav wars are not the only ones which can be attributed to the post-Cold War transition. Many late Cold War conflicts have mutated into new wars in the 1990s. The financial and political failure of Iraq in the 1980s war with Iran impelled it into the new wars with Kuwait, as well as with its own Shia and Kurdish populations, in 1990-91. The US-led, UN-sponsored coalition which expelled Iraq from Kuwait itself mobilized both the ex-Cold War armoury of the West and a global-era political alliance with post-Soviet leaders. Cold War-sponsored factions like the Muhejaddin in Afghanistan, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and UNITA in Angola, have fought re-configured wars but have lost out in the new political circumstances - even if the former Soviet-backed regimes in these states have also dissolved or mutated. But the withdrawal of Cold War backing has also precipitated regime collapse which has led to new wars - for example in the disintegration of Somalia.

Although these wars of the 1990s can be seen as ramifications of the collapse of the Cold War and the Communist system, it is far from certain that they can be overcome once a transitional period is gone through. Many of the new states which emerged from the decline of European empires in the 1950s and 1960s have also proved weak and prone to disintegration: indeed it is precisely the acceleratation of this trend in the 1990s which has led to so many new wars. The new wars of Yugoslavia and Central Asia have had their counterparts in West Africa, in Sierra Leone and Liberia, in Central Africa, in Rwanda and the Congo (ex-Zaire), as well as in Angola, Mozambique and the Horn of Africa. Even in South Africa, where the post-apartheid transition resembles at the formal political level the more successful post-Communist transitions, there has been substantial localized violence.

The global transition is thus accompanied by a widespread collapse of local state forms, notably in Africa and the ex-Communist states, which is unlikely to be overcome in the short term. Although the global transition has involved a widespread democratization - not only in ex-Communist states but in Latin America, Asia and Africa - as Cold War supports for authoritarian regimes are removed, this process has been problematic. Even if consolidated democratic states are less likely to go to war, transitional democracies, in which elites seek new ethnic-nationalist legitimacy, may often generate violent mobilizations.

This is not only a problem of relatively minor states in the Balkans or Africa.The global transition also leaves, at the end of the twentieth century, very substantial areas in which strong, more or less classical nation-states are relatively weakly embedded both in global and regional integration processes and in stable national social and political structures. Not only in the Middle East, but throughout Asia, even in huge states like China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, national political forms and inter-state relations may still interact in ways which have classically produced major wars. Many states in the Middle East and Asia have large military forces and nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, raising the prospect of further major wars - more like the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War than some of the smaller localized conflicts of recent times.

Instabilities of state forms, both in relations of state and society and relations between states, still pose therefore the dangers of war - even major war - in the twenty-first century. The difference from the recent past is that whereas local or regional wars were then seen as dangers to the stability of the Cold War system, they are now seen as threats to global order. From wars of state disintegration and genocide to inter-state conflicts, war represents a problem of the viability of globality. The emergent global order assumes a coherence of authority relations from the local and sub-national level, through national authority, to regional and world-level structures. To the centre of the global power structure - the Western-UN state institutions - both inter- and intra-state instabilities represent weaknesses in the system of authority relations which render global relations problematic. Both the possibilities of unfettered commercial relations and the global norms of human rights are threatened by the violent breakdown of authority. This breakdown requires, therefore, global responses.

The paradox of the current phase of the global transition is that while the necessity of such responses is increasingly seen as inevitable, there remains enormous uncertainty about them. Western state leaders have not chosen global leadership: it has been thrust upon them by their own relative success, by the succession of crises in which problems have presented themselves, and by the pressures of media and civil society (Shaw, 1996). Western state leaders remain most concerned with their national constituencies. They are reluctant to invest national resources, personnel and authority in any radical way in global institutions. These institutions, moreover, remain based on nation-states, and many non-Western states are even more conservative, seeing in extensions of global authority and power threats to their own autonomy and sovereignty in relations with society.

