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Differences Between ‘Old Wars’ and ‘New Wars’.


According to Merriam-Webster, war is a state of actual and proclaimed armed hostile confrontation between powers or countries. There are several reasons why countries go to war. When the advantages of war exceed the downsides, and when there is no alternative option that can be agreed upon by both sides, it has been suggested that a country will go to war. Specifically, some claim that wars are waged for financial, religious, and political purposes. Others have argued that today’s conflicts are mostly motivated by ideology. Most nations’ legislatures have the legal authority to declare war; but presidents are the military’s commander-in-chief, thus they have the authority to carry out war after it has been announced. Many times, presidents have deployed military action without making a formal declaration of war. An example of an undeclared war was the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003.

St Thomas Aquinas pioneered the Just War philosophy. The idea established criteria for determining whether or not a war should be launched, whether it could be defended, and how it is to be fought. For the sake of Christian morality, they strove to justify war and harmonize to ensure it is consistent with the Christian belief that murdering people is wrong. As defined by Thomas Aquinas, a war must be rational both in terms of the reasons for going to war and the manner in which the war is conducted. When war is proclaimed by an authorized authority, it is legitimate to fight it for a good cause and with reasonable intentions; otherwise, it is not legitimate to wage it. The suitable authority is a proper, controlling power. It is not a judicial authority. A “just reason” might comprise everything from self-defense to retaliation against injustice. “Just motives” imply that the battle should not be undertaken for personal gain, but rather for justice or the greater good. Aside from that, there must be a fair probability of success; the benefit that will be accomplished must exceed the harm, and war must be considered as a very last alternative (Langan 1984). Once reasonable motives for war are met, war behavior must also be just. In a conflict, just behavior implies particular and proportionate. Unarmed civilians should not be targeted. Also, only required force must be employed, and injury must be appropriate to the aim (National Geographic Society 2020).

The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is designed to preserve some degree of humanity in armed situations by saving lives and minimizing pain. When it comes to fighting conflicts, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) emphasizes two goals: weakening the opponent and minimizing human suffering. The laws of war apply to all conflicts, regardless of location or time. All 196 countries have accepted the Geneva Conventions, which form the foundation of International Law. IHL must be respected by all combatants in a conflict, including government and non-state armed organizations. There are repercussions for breaking the laws of war. States and international tribunals chronicle and probe war crimes. Those who commit war crimes may face criminal charges against them (International Committe of the Red Cross 2016).

The world has witnessed many wars in history. This essay aims at discussing the differences between ‘old wars’ and ‘new wars’. ‘New wars’ refer to conflicts that took place after the end of the Cold War, so conflicts before the end of the Cold War can be referred to as the ‘old wars. To differentiate ‘old’ and ‘new’ wars, the research considers the following factors: the legitimate authority, goals of the war, source of funds for the war, the participants in the war, rules of war, and the distinction between allowed violence criminal violence.

First, the legitimate authority in ‘old wars’ was the nations. The conflicts were fought mostly between nations or between states and nations. The Falklands War was a classic example of a long-running conflict, in that it included two legal governments, Argentina and the United Kingdom, who were both parties in the fight (Mulvaney 2022). Additionally, in both the First and Second World Wars, the only combatants were legitimately constituted states. Contrastingly, ‘New wars’ are rage inside states. They include civil wars, regional-internal warfare, and inter-communal wars. Civil wars are fought between the authority of a nation and a non-state entity, while regional-internal wars are fought between the government of a regional sub-unit and a non-state entity, and inter-communal wars are fought between/between two or more non-state entities within a state. All three conceptions are viewed as largely internal battles, even though their definitions vary (Reyes 2019).

Secondly, on the purpose of the war, many old wars were fought for territorial conflicts, land disputes, natural resource issues, and questions of national identity. When the combatants went to fight in this setting, their objectives were crystal plain and evident. As an example, in the Falkland Islands War, the aim was to capture the Falkland Islands, together with the neighboring countries of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Liffiton 2016). As opposed to other cases, the purpose in this instance was anchored in politics rather than identification. Dissimilarly, the objectives for which new wars are fought are linked to identity politics. People do not engage in new conflicts for geopolitical or ideological reasons. On the contrary, people struggle for their identities, which are being resurrected by globalization. The societies that makeup states are conscious of their identities as a result of the consequences of globalization, and also consider themselves to be in the right to establish a state. This is regarding the Bosnian war. When Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Yugoslavia in 1986. Milosevic intentionally sowed discord among Serbians, Croats, and Muslim Bosniaks. Milosevic, dubbed “The Butcher of the Balkans,” exploited the ethnic tensions that culminated in the Bosnian War. Milosevic gained popularity by exploiting ancient grievances, stoking patriotic feelings, and inspiring visions of a “Greater Serbia” made up entirely of Serbians. By 1971, Muslims became the majority in Bosnia. In 1991, approximately half of Bosnia’s four million people were Bosniak. When Bosnia proclaimed independence from Serbia in 1992, the country’s Serbs, under the direction of Radovan Karadzic and with the backing of Milosevic, were resisted and threatened with murder. The Serbs wanted to remain in Yugoslavia and construct a separate entity from the rest of the country. Thousands of people were murdered and millions displaced during the Bosnian War. On July 11, 1995, Serbian troops assaulted and overran Srebrenica, a city that was recognized as a place of refuge by the United Nations in 1993. Srebrenica soldiers segregated Bosniak residents, women and kids were taken away while men and boys were executed or bused to mass graves on the scene. The atrocity murdered 8,000 people (Bramlett 2018).

