Linking Theory to Practice
The Potency of the “New Wars” Thesis in Better Understanding Contemporary Armed Conflicts, Supporting Peace Operations and Reshaping Post-conflict Resolution – A Liberian Case Study
Keywords:DDR, demobilisation, disarmament, Kaldor, Liberia, new wars, peacebuilding, reintegration
Before the 1990s, the practice of post-conflict management mainly focused on military and law-enforcement priorities. Since then, a development-oriented approach has evolved by making a greater sense of the better addressing of the root causes and characteristics of conflicts, as well as the needs and motivations of actors and individuals. In the same vein, critical approaches to the traditionally „minimalist” approach suggested a relatively new, community-based practice that may help to better understand the complex political, psychological and economic situation in local terms to enhance the efficiency of reintegration of former combatants and make them socially and politically represented after conflicts end.
At the same time, according to Mary Kaldor’s theory, we have witnessed meaningful qualitative changes regarding the nature of armed conflicts which pose vital challenges to the Westphalian international system as they reshape the concept of sovereignty and question the state monopoly on violence. Proponents of the “new war” thesis argue that such qualitative changes in wars also necessitate a fundamental shift from the traditional peacebuilding approaches. In Kaldor’s view, as a consequence of the rapid globalisation during the 1990s and the never-ending erosion of state sovereignty a fundamentally new theoretical framework is needed in the course of peace operations which is entirely different from the former so-called „liberal peace”. Thus, the new characteristics of wars pointed out by Kaldor may have a great significance in how peacebuilding and DDR programmes should be planned and implemented in post-conflict settlements.
In this analysis the question is how the failure of traditional disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes and the prospective new generation of them reflect to „new wars” theories, particularly to Kaldor’s thesis, so what connections they may have, if any. The author makes this search through a Liberian case study. The focal points of the analysis include: actors (1); motivations and goals (2); brutality and the victimisation of the civilians (3); and economic and financial characteristics (4).