5 Degenerate war and global policing

These changes in the role of war are also related to transformations in the character of war. In the era of national and international relations, war was understood primarily as a rational policy-oriented action of states: the continuation of policy by other means, as Clausewitz (1976) famously defined it. The interpretation of this dictum (in both strategic and Marxist orthodoxies) has often been extremely one-sided, emphasizing state rationality and neglecting the implications of the violence of war. It was this logic of the ‘other means’ which Clausewitz elaborated elsewhere in his volume (Howard, 1981). He wrote in the aftermath of the wars of revolutionary nationalism which marked the emergence of ‘the people’ as military actors - indeed he saw them as responsible for the violence of modern warfare. His concept of absolute war anticipated the modern totalization of violence, but he wrote before the twentieth-century synthesis of nation-state mobilization and destructive capacity.

War in the national-international era could not be understood, therefore, in purely Clausewitzian terms. The new form of war was the synthesis of state, nation and industrial society (Shaw, 1988). From the seventeeth century onwards, military discipline had anticipated industrial discipline. But from the middle of the nineteenth century, war-preparation harnessed the new industrial technologies of manufacturing, transport and communications. At the same time, the mass conscript army, first seen in revolutionary France, became the norm of nation-state mobilization. In the late nineteenth century, the industrialization of war was organized in what were later called military-industrial complexes, industrial sectors underwritten by states and protected from market fluctuations (MacNeill, 1982). At the same time, the emergence of mass politics and mass media led to the classical mass militarism of patriotic mobilization and propaganda.

The result of these nineteenth-century changes was not merely to remove many earlier constraints on absolute violence - the ‘friction’ of which Clausewitz had written - but to develop a social infrastructure for mass killing which would not merely transform war but engulf society. The new ‘mode of warfare’ (Kaldor, 1982) was total war - total not merely in the violence between its protaganists, but in its mobilization of economy and society and its murderous towards civilian populations. Total war involved dynamic relationships between state and society (Shaw, 1988). Mobilizing economy and society for total war, nation-states first transformed them into semi-autarchic war-machines, then made them targets for other states’ industrialized violence. In the 1939-45 culmination of the national-international system of total war, war became doubly genocidal - as an outcome of both strategic choices (Allied area bombing) and political ideology (the Nazi and Soviet extermination of minorities).

This total mode of warfare underwent a double transformation in the Cold War, nuclear age. On the one hand, the refinement of the capacity for instantaneous destruction represented the possibility of and unhampered realization of the trend towards absolute war. In this sense the totalization of war was extended. On the other, the ability of states to develop this capacity without mass mobilization meant that they increasingly relied on relatively small, professional militaries and technologically sophisticated workforces. On the mobilization side, totalization was diminished: in line with this trend, major features of the total war era such as state control of economies, political totalitarianism and conscription all went out of fashion. Western society in the Cold War period had a paradoxical relationship to war - on the one hand, it was absolutely threatened by its awesomely enhanced killing capacity, but on the other, it was demobilized and became in many senses post-military (Shaw, 1991).

The paradox of the mode of warfare in the second half of the twentieth century is summed up by the fact that the principal form of violence was cold war - planned but not fought, ‘imaginary war’ (Kaldor, 1991). The dominant understanding of war as a rational means for states was located within this mental universe, even to the extent that it neglected the hot wars which were actually being fought. These wars, like the wars of the national-international era as a whole, were both inter- and intra-state. Although the conventional thought of this era, continued during the Cold War, maintained that inter-state and civil wars were were distinct types of war, warfare throughout the era crossed this boundary. From revolution to civil war to international war, and vice versa, was often the circuit of violence. Guerilla warfare - in its mid-twentieth-century forms clearly a variant of total war - was both a form of revolutionary violence and an element of inter-state war. While some major wars - from Korea to Iran-Iraq - resembled the conventional struggles of the total-war period, in others - like Vietnam - unconventional violence played a major part (as of course it did in many places in 1939-45). The hot wars of the Cold War period continued the trend of the world wars towards a greater ratio of civilian to military casualties.

