Chapter 7: Conflict resolution in state formation conflicts

General dynamics of state formation conflicts

B. Anderson 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso and M. Kaldor 2006. New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (2nd edition). Cambridge: Polity Press, are two books that have contributed to the discussion on the special character of identity-based conflicts. Anderson builds, for instance, on examples from Southeast Asia, and also focuses on the identity-shaping effects of languages. Kaldor discusses ‘new’ conflicts as those building on ethnic and other identities, often using the experiences of the Balkan wars, to support her theses. It has also given rise to a debate on what is ‘new’: E. Melander, M. Oberg et al. 2009. ‘Are “New Wars” More Atrocious? Battle Intensity, Civilians Killed and Forced Migration Before and After the End of the Cold War’, European Journal of International Relations 15 (3): 505–36. A response is Mary Kaldor 2013. ‘In Defence of New Wars’, Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 2 (1), where ‘newness’ is not the point but the messiness of these wars, their connections to crime and that they are different from the wars of Clausewitz’ understanding of wars stemming from political will.

Solutions of state formation conflicts

S.E. Cornell 2002. ‘Autonomy as a Source of Conflict: Caucasian Conflicts in Theoretical Perspective’, World Politics, 54 (2): 245–76. Cornell makes a critical evaluation of the autonomy arrangements worked out during the Soviet and post-Soviet times in the Caucasus, thus pointing out some of the short-comings of this solution (notably being controlled by regime-critics, creating their own military base).

In the article Ted Robert Gurr 2000. ‘Ethnic Warfare on the Wane’, Foreign Affairs, 79 (3): 52–64, Gurr argues that the international community actually has developed ways of dealing with ethnic conflicts, ranging from the support of minority rights to self-governance. He also sees a largely successful use of such solutions. The significance of decentralization measures is highlighted in an article by Lars-Erik Cederman, Simon Hug, Andreas Schädel, and Julian Wucherpfennig 2015. ‘Territorial Autonomy in the Shadow of Conflict: Too Little, Too Late?’ American Political Science Review, 109 (2): 354–70, although the authors find that such concessions often come too late.

The discussion on a decline in ethnic conflict and measures to deal with them has continued. Patrick Regan and Peter Wallensteen 2013. ‘Federal Institutions, Declarations of Independence and Civil War’, Civil Wars, 15 (3): 261–80 study federalism as a solution to intra-state conflicts about territory, but also point to the dangers of armed conflicts becoming more vicious if such arrangements break apart. In particular, they study the organization of military forces and its centralization as a key factor. Lars-Erik Cederman, Kristian Gleditsch and Julian Wucherpfennig 2017. ‘Predicting the Decline of Ethnic Civil War: Was Gurr Right and for the Right Reasons?’ Journal of Peace Research, 54 (2): 262–74, demonstrate statistically that there is such a decline and that it has to do with the political actions taken.

Since the mid-2010s, there has been a renewed focus on religion as an important dimension of conflicts. This is illustrated not only by the rise of the Islamic State, but also by other theocratically oriented groups. The interconnections between religious and ethnic identities are creatively explored in Isak Svensson and Desirée Nilsson 2022. ‘Capitalizing on Cleavages: Transnational Jihadist Conflicts, Local Fault Lines and Cumulative Extremism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, doi: 10.1080/1057610X.2022.2058350