Counterpoint: Policing the Remnants of War

Journal article

Mueller, John (2003) Counterpoint: Policing the Remnants of War, Journal of Peace Research 40 (5).

Certain standard, indeed classic, varieties of war have become so rare and unlikely that they could well be considered to be obsolescent, if not obsolete. Moreover, much, but not all, of what remains of war is substantially opportunistic predation waged by packs of criminals, bandits, and thugs who engage in warfare in much the same way as they often did in medieval and early modern Europe: as mercenaries recruited or dragooned by weak (or even desperate) state governments or as warlord gangs developed within failed or weak states. Much of this warfare could be reduced or substantially eliminated by disciplined police and military forces and, in their new era of essential consensus in the wake of the Cold War, the developed countries could create mechanisms for policing civil warfare. However, they are likely to do so with any sort of reliability only where their interests seem importantly engaged or where they manage to become self-entrapped. Rather, the key lies in the establishment of competent domestic military and policing forces, tracing a process Europe went through in the middle of the last millennium. Indeed, much of the civil warfare that persists in the world today is a function of the extent to which inadequate governments exist. Of late, there seems to have been an increase in the number of countries led by effective people who, instead of looting and dissipating their country's resources, appear to be dedicated to adopting policies that will further its orderly development. Thus, while far from certain, a further (or continuing) decline in a most common remaining kind of war does seem to be an entirely reasonable prospect.

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