Despite many precedents and continuities, the sort of wars which are being fought in the global transition represent further, important shifts from these dominant models of the national-international era. The rational use of war as a means of inter-state conflict was rendered problematic by the advent of weapons of mass destruction, and has now become (more or less) anachronistic. With the near-completion of decolonization and the collapse of Communist politics, wars of national liberation and revolutionary transformation have become less and less viable. Inter-state war is increasingly the resort of rogue states - typified by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which has initiated both the most serious wars of the last twenty years and is among the most determined in its development of weapons of mass destruction. (However there remain many powerful states with the capacity to wage war on a terrifying scale, and it would be premature to rule out further devastating inter-state wars.)

While many wars of the 1990s have had inter-state aspects, there has been an increasing tendency for wars to be primarily campaigns of violence against civilians, waged by parties, groups and elements of decomposing state apparatuses, often in the name of ethnic or tribal groups. Nazism is the closest model for the new warfare in the old canon. The definition of the Jews - a civilian population of city, town and village-dwellers spread across central and eastern Europe - as an enemy appeared irrational by the then standards of conventional inter-state war. By the standards of contemporary warfare, however, it is almost a rational model - if only in the sense that like conventional war aims, it was a goal pursued methodically by a large centralized state apparatus.

In the early global era, genocide has become almost universal, but it has been a more localized practice of much more variegated groups - a do-it-yourself genocide of paramilitaries, bandits and vigilantes as well as regular units, embedded in networks of corruption, black marketeering, protection rackets, arms and drug trafficking. While overall direction and rationalizations have not been lacking - often high political authorities have initiated mass killings - implementation has often been more haphazard and decentralized. If participants act rationally, it is often not principally in terms of a centralized master-plan, as in terms of local and individual projects of self-aggrandizement, revenge, etc.

Contemporary warfare therefore involves degenerate forms of the models of war which applied in the national-international era. States no longer fight each other in all-out conflicts, but support, often indirectly, genocide against civilians in their own or neighbouring territories. States no longer mobilize national economies and societies - wars arise from the disintegration of such national frameworks, with centralized authorities no longer able to raise taxes and armies. Regular armed forces are in decay, often supplemented by paramilitaries, local self-defence units and foreign mercenaries. Weaponry is small-scale but may be high-tech. This form of warfare borrows from both the guerilla warfare and the counter-insurgency of the former period, but the warring groups seek population displacement rather than territorial control. Instead of instituting an ideologically conceived programme of social change, they claim ‘democratic’ legitimacy based on identity - by forcibly achieving a homogenous population. The displaced populations swell the growing encampments of refugees in neighbouring territories.

Degenerate warfare does not produce or mobilize so much as trade, loot and steal. As Kaldor (1997, 1998) shows, domestic production typically collapses in zones of war, with some exceptions of particularly lucrative primary products such as drugs or precious metals which are protected. Local asset transfer, in which urban middle classes especially are forced by inflation and shortages to dispose of valuable property and goods at knock-down prices in order to buy necessities, is one legal way in which war is financed. But local requisitions are rarely sufficient. External aid of various kinds - from remittances from overseas workers and aid from diaspora communities to support from state sponsors and taxing or looting of humanitarian aid - is essential to the prosecution of degenerate war. The circle is completed by the transformations of military production, now increasingly organized in a competitive global market for weaponry.

Corresponding to the forms of degenerate war are transformations in the forms of military activity originating in the pacified world, especially the West. The main real military function of the state becomes what is described as peacekeeping or peace-enforcement, although these are misnomers since often, in the new wars, peace has not been established before UN or Western forces become involved. In reality, what is involved is global policing, or what Kaldor (1998) calls ‘cosmopolitan law-enforcement’ - the enforcement of globally legitimate norms in general and international law in particular.

