Looks Interesting: September/October 2020

I am attempting to keep track of all the articles I come across that look interesting, that I’ll probably never read, but might read more of them if I keep track of them.

The future war studies community and the Chinese revolution in military affairs

By Kai Liao in International Affairs

The article argues, first, that there exists a community of PLA experts that has been a major force advocating a forward-looking approach to military studies and defence planning since the early 1980s; second, that this group played a role in shifting China’s defence paradigm from imminent war to peacetime army-building in the mid-1980s; and third, that their efforts in exploring future war scenarios and creating a peacetime defence planning framework led the PLA to focus on future local wars, the new technological revolution and the informatization of the military. Their studies, to a large degree, define the combination of concepts that comprise the RMA with Chinese characteristics.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiaa098

Bytes not waves: information communication technologies, global jihadism and counterterrorism

By Michael Chertoff, Patrick Bury and Daniela Richterova in International Affairs

This article provides a typology that highlights the centrality of ICTs to the evolution of jihadist activities in the late modern era (from the 1990s to the present) and a coherent classification for understanding the most important characteristics of each of the overlapping epochs within it.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiaa048

Contestation before Compliance: History, Politics, and Power in International Humanitarian Law

By Helen M Kinsella and Giovanni Mantilla in International Studies Quarterly

changing historical power dynamics and priorities of humanitarian protection over the course of the past 150 years have resulted in a series of contested, ambiguous, and unsettled rules of IHL. Even those treaties and customary norms that command both formal, near-universal agreement and public veneration conceal deep disagreements and indeterminacies. Scholarly assessments of IHL and its influence that ignore or discount the histories of legal rules and frameworks thus risk misconstruing their purposes and effects. Whereas reasonable scholars may disagree about whether IHL is indeed in a “crisis” at present, we have shown that it is beyond debate that the law has always been a site of intense political contestation.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqaa032

Between concepts and thought: digital technologies and temporal relationality

By Oliver Kessler and Marc Lenglet in International Relations

This article advances the argument that the acceleration of practices introduced by digital technologies also impact key concepts of social theory. Digital technologies not only give rise to new concepts, but they also reconfigure our entire socio-political conceptual vocabulary. In particular, this acceleration reorganises the relationship between the spatial and temporal dimensions of political concepts. As a consequence, our spatially defined understanding of authority, hierarchy or relation underestimates the repercussions of shifting temporalities. This article pursues this shift from space to time and outlines how temporal relationality is gradually impacting the representations and images we live by.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0047117820948199

Climate science, the politics of climate change and futures of IR

By Richard Beardsworth in International Relations

nationalism and cosmopolitanism must be rehearsed together in one and the same response to climate change’s empirical reality.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0047117820946365

The Great Hype: False Visions of Conflict and Opportunity in the Arctic

By Øystein Tunsjø in Survival

the stakes in a changing Arctic are not high enough to warrant a great-power conflict. As in the past, it remains unlikely that military force will be used to resolve a conflict originating in the Arctic. It is more likely that any potential great-power competition in the High North between Russia and NATO will reflect the more consequential sources of competition and conflict in Eastern or Southern Europe – in other words, that conflict might spill over into the High North from somewhere else.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2020.1819649

Unreliable Protection: An Experimental Study of Experts’ In Bello Proportionality Decisions

By Daniel Statman, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan, Micha Mandel, Michael Skerker and Steven De Wijze in European Journal of International Law

The apparent inability of experts – both academics and military officers – to implement the proportionality principle in a reliable manner, casts doubt on the merit of their contribution in guiding behavior in warfare as well as on their potential role in post-war assessments of the legality of military actions. If proportionality judgments are unreliable, so is the protection of civilians during warfare, even when warring parties attempt to abide by the proportionality principle.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chaa039

Starvation as Siege Tactics: Urban Warfare in Syria

By Nils Hägerdal in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism

Famine is on the rise across conflict zones worldwide. Yet in Syria – unlike other contemporary wars – the phenomenon is concentrated in urban areas, and intensified significantly after 2015. To explain these outcomes I delve into the nature of urban warfare. Urban combat operations favor the defender, and many military organizations resort to siege warfare to conquer urban territory; starvation remains a powerful siege tactic. Qualitative evidence on all sieges conducted inside Syria, where a majority of the prewar population lived in urban areas, shows how its regime forces constitute a prime example of this process.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2020.1816682

Genocidal Consolidation: Final Solutions to Elite Rivalry

By Eelco van der Maat in International Organization

Under conditions of guerrilla conflict, mass indiscriminate violence has been shown to effectively starve a guerrilla of its support. Consequently, counter-guerrilla mass violence is concentrated within territories where a guerrilla is dominant. However, in roughly 40 percent of mass violence episodes (e.g., Rwanda and Cambodia), the violence was aimed at populations within areas of secure territorial control. These episodes have therefore been explained by attributing ideological preferences to leaders or as unique cases only. I argue that leaders adopt mass indiscriminate violence against outgroups to consolidate power under conditions of elite rivalry. The violence serves two main goals. First, it helps build coalitions with constituencies that gain from violence; and second, it targets rival factions indirectly by forcing local security officials to facilitate or oppose the violence. The violence thereby provides rival supporters with an exit option, provides the regime with information on rival supporters’ private loyalties, and undermines rivals’ abilities to mount an effective resistance. These rivals can ultimately be purged from the regime. Based on newly collected original data on elite purges and on the type of mass indiscriminate violence for the years 1950 to 2004, I show that this type of mass violence, which I call “genocidal consolidation,” is intimately connected to authoritarian consolidation.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818320000259

Theorizing the Temporal Exception: The Importance of the Present for the Study of War

By Christopher McIntosh in Journal of Global Security Studies

This article argues that taking the present seriously as a concept, method, and theoretical area of analysis offers unique value for the study of war. Paying attention to the manner in which the present time of war (wartime) is sociopolitically articulated as a space of temporal exception exposes how it is understood as diverging from representations of politics, past and future. It also foregrounds war’s irreducible temporal dimension and exposes the relational bases of wartime’s apparent universality.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogz040

Military Realism and Doctrinal Innovation in Kennedy’s Army: A New Perspective on Military Innovation

By Peter Campbell in Journal of Global Security Studies

This article introduces a new theory of military innovation, military realism, which argues that senior military leaders spearhead major changes in military doctrine when existing doctrinal mission priorities and theories of victory do not address the most dangerous threats.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogz067

The Stopping Power of Norms: Saturation Bombing, Civilian Immunity, and U.S. Attitudes toward the Laws of War

By Charli Carpenter and Alexander H. Montgomery in International Security

our quantitative and qualitative findings are more optimistic than those of Sagan and Valentino’s study: Americans do strongly believe it is wrong to target civilians. And in a real-life scenario such as this, a majority would likely oppose such a bombing. These findings suggest, however, that much depends on how survey questions are structured in measuring those preferences and whether legal or ethical considerations are part of any national conversation about war policy.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00392