Thirdly, on actors in the war, the old wars were often combated between stationary armies, and these forces were equipped and provided with the governments of the many countries involved. Thus, the old wars were waged by fighters while also being targeted by combatants. Furthermore, although the boundary between fighters and non-combatants is hazy, the line between acceptable and criminal violence is likewise hazy. In the earlier conflicts, there was a clear divide between fighters and non-combatants. Civilians, including women and children, were immune. The Falklands War was a typical ancient battle in terms of distinguishing between combatant and non-combatant, legal and criminal violence since 907 people were murdered in that war (Bluth 1987). On the contrary, as the state’s power weakens, many factions emerge as participants in the new warfare. Street syndicates, diaspora formations, paramilitary organizations, mercenaries, local militias, as well as regular armies, are examples of these groupings. They battle for their interests even as they engage in criminal acts to fund themselves. Furthermore, they are decentralized organizationally and work via by working together even if the two people are on opposing sides of a battle (Mary Kaldor et. al 2007). This can also be termed the privatization of war. Existing research has shown that since the conclusion of the Cold War, privatized military and security corporations (PMSCs) have seen tremendous growth.

Military operations conducted by the United States’ PMSCs in Afghanistan and Iraq have grown since the September 11th attacks. G4S, a UK-based PMSC that provides a wide variety of security services, had a sales income of EUR 3.7 billion in 2018. DynCorp International, a multinational security firm that relies almost entirely on US government contracts, reports revenue of more than EUR 2.6 billion for the year. PMSCs are commercial companies with specified corporate structures that compete globally to supply various security services. Despite being commercial companies, several PMSCs have a sour image as mercenaries, having been implicated in grave abuses of war law and human rights. Beyond the Nisour Square incident, two US-based firms, CACI International and L-3 are accused of torturing Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib jail in 2003. Other difficulties with PMSCs involve their lack of clarity and personal goals that may not align with those of the governments who hire them (Stanger 2006). These findings pushed nations to implement stronger national and international PMCS regulations. Governments will continue to use PMSCs and their services. This might help minimize the number of military fatalities, which is frequently a politically sensitive and controversial subject for many nations. However, the role of PMSCs on conflict length is debatable. The employment of such businesses in military operations to benefit one of the parties to a dispute has been found to reduce the likelihood of a durable peace. While the usage of PMSCs has been linked to major breaches of international law, these firms may also play a constructive role in specific situations (Bellal 2019).

Fourthly, in financing the war, the states, whose main source of income was a tax, planned for the old wars’ expenditure. In the context of Western Europe’s old conflicts, when monarchs declared war, the monarchy had to increase levies to fund wars, they could also design a central bank to borrow to fund wars, they had to enhance administrative efficiency to ensure that the money didn’t be squandered (Davies 2016). In ‘new wars’, there is no centralized economy in the new conflicts when it comes to war economics since the fighting parties have thein manner of waging these fights. Plunder, looting, illicit products, narcotics, and banditry are used to fund the warring sides. This is as a consequence of the state. Globalization forces the aforementioned third-tier countries to open up to the outside world. This has an impact on them not just economically but also politically. The states are rebuilding economically. Their finances are carefully managed. In the progress of globalization, “states have often lost help from outside donors, superpowers.” As a result, they have lower amounts of income’ People who reside in these areas are politically active. Authoritarian or totalitarian nations connect with the outside world via the internet, television, and other means. TheWith thedio and the news,paper as a result, society is faced with freedom. This scenario convinces others that there is an opportunity to improve the situation.

Fifthly, on the adherence to rules of war, several humanitarian norms were in existence throughout previous conflicts to cope with war casualties, govern the use of force, and conclude conflict peacefully. International treaties formalized these norms. The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1929 are two of the most well-known (Kinsella 2005). In general, war criminals might be prosecuted in the ancient wars, but this is uncommon in the context of the new conflicts.

