a few weeks ago, i heard dr. janie leatherman speak on "engendering peace", the recent (and late) arrival of feminist/women's studies thinking to the scholastic field of peace and conflict resolution. this field of study, directly concerned with the prevention of war, has long been lacking representation of women. as wars are started and fought primarily by men, the lack of women in peace studies is particularly ironic.
there's only so much one can say about a lack of women. dr. leatherman spent most of her lecture talking about where feminist thinking has begun to work into the overall framework of conflict resolution thinking. she described three different approaches to peace theory, only one of which focused on a balance of power between states, such was the "peace" we experienced during the cold war. this approach presumes non-intervention in the affairs of another state, and as such isn't fertile ground for feminist thinking. dr. leatherman illustrated this point by making the analogy between a genocide campaign within a country's own borders and a husband raping his wife. following the logic of non-intervention, nothing should be done to forcibly prevent either activity.
part of the rise in feminist thought within peace studies is due to the rising status of women in larger society. but another part is that the state-focused approach to the field is becoming increasingly irrelevant as states lose their grip on "the monopoly of violence." there was a time when it would take an army to bring down a skyscraper in another country. increasingly, this task can be accomplished not only by international terrorist organizations, but also by organizations such as the WTO, IMF, world bank, UN, EU, and international corporations like mcdonalds or shell. none of these actors are as well-known for violence as al queda, but all have been accused of some form of violence that was once solely perpetuated by countries. and more troubling, all of these actors seem to have more propensity toward violence than modern states. with by far the largest military in the world, america could easily be considered a model of state-sponsored war, and america's wars are increasingly farther apart with fewer casualties. meanwhile these non-state actors seem to be increasingly violent as they are increasingly powerful.
a large reason for this gradual shift away from war in america is that america is democratic. those citizens who remember and regret vietnam, for example, are unlikely to vote for representatives who seem likely to repeat that kind of war. but if the vast majority of the world's citizens oppose the actions of the IMF or al queda - and i would guess that they do - these organizations are not structured in such a way that their actions will reflect changing cultural views toward organized violence.
in "a history of warfare", john keegan writes:
I am impressed by the evidence. War, it seems to me, after a lifetime of reading about the subject, mingling with men of war, visiting the sites of war and observing its effects, may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents...Throughout much of the time for which we have a record of human behavior, mankind can clearly be seen to have judged that war's benefits outweighed its costs, or appeared to do so when a putative balance was struck. Now the computation works in the opposite direction Costs clearly exceed benefits.
john keegan is optimistic about the end of warfare, but his vision of this end doesn't seem to take into consideration the new non-state war-makers, which are less compelled by what most human beings think of war. i am less optimistic. it seems plausible to me that keegan is making the same mistake in his optimism that he accuses clausewitz ("war is the continuation of policy by other means") of making in his own history of war - that of not recognizing that modern actors and tactics of war are not the only possible means of making war. it may be war will not end, but merely shift from an activity of the state to an activity of emerging non-state actors. and if that is that case, the world may be worse as a result.