Looks Interesting: January 2021

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.

Eyes on target: ‘Stay-behind’ forces during the Cold War

By Tamir Sinai in War in History

Keywords: stay-behind, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Special Air Service, Northern Army Group, intelligence, Cold War, GLADIO

This article examines the concept of ‘stay-behind’ as a war-fighting tactic used by North Atlantic Treaty Organization to maximize its defensive efforts against a possible Soviet onslaught during the Cold War. It outlines how the concept developed, describes the military and clandestine units involved and what the division of tasks was between them, the way they operated, and how North Atlantic Treaty Organization was involved in coordinating these efforts. By providing a holistic look at military and clandestine stay-behind doctrine, it fills a gap in Cold War intelligence research.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0968344520914345

The business of war untangled: Cities as fiscal-military hubs in Europe (1530s–1860s)

By Peter H. Wilson and Marianne Klerk in War in History

Keywords: business of war, state formation, fiscal-military state, contractor state, arms trade

Fiscal-military hubs were cities characterized by the clustering of specific expertise and resources, which became centres where states, and semi-state and non-state actors arranged the transfer of war-making resources in early modern Europe. Using this concept enables the study of the business of war to shift the locus beyond the state towards a transnational history, while integrating political, military, economic, and cultural aspects that have generally been studied separately. By examining the hub, we can untangle the full complexity of this business, and reveal its actors, networks, assets, prices, routes, culture, and rules of conduct.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0968344520913583

Asset Revaluation and the Existential Politics of Climate Change

By Jeff D. Colgan, Jessica F. Green, and Thomas N. Hale in International Organization

Keywords: Asset revaluation, climate change, decarbonization, existential politics, liberal international order (LIO), trade

Whereas scholars have typically modeled climate change as a global collective action challenge, we offer a dynamic theory of climate politics based on the present and future revaluation of assets. Climate politics can be understood as a contest between owners of assets that accelerate climate change, such as fossil fuel plants, and owners of assets vulnerable to climate change, such as coastal property. To date, obstruction by “climate-forcing” asset holders has been a large barrier to effective climate policy. But as climate change and decarbonization policies proceed, holders of both climate-forcing and “climate-vulnerable” assets stand to lose some or even all of their assets’ value over time, and with them, the basis of their political power. This dynamic contest between opposing interests is likely to intensify in many sites of political contestation, from the subnational to transnational levels. As it does so, climate politics will become increasingly existential, potentially reshaping political alignments within and across countries. Such shifts may further undermine the Liberal International Order (LIO); as countries develop pro-climate policies at different speeds and magnitudes, they will have incentives to diverge from existing arrangements over trade and economic integration.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818320000296

International law, surveillance and the protection of privacy

By Kristian P. Humble in The International Journal of Human Rights

Keywords: Privacy, international law, rights, United Nations, surveillance, state

The right to privacy is a fundamental human right under international law. The right to privacy for an individual is the right to hide or obscure elements of their life from the wider public. In the modern age, the need for privacy is becoming increasingly difficult in light of modern communication companies which seek to make once which was considered private, public. The right to privacy has historically not been at the forefront of discussions within the international community and the United Nations. This position changed after the Edward Snowden and Cambridge Analytica revelations. The focus from the international community is on addressing not only the practices of state sponsored surveillance but also surveillance undertaken by modern communications companies. This article will focus on how the United Nations, the international community and international law aim to bring surveillance practices in line with human rights law and what privacy means in the modern digital age. The first part of the article will look at the inherent right to privacy, the second part will cover the recent developments from the United Nations and international law and the third part will look at the challenges ahead in the modern age of surveillance and digital communication.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2020.1763315

Spinning Multiple Plates Under Fire: The Importance of Ordering Processes in Civil Wars

