Category Archives: Insurgencies

Thoughts on "New" Terrorism

After the end of the Cold War, along with the emergence of the Contemporary Security and Human Security agenda, the discourse on the effects of globalization on the nature of warfare and irregular warfare (e.g. terrorism) has acquired much prominence. Within this context some scholars adopted the word “new” as a way of characterizing what they perceived as the result of the impact of globalization – and the post-Cold War international order – on wars and terrorism for example; thus, theses such as “New Wars” or “New Terrorism”.

Focusing on terrorism, it is true that it went through certain changes during the course of history; however, the word “new” is too absolute to describe these changes. There is not a clear distinction between “old” and “new” terrorism. There are only a few new characteristics that gradually emerged due to globalization and evolution dynamics, which do not constitute fundamental changes and could be simply attributed to evolution.

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The Difference Between Killing the Insurgents and Fighting an Insurgency

There is a big difference between fighting an insurgency and killing the insurgents. The latter cannot only by itself bring about the wanted results. To understand this better we have to firstly examine what insurgencies are. In a few words, insurgencies are popular movements that try to bring about the change of the status quo through the use or the threat of use of violence. They are run by radical elites, consist of people with certain socio-political background, and they use guerrilla and terrorist tactics to accomplish their political aims.

The key word in the above definition is “popular”. They acquire power and support from the people; that is their strongest spot. It is also important to note that insurgencies cannot be defeated unless they clearly accept their defeat. That is because they are not conventional armies and their power is not solely based on their military power. The most prominent characteristic of them is their political aims and the popular support. Even if there are only a few people left undertaking the insurgency, if they still have the support of the people to achieve their political aims, they can then keep going on. Likewise, if they lose the popular support, then their actions – whatever their political aims – have no legitimisation within the people, a fact which in turn weakens them and leads them to their end. Besides, guerrilla warfare has shown through history that it can accomplish great victories against strong nations and also that it can be defeated very hardly and only if it chooses to. Examples of die-hard insurgencies are the EOKA organisation in Cyprus (55’-59’) which – along with other factors – led the British to leave Cyprus; also the Kurdish insurgents and separatists in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran who have been fighting Turkey for almost a century. Example of an insurgency which admitted its defeat after many years of fighting is the one of Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They accepted their defeat after a series of intense violent clashes with the Sri Lankan government in 2009. Lastly, we should not forget of course the ongoing insurgencies in Iraq which are giving the US a very hard time even after the major American counterinsurgency operation “The Surge”, in 2007.

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Will Libya be the New Iraq?

The coalition military intervention in Libya that began on March 19th was an example of a well coordinated and organised operation, with a legitimate legal mandate in the form of UN Resolution 1973. Nonetheless, there are several debates regarding the intervention in question as well as the strategy that is being followed by the coalition.

There are two central questions that should be answered in order to understand the discourse regarding the intervention in Libya: (a) what do we want to achieve? (b) How far are we willing to go? If the operation has limited goals such as the maintenance of the no-fly zone it would probably be qualified as a success whereas if the plan is to intervene politically undertaking peace/state-building operations, it might result in a catastrophe or in a long-lasting, torturous situation like Iraq.

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