"The [F]utility of Barbarism: Assessing the Impact of the Systematic Harm of Noncombatants in War"
Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, Pa
Author: Ivan Arreguin-Toft, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2002-2009
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Under what conditions does barbarism — a state or non-state actor’s deliberate and systematic injury of non-combatants during a conflict — help or hinder its military and political objectives? In this essay I isolate a “pessimist” answer, which holds that barbarism is (a) an inevitable adjunct of organized violence, and (b) that it has a positive utility (e.g. it makes wars shorter or allows the actor who uses it to win with fewer costs and risks). I derive four hypotheses and then offer a preliminary test in the form of (1) a statistical analysis of all interstate and colonial wars in Singer & Small’s Correlates of War dataset; and (2) two synoptic historical case studies (the German occupation of the Balkans, 1941–1943, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s invasion of Kosovo from 1998–1999). I conclude that in general, war crime doesn’t pay: barbarism increases the costs and risks of military operations, and poisons chances for peaceful post-war occupation and development.
- The Futility of Barbarism (334K PDF)
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