Looks Interesting: March 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.
“As Old as War Itself”? Historicizing the Universal Mercenary
By Malte Riemann in Journal of Global Security Studies
Keywords: history, mercenaries, genealogy, Foucault
IR scholarship has increasingly begun to scrutinize the ahistorical and ahistoricist assumptions pervading the discipline. Specifically, attention has been turned to those concepts, actors, and practices that appear to be without history and that therefore assumed the status of universals. This article contributes to this scholarship by critically investigating the seemingly transhistorical figure of the mercenary, whose history, it appears, is little less than the history of organized warfare itself. This article questions this assumption by investigating how the Renaissance Landsknechte, actors invoked to support the transhistorical mercenary claim, were problematized within their own historical specificity. Through this analysis, this article rejects the notion that the mercenary is a transhistorical phenomenon as the ideas and categories associated with this figure are tied to specific modern accounts of statist political community and individual identity, as well as a modern account of self-interest. It is argued that the mercenary is not a phenomenon that predates the emergence of the modern state and the system of states, but its own existence is grounded within them. This article, thus, reinstates the historicity of this figure and argues that the mercenary is not “as old as war itself” but a product of specific modern conditions.
What’s in a Name? Metaphors and Cybersecurity
By Jordan Branch in International Organization
Keywords: Cybersecurity, metaphor, language, United States, civil-military relations, information technology
For more than a decade, the United States military has conceptualized and discussed the Internet and related systems as “cyberspace,” understood as a “domain” of conflict like land, sea, air, and outer space. How and why did this concept become entrenched in US doctrine? What are its effects? Focusing on the emergence and consolidation of this terminology, I make three arguments about the role of language in cybersecurity policy. First, I propose a new, politically consequential category of metaphor: foundational metaphors, implied by using particular labels rather than stated outright. These metaphors support specific ways to understand complex issues, provide discursive resources to some arguments over others, and shape policy contestation and outcomes. Second, I present a detailed empirical study of US military strategy and doctrine that traces the emergence and consolidation of terminology built on the “cyberspace domain.” This concept supported implicit metaphorical correspondences between the Internet and physical space, yielding specific analogies and arguments for understanding the Internet and its effects. Third, I focus on the rhetorical effects of this terminology to reveal two important institutional consequences: this language has been essential to expanding the military’s role in cybersecurity, and specific interests within the Department of Defense have used this framework to support the creation of US Cyber Command. These linguistic effects in the United States also have implications for how other states approach cybersecurity, for how international law is applied to cyber operations, and for how International Relations understands language and technological change.
Early intelligence assessments of COMBLOC computing
By JD Work in Journal of Intelligence History
Keywords: cyber intelligence, cold war, Soviet, Warsaw Pact, innovation, scientific & technical intelligence, KGB, CIA
Espionage driven acquisition of Western technology played a key role in the development of computer science and technology for Warsaw Pact services during the Cold War period. US, UK, and other Allied nations, recognized this new field was inextricably linked at its creation to cryptography, navigation, weapons guidance, and a host of other military and dual-use applications. As a result, the Free World powers imposed export control restrictions that were intended to embargo the transfer of equipment and knowledge, in order to preserve hard-won advantage that recent wartime experience had taught could be fleeting under the intense pressures of innovation and adaption in combat. Despite such controls, Soviet foreign intelligence services provided critical early access that led to duplication of systems that were to some degree comparable in purpose and quality from the outset, and loomed larger still in the long shadow of intended future R&D pathways. Western intelligence services were not blind to this behavior; through unique collection approaches and sustained analytic efforts, they sought to track the state of Soviet computing and its role in strategic, military, and economic applications. This effort was effectively the dawn of the cyber intelligence mission.
