New Wars in Numbers: an empirical test of the ‘new wars’ thesis

This paper investigates to what extent the ‘New War’ thesis put forward by Mary Kaldor (2006) is supported by empirical evidence. The ‘New War’ thesis maintains that since the Second World War, and especially after the end of the Cold War, warfare increasingly displays ‘New War’ characteristics, such as targeting of civilians and involvement of non-state combatants. The paper finds that, in concurrence with the ‘New War’ thesis, the ratio of civilian to military deaths from battle has increased significantly over the period 1946-2010, as has violence against civilians over the period 1989-2010. Evidence on the participation of non-state combatants is mixed, although some evidence in favour of the ‘New War’ thesis is found. Overall, empirical evidence supports the idea that the character of war has changed since 1946, on at least one aspect. There is no indication that these trends have intensified after the end of the Cold War, or during the 1980s.


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