By Alex Waterman and James Worrall in Civil Wars


Order informs an actor’s context, studying order and accounting for the rules and relationships underpinning that order can tell us a great deal about how power and authority is constructed, renegotiated and contested. Order represents a promising prism and field of study for understanding civil wars. This article begins by assessing the ‘order turn’ in the literature over the past decade. From this basis we identify four key areas that represent important elements within the new ordering agenda that promise to add significantly to the study of order within the discipline. These include: 1) Mapping order(s) to better account for their complexity, especially by disaggregating internal orders within institutions and organisations; 2) Recognising civilians as individual and collective agents, moving beyond the civilians-as-victims paradigm to demonstrate how civilian action shapes order, forcing both rebel groups and governments to adapt; 3) Exploring the social mechanisms that reinforce order, thus moving the discussion beyond violence and political orders and towards a more holistic perspective; 4) Understanding that all orders are mutually constituted and thus understanding not only how order is expressed or acted upon but also how order is understood, how assumptions about order influence action, and crucially, how each group’s actions are shaped by the generation of knowledge about the order they inhabit. Using these we highlight both the promise of the concept of order for the study of civil wars and attempt to begin the development of a coherent research agenda to unify existing insights and lay the foundations for further advances.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13698249.2020.1858527

Small states and autonomous systems - the Scandinavian case

By Magnus Petersson in Journal of Strategic Studies

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, lethal autonomous weapon systems, Denmark,defence, Norway, Sweden

Small states are often described as weak, and unlikely to achieve their goals when confronted by great powers. However, technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution, especially autonomous weapon systems combined with artificial intelligence, may enable small states to enhance their security. Therefore, it should be rational for small states to develop strategies based on advances in technology. This article explores three small Scandinavian states – Denmark, Norway, and Sweden – in a comparative perspective of their capability and will to incorporate lethal autonomous weapon systems in their defence forces. Surprisingly, they reflect ambiguous adoption strategies and trajectories.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2020.1856091

Draining the Sea with Discretion: Force Integration and Civilian Displacement during South Korean Counter-insurgency Operations, 1948-1953

By Seung Joon Paik and Soul Park in Journal of Strategic Studies

Keywords: Korean counter-insurgency (COIN), draining-the-sea tactic, civilian displacement, principal-agent problem, internal cohesion

This paper analyses the dynamics of violence during civilian displacement operations. Specifically, we argue that the integration of security forces – solid command structure, monitoring of troops, and the quality of personnel – influences not only the military performance but also the level of civilian costs. That is, a highly integrated army can commit soldiers to displacement operations while minimising violence. When conducted by a partially integrated army, however, displacement operations are at risk of mass killing, pushing soldiers to remove civilians without sophisticated control. Our qualitative analysis of three major counter-guerrilla operations in South Korea provides support for our thesis.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2020.1833188

Lost in transition: the myth of Mao and the origins of COIN

By Emanuele Castelli, Simone Dossi, and Lorenzo Zambernardi in Small Wars & Insurgencies

Keywords: COIN, Mao, insurgency, people’s war

Mao’s military teachings have greatly affected the development of modern counterinsurgency. Although the influence of Mao’s doctrine on modern counterinsurgency has been examined, scholarship has failed to highlight that the reception of Mao’s writings and deeds is based on a misreading of his theory and strategy. In the transition from Maoist people’s war to COIN, two aspects of the former were lost. Firstly, for Mao the use of force remained the decisive instrument in war. Secondly, whereas for COIN the security of the population is a crucial goal, for Mao the population was a mere instrument that could be sacrificed if the conditions of the conflict so required.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2020.1851074

Inter- and intra-agency intelligence liaison during ‘the troubles’

By Samantha Newbery in Small Wars & Insurgencies

Keywords: Intelligence, counter-terrorism, liaison, coordination, ‘the troubles’

Intelligence is crucial to success in counter-terrorism, and successful intelligence work involves effective liaison between and within all the organisations involved. Scholars rarely address intelligence in counter-terrorism other than through case studies, while studies of intelligence in counter-insurgency and studies of international intelligence liaison emphasise the value of intelligence liaison with little attention to how it works in practice. This article substantially expands existing knowledge and understanding by focusing on intelligence coordination within Northern Ireland in the 1990s. It draws on heretofore unexploited, yet voluminous, original material. It analyses the contribution that computerisation made to inter-agency liaison, the contribution the Northern Ireland Prison Service made to intelligence work, the role played by intra- and inter-agency structures and the valuable work that the right individuals in the right posts can do. This article thereby provides a broader and deeper understanding of the challenges faced by state agencies and how some of these were overcome to facilitate inter- and intra-agency intelligence liaison in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. It therefore contributes to emerging theory that seeks to explain intelligence.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2020.1853998