Military institutions in the West and elsewhere have hardly adjusted to these new roles. Mostly they still employ modified versions of the resources and doctrines they developed in the Cold War. To some extent, the exigencies of the emerging global order have reinforced tendencies, like the movement away from conscription, which were established in the Cold War. In other respects, they profoundly challenge the doctrines, priorities and status hierarchies of the military. The emphasis on large-scale, sophisticated weapon-systems - epitomized by nuclear weapons - is anachronistic, and can only be justified by an extension of ‘imaginary war’ thinking even further from reality. The role of air power in general, although not completely outmoded, is rendered very problematic in responding to often complex localized political situations. An emphasis on politics, negotiation and understanding is at a premium, and has led one military sociologist to see the ‘soldier-scholar’ as the archetype of the new officer (Moskos, 1992).


In this new kind of soldiering, the historically dominant forms of masculinity are also redundant, and taboos against women and homosexuals are not so easily maintained. The traditional culture of the military already lost its wider social dominance in the West during the Cold War - when ‘armament culture’ (Luckham, 1984) and ‘spectator sport militarism’ (Mann, 1986) replaced traditional mass-participation militarism. Now traditional military culture is increasingly questioned within the military, too, as the institution adapts to new roles.

6 Towards warless globality?

The contemporary world is in the early stages of the development of a global order. The old national-international world political order has undergone a fundamental transformation at its core. In the pacified West, national and international state institutions are components of a huge conglomerate of state power, increasingly institutionalized in forms which claim global as well as regional legitimacy. These global state forms are embedded in networks of economic, social and cultural power which partially embrace all areas of the world. At the same time, in some regions outside the Western core of North America, Western Europe and Japan, both inter-state war (notably in the Middle East) and genocidal wars of state fragmentation (notably in Africa, the ex-Soviet region and the Balkans) remain major dangers. They threaten not only people in the zones of warfare, but the stability and security of the emerging global order.

Extending pacification from the broad West to the remainder of the non-Western world - no less a project than the abolition of war - is essential to a stable globality. Clearly it is a complex and long-term task, and involves extending all the transformations of world order which have been involved in global developments to date. Most fundamentally, it involves the expansion of the density, coherence and legitimacy of global state institutions. The task is to consolidate a robust framework of democratic global authority relations which are accepted by state institutions, social groups of all kinds and individuals across the world. Clearly this goal implies transformations of local state forms, the consolidation of national and local democracy as a corollary of the extension of democracy at regional and global levels.

This transformation in turn requires social and economic changes. As the European Union recognizes in its incorporation of new member-states, common standards of economic development, political culture and human rights are necessary to embed common authority structures. In order to achieve such standards, common resources must be devoted to economic, social and political reform in the applicant states. In the global political framework, similar considerations apply in principle. Given that this framework is not only larger but looser, with vast discrepancies of economic and social conditions as well as political regime, the task is far more serious. Nevertheless, given that almost all state units are members of the United Nations, and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to all individuals within these states, the global framework exists in outline form. The task is to extend and deepen this framework, to embed it in a greater commonality of economic, social, cultural and political institutions, and to develop institutions and means of implementing global authority.

Inevitably, this will involve devoting the resources of the wealthier centres of society and state power not only to the problems of the poorer and weaker areas but to the development of global institutions themselves. Among the activities in need of development is that of war-management, in which new institutions and techniques could prevent and control conflict. But overall, it is far more important to the aim of controlling war that global economic, social and above all political institutions should be developed. The massive resources devoted by major states to arms and soldiers should be devoted in part to new forms of global policing, law-enforcement and war-management, but in larger part they need to be diverted to non-military uses - to global political as well as socio-economic development.

Clearly the major paradox of the emerging global order is the reluctance of its leaders to assume their responsibilities, to grasp the necessity and possibility of transformation. Global leadership remains embedded in the national politics of small horizons. In the first decade of the global transition, what stands out is the reactive mode of global institutional development and the tardiness and poverty of responses to crises of global authority. It is almost certain that in the coming decades, global transformation will continue to be conditioned by crisis. In all probability, only further major challenges to global order will compel the kinds of radical changes necessary to construct stable authority relations. Only through dealing with the degenerate war of the early global age are we likely to reach a mature globality in which war as a major form of social action is finally overcome.

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I have benefitted greatly from reading drafts of Mary Kaldor’s book, New and Old Wars, and am indebted to much of her analysis in the later sections of this article.


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