Knowledge Production and Britain’s Expansion in China: Constructing the Narrative of the Cruelty of Chinese Punishment in the Nineteenth Century
By Qiong Yu in History
Keywords: China, imperialism, 19th century, British Empire, knowledge production
This article looks into Britain’s knowledge production about China and the Chinese in the nineteenth century, through a case study of how a narrative of the cruelty of Chinese punishment was constructed by publications and activities of two closely connected institutions, the Royal Asiatic Society and the British Consular Service. Concentrating on the period between the end of the First Opium War and the end of the Second Opium War, and looking into the post‐factum criticism, eye‐witness accounts and personal experience of the two institutions, it examines how ideas around the cruelty of Chinese punishment was constructed in relation to Britain’s expansion in China, the change of sentiment towards judicial torture in Europe, and the social disorder in South China. Approaching Sino‐British encounters in the nineteenth century from a cultural perspective, this article provides a more comprehensive understanding of British knowledge production of China and the Chinese, and reveals a more complicated picture of Britain’s expansion in China, shedding some light on Sino‐British encounters at that time.
Walls and Strategic Innovation in Violent Conflict
By Matthew Nanes and Trevor Bachus in Journal of Conflict Resolution
Keywords: conflict management, counterterrorism, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism
Governments build walls to curtail a range of illicit activities like immigration, crime, and terrorism. We argue that while physical barriers effectively prevent specific unwanted behavior, they induce actors to respond strategically and develop new tactics, changing the nature of illicit activity and leading to new threats. We test this argument in the context of Israel’s security barrier. Using an instrumental variable unrelated to the underlying threat of attack, we analyze short-term changes in the barrier’s porousness. Terror attacks in Israel are less likely when the barrier is more secure. However, we also observe evidence of changing strategies. Attacks are most likely immediately after the government eases temporary restrictions on movement, suggesting that previously-planned attacks were delayed, not prevented. Furthermore, when the barrier is more secure, terrorists select weapons that are less affected by it and carry out attacks in systematically different locations. Ultimately, walls’ impacts on any challenge depend not just on how well they prevent movement but also on illicit actors’ strategic responses.
Civilian targeting in African conflicts: A poor actor’s game that spreads through space
By Piotr Lis, Michael Spagat and Uih Ran Lee in Journal of Peace Research
Keywords: African conflicts, civilian targeting, one-sided violence, spatial diffusion
Armed conflict actors frequently target civilian populations. Thus, an improved understanding of such behaviour could pave the way to reducing it. We use the Civilian Targeting Index (CTI) and a broad array of geo-referenced data to investigate the spatio-temporal and economic dynamics of civilian targeting by conflict actors in Africa. Two main insights are generated. First, the civilian targeting behaviour of African non-state conflict actors is strongly influenced by the behaviour of other proximate actors. In particular, non-state actors tend to increase their civilian targeting after nearby non-state actors have done so. Possible mechanisms to explain such spatial spillovers include emulation and retaliation. Second, a negative relationship between economic activity and civilian targeting exists and applies to both state and non-state actors. In addition, CTIs of non-state actors tend to increase with population density, the geographical spread of their conflict activity and conflict duration. State actors have higher average CTIs than non-state actors do, but the gap between the two actor types tends to close during long-duration conflicts.
The rise of illiberal memory
By Gavriel D Rosenfeld in Memory Studies
Keywords: Holocaust, illiberal democracy, memory backlash, memory boom, World War II, populism
The essay seeks to explain how and why rightwing populists in Europe, North America, and beyond have developed an “illiberal” politics of memory in opposition to the global liberal memory culture of the past generation. After explaining the rise of “illiberal memory” as a byproduct of the rise of illiberal democracy since 2008, the essay advances a comprehensive typology of the movement’s overall objectives and tactics based on numerous empirical examples from different nations, including Germany, Russia, the United States, Israel, and India. It concludes with some reflections about how illiberal memory is likely to evolve in the future. The essay is the first to advance the concept of “illiberal memory” and present an overall theory of its origins and agenda.
Interstate War Battle dataset (1823–2003)
By Eric Min in Journal of Peace Research
Keywords: battle, conflict, information, interstate war, ripeness theory, war
Extant scholarship on interstate war and conflict resolution predominantly utilizes formal models, case studies, and statistical models with wars as the unit of analysis to assess the impact of battlefield activity on war duration and termination. As such, longstanding views of war have not been tested systematically using intraconflict measures, and deeper studies of war dynamics have also been hampered. I address these gaps by creating and introducing the Interstate War Battle (IWB) dataset, which captures the outcomes and dates of 1,708 battles across 97 interstate wars since 1823. This article describes the sources used to create these data, provides definitions, and presents descriptive statistics for the basic battle data and several daily-level measures constructed from them. I then use the data to test the implications of two major theoretical perspectives on conflict termination: the informational view, which emphasizes convergence in beliefs through battlefield activity; and Zartman’s ripeness theory, which highlights costly stalemates in fighting. I find suggestive evidence for informational views and little support for ripeness theory: new battlefield outcomes promote negotiated settlements, while battlefield stagnation undermines them. The IWB dataset has significant implications, highlights future research topics, and motivates a renewed research agenda on the empirical study of conflict.
