PUAF 699K: Civil Conflict and Terrorism

Publication Date: 
January 2015
Document Type: 
The course will focus on civil conflict as an international security policy problem of emerging prominence following the end of the Cold War. It will review how conceptual understanding and policy practice have been reacting to the substantial changes in context associated with the process of globalization. It is important to begin the review, however, with some consideration of the historical legacy that has generated the conceptual assumptions, political attitudes, established doctrines and operational practices that form the foundation from which policy development has been occurring. The word policy refers to all of these determinants of government action. As summarized in Violent Politics, civil conflict and associated acts of terrorism in the entire historical experience prior to 1991 were primarily concerned with establishing stable, universally accepted sovereign rule over designated territory. Violence in many instances, including within the United States itself, is now seen as having been an integral and perhaps necessary means of achieving the internal consensus on which stable sovereign rule is necessarily based. That assessment suggests considerable tolerance of internal violence from the international community if it is not immediately and seriously affected, and tolerance was the presumption of major countries in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War period. Over the past two decades, however, that presumption has been partially reversed as major governments have found themselves impelled to intervene in a series of internal conflicts that have produced civilian fatalities, humanitarian emergencies and refugee flows in combinations serious enough to destabilize the governments involved and threaten their surrounding regions. The instances of primary global significance are those that have involved the United States for the practical reason that during the period in question only the United States has had the military support assets necessary to undertake significant international intervention over substantial distance. Interventions in Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan and the failure to intervene in Rwanda have produced a record of experience from which lessons have been drawn, and a partially formed doctrine of justification has emerged.As this has occurred the independent analytic community has intensified its efforts to understand the determinants and implications. Neither the analytic nor the operational effort can reasonably be considered to have mastered the problem, however. Both have been burdened by the Iraq and Afghanistan situations, both of which became seminal instances of internal violence as a result of American invasions undertaken for other reasons. In examining the current problem against the historical background, several fundamental questions arise:
  • Are there circumstances where internal violence is justified as a necessary means of forming viable consensus?
  • Can those instances be distinguished from others where internal violence indefinitely prevents the emergence of stable government?
  • Has legitimate sovereign jurisdiction been largely established throughout the world or are fundamental revisions of jurisdiction still conceivable?
  • Is the process of globalization increasing the broader significance of internal violence?