Lastly, on the distinction between militant and civilian violence, or between authorized and illegal forms of aggression. This contrast was clear in the old wars. In the new wars, the war or the struggle might last for several years, with periods of low intensity and high intensity. In the past, conflicts were often declared and terminated by a treaty or accord. Both the First and Second World Wars served as prototypical illustrations of this trait. The declaration of war sparked these conflicts, which were followed by a series of peace agreements. The fact that it is little or no difference between fighters and non-combatants characterizes the new conflicts. These conflicts result in structural changes in violence, such as genocide, mass expulsion, and ethnic cleansing. The basic goal of these tactics is to instill dread in individuals. In this sense, although gaining the hearts and minds of the people is one method to wage war, the new conflicts use intimidation and repression as a technique. Systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, civilian fatalities, and the employment of child soldiers are all prominent elements of these conflicts; it is particularly noteworthy that the use of child soldiers is increasing in the new wars. Nearly 250 million children live in conflict-affected nations throughout the globe, and tens of thousands have been recruited and exploited as child soldiers (Kiyala 2019).

Scholars have expressed the term ‘new wars’ differently. According to Kaldor (2013), The New Wars are the conflicts that have erupted in the age of globalization. A majority of the time, they take place in dictatorial regimes that have experienced a quantifiable setback due to expanding up to the rest of global society. Consequently, the divisions inside and beyond the state, governmental and non – governmental, outside and within, economic and political, as well as the distinctions between war and peace, are becoming more blurred.

Many academics have challenged the idea of ‘new wars,’ noting that the new conflicts are not wholly different from the old ones. Furthermore, some opponents say that the phrase “new conflicts” is too broad and euphemistic. According to Henderson and Singer (2002), the term ‘new wars’ is difficult to perceive. Kaldor(2013) elaborates her thinking by stating that Both the changing nature of systematic violence and the establishment of a method for understanding, interpreting, and explaining the linked elements of such violence are addressed by the ‘new wars’ thesis, which may be summarized as the significance of the adjective ‘new’ has nothing to do with any particular feature of modern warfare or how closely it resembles our assumptions about reality; rather, it has everything to do with the model of war and how the model I outline differs from the prevailing models that serve as the foundation for both policy and scholarship. In terms of political, economic, and military logic, it is a model that is distinct from the others.


New wars are different from old wars. Old wars were conducted by governments’ regular armed troops. New conflicts are being waged by various networks of state and non-state players, including conventional armed services, private security firms, militants, extremists, tyrants, and paramilitary groups. Secondly, in old wars, warfare was the most important interaction. When it came to conducting war, the strategy consisted of seizing territory by military methods. Battles are few and few between in new wars, athe nd ground is gained by political methods, such as control of the populace. Thirdly, old wars were mostly supported by governments (either via taxes or by donations from outside supporters). Tax income is declining in weak nations, and new kinds of predatory private financing are emerging, such as theft and looting and the “taxation” of humanitarian relief. Support from the diaspora, abduction, or smuggling of oil, jewels, and narcotics are all possibilities. These new wars are being foubased ons of a new type of economy. Looting, unlawful commerce in illegal commodities, drug trafficking, and other forms of financing are used by warring sides to fund their operations. They prefer to become engaged in business activities rather than political ones, according to the poll. The term for this phenomenon is “commercialization of conflict.”

References List

Bellal, Annyssa. 2019. “The Privatisation of War.” Geneva Graduate Insitute 3 (5).

Bluth, Christoph. 1987. “The British Resort to Force in the Falklands/ Malvinas Conflict 1982: International Law and Just War Theory.” Journal of peace research 5-20.

Bramlett, Sam. 2018. “What was the cause of the Bosnian war?” The borgen project, January 6.

D., Henderson E A& Singer. 2002. “New wars’ and rumourse of ‘new wars.” International Interactions 28 (2): 165-190.

Davies, Glyn. 2016. A History of Money. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

International Committee of the Red Cross. 2016. “The laws of war in a nutshell.” October 19.

Kinsella, HM. 2005. Discourses of difference: civilians, combatants, and compliance with the laws of war. Vol. 31, 163-185.

Kiyala, Jean Chrysostome K. 2019. “Child Soldiering Global Perspectives and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” In Child Soldiers and Restorative Justice 73-111.

Langan, John. 1984. “The elements of St. Augustine’s just war theory.” The Journal of Religious Ethics 19-38.

Liffiton, Alexander. 2016. “The Falklands War: Differing Causes of Conflict.” International relations, February 6.

M., Kaldor. 2013. ” In Defence of New Wars.” Stability 2 (1): 1-16.

Mary Kaldor, Mary Martin,Sabine Selchow. 2007. “Human security: a new strategic narrative for Europe.” International Affairs 83 (2): 273-288. DOI:

Mulvaney, Kieran. 2022. “The improbable Falklands War still resonates decades later.” National Geographic, April 2.

National Geographic Society. 2020. “War.” Resource Library: Encyclopedic entry, July 28.

Reyes, Gracia Sumariva. 2019. “Playing,, Spot-the-difference” in War Studies: Conceptual divergencies between intrastate conflict and civil war and practical applications.” Academia, January- February: 4.

Stanger, Allison, and Mark Eric Williams. 2006. “Private Military Corporations: Benefits and Costs of Outsourcing Security.” Yale Journal of International Affairs 2 (1).


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