Military Innovation and Technological Determinism: British and US Ways of Carrier Warfare, 1919–1945
By Kendrick Kuo in Journal of Global Security Studies
Keywords: military innovation, aircraft carriers, military effectiveness, technological determinism
Major theories of military innovation suggest that military organizations will converge on the proper employment of new weapons if they are responsive to strategic threats and overcome cultural, bureaucratic, and material constraints. Using a comparison of British and US interwar carrier programs, I show how these standard intuitions about military innovation wrongly assume that there is a predetermined performance trajectory embedded in new technology. The Royal Navy employed carrier technology differently from its American counterpart, not because of cultural biases, bureaucratic parochialism, or resource scarcity, but because the British possessed in-theater military bases and faced the threat of land-based enemy aircraft in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Far East. British carrier warfare, which the field of military innovation studies roundly criticizes as non-innovative and ineffective, was in fact a creative solution for Britain’s geostrategic challenges that proved effective for the first couple of years of World War II. Since carrier warfare is a canonical case for military innovation studies, revising our understanding of Britain’s interwar carrier program has significant implications for the way scholars conceptualize military innovation and its relationship to wartime military performance.
Digital Humanitarianism and the Visual Politics of the Refugee Camp: (Un)Seeing Control
By Delf Rothe, Christiane Fröhlich, and Juan Miguel Rodriguez Lopez in International Political Sociology
Keywords: surveillance, digital rights, digital humanitarianism
Digital visual technologies have become an important tool of humanitarian governance. They allow the monitoring of crises from afar, making it possible to detect human rights violations and refugee movements, despite a crisis area being inaccessible. However, the political effects of such “digital humanitarianism” are understudied. This article aims to amend this gap by analyzing which forms of seeing, showing, and governing refugee camps are enabled by digital technologies. To this end, the article combines scholarship on the politics of the refugee camp with the emerging body of work on digital humanitarianism. It proposes the notion of a “visual assemblage of the refugee camp” to conceptualize the increasing adoption of visual technologies in refugee camp governance. Using the two paradigmatic cases of Zaatari and Azraq, two refugee camps for displaced Syrians in Jordan, the text outlines how this visual assemblage enacts the refugee camp in different ways—thus bringing about different versions of the camp. The case study reveals three such enactments of the refugee camp—as a technology of care and control; as a political space; and, as a governmental laboratory—and discusses how these interact and clash in everyday camp life.
Humanitarian aid in the age of COVID-19: A review of big data crisis analytics and the General Data Protection Regulation
By Theodora Gazi and Alexandros Gazis in International Review of the Red Cross
Keywords: big data, humanitarian aid, COVID-19, GDPR, data collection, crisis response
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for humanitarian aid actors to reconsider data collection methods, as old ways of doing business become increasingly obsolete. Although access to information on the affected population is critical now more than ever to support the pandemic response, the limitation of aid workers’ presence in the field imposes hard constraints on relief projects. In this article, we consider how aid actors can use “big data” as a crisis response tool to support humanitarian projects, in cases when the General Data Protection Regulation is applicable. We also provide a framework for examining open-source platforms, and discuss the advantages and privacy challenges of big data.
Air Power, NGOs, and Collateral Killings
By Susan H Allen, Sam R Bell, and Carla Martinez Machain in Foreign Policy Analysis
Keywords: Collateral damage, civilian harm, civilian casualties, NGOs, norms, airpower
Air strikes have become an essential tool in major powers’ military arsenals. Yet, despite the precise technology that air power represents, its use can also result in unintended killings. In this paper, we explore how air strikes affect civilian killings as collateral damage by third party interveners. In particular, we argue that this effect is conditioned by the presence of non-governmental civil society actors on the ground. We thus explore how air strikes affect civilian killings by government actors involved in conflicts and how civil society can diminish harm against civilian actors during aerial bombing campaigns. Our results suggest that air strikes may cause deaths through collateral killings. Yet, when air strikes occur in countries where human rights organizations are active, these civilian deaths may be mitigated.