The politics of climate change: Domestic and international responses to a global challenge

By Jale Tosun and B. Guy Peters in International Political Science Review

Keywords: Comparative politics, climate change, policymaking, policy overreactions, policy underreactions

The contributions to this special issue examine the politics of domestic and international climate policy, concentrating on the role of institutions, interests, ideas, and networks. The outcomes of the policymaking processes are assessed with regard to their proportionality, that is, the balance between the benefits and costs of a policy. The contributions show that climate politics can lead to policy under- and overreactions. This introduction sets out the common research interest of the special issue and explains how the individual contributions relate to each other. To this end, it begins by providing the rationale for adopting the analytical perspective of comparative politics. Then it presents the conceptual framework and gives an overview of the contributions to this issue. Subsequently, it develops a research agenda that highlights avenues for future research and offers a brief conclusion that reflects on the potential of the concept of (dis)proportionality to advance the cumulative knowledge on climate politics and policies.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0192512120975659

Beyond internal conflict: The emergent practice of climate security

By Joshua W Busby in Journal of Peace Research


The field of climate and security has matured over the past 15 years, moving from the margins of academic research and policy discussion to become a more prominent concern for the international community. The practice of climate and security has a broad set of concerns extending beyond climate change and armed conflict. Different national governments, international organizations, and forums have sought to mainstream climate security concerns emphasizing a variety of challenges, including the risks to military bases, existential risks to low-lying island countries, resource competition, humanitarian emergencies, shocks to food security, migration, transboundary water management, and the risks of unintended consequences from climate policies. Despite greater awareness of these risks, the field still lacks good insights about what to do with these concerns, particularly in ‘fragile’ states with low capacity and exclusive political institutions.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022343320971019

Science–policy dimensions of research on climate change and conflict

By Katharine J Mach and Caroline M Kraan in Journal Peace Research

Keywords: climate change, conflict, science-policy interactions

A large body of research now indicates that climate likely matters for conflict. This climate–conflict scholarship, however, has involved divergent findings, sometimes strident disagreement, and resulting limits to the usability of the scholarship for policymakers and practitioners. This viewpoint essay draws from recent expert assessments of climate–conflict linkages to position the research field among climate change research and assessment more broadly. We explore potential insights from the climate realm. As is often the case for climate change research, science–society dynamics are inherent in scholarship on climate and conflict. They contribute to contestation about the state of knowledge, the best ways to characterize it, and its implications for societal choices and investments. Our critique is grounded in the literature evaluating policy-relevant climate change assessment across diverse disciplines, from sea-level-rise adaptation science to energy-system modeling. Through comparisons with such fields, this perspective article considers several implications for climate–conflict knowledge production. We examine, in particular, the necessity of integrating diverse lines of evidence to understand the risks of responding to societally relevant uncertainties and priorities, and of encouraging interactions among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. The experiences of other climate change disciplines can provide inspiration for potential directions for climate, conflict, and security scholarship. They include risk framings in integrating underlying evidence, through to options for supporting the interactions among researchers and societies.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022343320966774

This time is different! Or is it? NeoMalthusians and environmental optimists in the age of climate change

By Nils Petter Gleditsch in Journal of Peace Research

Keywords: armed conflict, climate change, environmental optimism, IPCC, Malthusianism

Warning about dire effects of climate change on armed conflict is a recent variation of a scenario that has been promoted by environmental pessimists for over two centuries. The essence is that human activities lead to resource scarcities that in turn will generate famine, pestilence, and war. This essay reviews three stages of the argument: first, the original Malthusian thesis that focused on food production. Second, the broader neoMalthusian concern from the 1970s about limits to growth and developing scarcities in a range of necessities. And recently, the specter of climate change. In each phase, the Malthusians have met firm opposition from environmental optimists, who argue that emerging scarcities can be countered by human ingenuity, technological progress, and national and international economic and political institutions and that environmental change is not in itself a major driver of human violence. In the third phase, the Malthusian case appears to be stronger because human activities have reached a level where they have a truly global impact. Environmental optimists still insist that these problems can be overcome by human ingenuity and that the long-term trend towards less violence in human affairs is unlikely to be reversed by climate change. The stakes seem higher, but the structure of the debate remains largely the same.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022343320969785