A weapon too far: The British radiological warfare experience, 1940–1955
By William King in War in History
Keywords: radiological warfare, atomic energy, secret science, Second World War, Cold War, United Kingdom
Between 1940 and 1955, Britain explored controversial radiological weapons. Keen to discover further military uses for atomic energy, defence officials and scientists initially approached the field with much hope and optimism. However, technical difficulties, economic costs, public and political aversion, competition from other controversial weapons, and even the resistance of scientists themselves, soon came to dominate the direction of policy. This article explores the unique British experience with radiological weapons, determines how far Britain ventured down this questionable path, and accounts for why, after over a decade of research, they were judged a step too far.
What is military labour? War, logistics, and the Mughals in early modern South Asia
By Pratyay Nath in War in History
Keywords: early modern, South Asia, military labour, logistics, Mughal Empire, warfare
The category of ‘military labour’ has traditionally been used to designate ‘combat labour’ – the labour of soldiers. Focusing on the case of early modern South Asia, the present essay argues that this equivalence is misplaced and that it is a product of a distorted view of war defined primarily in terms of combat. The essay discusses the roles played by the logistical workforce of Mughal armies in conducting military campaigns and facilitating imperial expansion. It calls for broadening the category of ‘military labour’ to include all types of labour rendered consciously towards the fulfilment of military objectives.
Political impatience and military caution
By Lawrence Freedman in Journal of Strategic Studies
Keywords: Command, civil-military relations, Falklands war, Iraq war
Two examples from recent British campaigns, the first from the Falklands War of 1982 and the second from the Iraq War of 2003, are used to consider attempts by civilian policy-makers to influence the conduct of ongoing military operations as a result of frustration with slow progress. Both cases highlight the importance of the higher command structures as providing a buffer between the government and local field commanders, and show the problems that can result when key strategic questions are left unanswered in the run-up to a campaign.
Cyber Attribution: Technical and Legal Approaches and Challenges
By Nicholas Tsagourias and Michael Farrell in European Journal of International Law
Keywords: cybersecurity, cyber attacks, attribution, international law, state responsibility
Considering the role of attribution in the law of state responsibility, this article examines the technical and international law methodologies and determinants used when attributing malicious cyber activities falling below the use-of-force threshold to a state, and identifies the challenges that arise which lead to responsibility gaps. The article goes on to discuss a number of proposals that aim to improve the effectiveness of the attribution process and also close some of the existing responsibility gaps. They include institutional proposals envisaging the creation of an international attribution agency; normative proposals advocating the revision of the legal determinants of attribution; and proposals concerning the standard of proof. The aim of the article is to reconstruct the theory and practice of cyber attribution in order to enhance the regulatory potential of international law in this area.
War and Peace: Reaffirming the Distinction
By Chiara Libiseller & Lukas Milevski in Survival
Keywords: grey zone, hybrid warfare, war, peace, conceptual analysis
The claim that concepts such as ‘hybrid warfare’ or the ‘grey zone’ reflect the real world better than traditional notions of war and peace does not survive scrutiny.
‘Proxy War’ - A Reconceptualisation
By Vladimir Rauta in Civil Wars
Keywords: proxy war, war, military intervention, conceptual analysis
This article presents a definitional structure for the notion of ‘proxy war’ organised around three components: (1) a material-constitutive feature, (2) a processual feature and (3) a relational feature. First, the article evaluates the multiple usages of the term of ‘proxy war’ in light of its contested character. Second, it proposes a way of making sense of the literature’s conceptual turmoil by analysing the different attempts at defining the notion. To this end, it adds an important link to the methodology of concept analysis, namely the ‘semantic field’, which it re-introduces as a heuristic to identify ‘military intervention’ as a root concept for defining proxy wars. The article does so by identifying a type of semantic relationship between ‘proxy war’ and ‘military intervention’, namely sub-type inclusion.