Which Has Exerted a Bigger Effect on War: the End of the Cold War, or Globalization?

Category: Cold War, Globalization
Last Updated: 18 Jun 2020
Essay type: Process
Pages: 7 Views: 85

Back in human history, there could be found more than 14, 400 records of wars that have occurred in the past, by taking the lives of billions and affecting the social and political order worldwide. Wars in the contemporary world have gradually been changing in form, mainly due to globalization, by overlapping in different spheres of brutal conflicts and small but extremely dangerous organizations like terrorism and insurgencies.

Nevertheless, their true nature and intentions have managed to preserve through ages, as a general norm of social behavior, involving extreme violence, desire for power and manipulation, as well as conflicts established on the basis of religious or ethnic issues. In addition, the end of the cold war had a great impact on the global socio-political picture by establishing a completely new image of international relations, forms of external associations and a strong push for a military affair progress.


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To understand the nature of war, its influence on current affairs, as well as the impact of globalization on war matters, I would first provide a general definition of “war”, by presenting some theoretical approaches. Eventually I would concentrate on the impact of the post-cold period and finally, conclude with the affect of globalization. War and theoretical approaches: Scholars have always provided quite contradictory definitions for a “war”. Indeed defining “war” could be a complicated task.

This is due to the fact that even if the nature of a war remains constant, it always reflects the particular time and place in which it occurs. In other words, the current time, situation, the initial core of the problem, as well as, the level of violence and particular actors would greatly influence and define the type of conflict. Thus, establishing a general idea of a ‘war’ might end to be quite inaccurate. Nevertheless, I would try to present the main general definitions, based on different theoretical approaches. Quincy Wright, for xample, describes war as a “conflict among political groups, especially sovereign states, carried on by armed forces of considerable magnitude, for a considerable period of time”. (Baylis, 2008, p. 213)

Judging by his statement, we could conclude that it’s a realist approach, emphasizing on the power of the state and the highest level of sovereignty that possesses. Another approach of defining war is the definition of Hedly Bulls claiming that war is an “organized violence, carried by political units against each other”. (Baylis, 2008, p. 14) This definition could be accepted as inappropriate because not every single action of violence is defined as a war. In addition, war could involve and other internal actors except political ones like citizens for example (religious, racial conflicts). A third approach by Clausewitz explains war as “an act of force intended to compel our opponents to fulfill our will”. (Baylis, 2008, p. 214) This definition is more liberal based as it stresses more on the power and affect of globalization than on the state sovereignty.

Even though all of these definitions seem to differ in terms of theory, we could generalize some common characteristics between them, which are organized violence, state or non-state actors, as well as military force and manipulation. To get a better understanding on the definitions, the change of warfare, as well as the impact of globalization and post-cold war period, I would like to summarize and stress on two well known theories: Realism and Liberalism. Realism, first of all, stresses on the power of the state and its sovereignty, representing it as the main actor on the world stage.

It also expresses world politics as a ‘self-help system’ and a ‘struggle for power’ between states (Baylis, 2008, p. 5), trying to dominate and maximize their national interests. In addition, globalization is not important and does not affect political world. Liberalism, on the contrary, emphasizes on the effectiveness of democracy, underlying that states are not the only main actors. Transnational actors, international corporations and organizations (like terrorism) are also playing a key role in defining warfare and its evolving. Also, liberalists admit the importance of globalization, economic and environmental issues.

Considering the current international affairs, as well as the decline power of state actors, we could assume that the Liberal theory quite successfully matches with the recent socio-political events. Thus, I would further analyze the change of warfare from the perspectives of the Liberal approach. Post-cold war period: The fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, resulting in the end of the Cold War, put a new evolution in the structure of the international relations and the international system. That indeed brought some influential domestic attributes like democracy system in some post-communist states.

In addition, the number of wars sharply declined but not and their crucial brutality. A lot of ex-Soviet Union members, as well as some eastern European countries like former Yugoslavia experienced tremendous crisis. Many states disintegrated, which led to bloody civil wars and insurgencies. Another great factor was the new system of democracy that former communist states had to accept. Some states indeed benefited from that but for others that turned out to be a vast and sudden change resulting in more economic crisis and chaos in the population.

In addition, this led to the active participation of world organizations like the United Nations, as well as NATO and EU in preserving the peace and avoiding any brutal conflicts that could follow. Such intervention and anti-conflict actions influenced not only the warfare but human morals, as well. People’s understanding of politics, economics became more globally based, not just state-isolated. A state problem eventually turned out to be a global problem, like the war in former Yugoslavia, 9/11 and the current affairs in Egypt. The post-cold war period gave the first strong push of a massive globalization.

Indeed, globalization has always existed in human history and has always been an inevitable process; nevertheless no one has particularly mentioned it before the end of the Cold War. Another great change that affected the warfare was the absolute hegemony power that the USA gained. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the international system changed from a phase of ‘bipolarity’ into a phase of ‘unipolarity’. Thus, USA’s global influence speeded up even more the going on process of globalization, turning it in to “Americanization”. (Baylis, 2008, p. 13)USA was surely outstanding in terms of military power and technical innovations; nevertheless it did nothing to prevent the up-coming events of organized violence and particularly terrorism. A good example is the 9/11 event and the Iraq War in 2003. Even though USA had a magnificent superiority in terms of weaponry, technical and communication technology, the responding asymmetric attacks that followed, as well as the terroristic actions in London and Madrid proved the dramatic changes that have occurred in terms of warfare.

Globalization: The revolution in military affairs that followed in the 1991, right after Gulf War, built a new image and form of the contemporary warfare. With the vast development of technology, communication, Internet and media, war was eventually converted into a new form of a war conflict, unfamiliar for the old Westphalian Order ideas. The primary Westphalian characteristics of a territoriality, fixed boarders, self-determination and states as only key-actors completely contradict with the contemporary current global affairs. And indeed, Globalization is more than just interconnectedness.

It involves much more than cooperation and international relations between states. It eventually dissolves the state boarders, turning the world into a “shared social space”, (Baylis, 2008, p. 18) as well as, placing the economical and political activities into a completely new transnational global scale. Another important factor of globalization is the “time-space compression”. (Baylis, 2008, p. 18) Nowadays, any power or military actions could be exercised from a distance and fulfilled for a relatively short period of time.

Globalization has broken any possible barriers involving distance, space or time with the help of Internet, communication and media. These factors have resulted in an entire new generation of warfare. In such a new era of innovation and high technology, new non-state actors have managed to transform both cyber place and media into a real battlefield. From one hand, this has led to the creation of highly effective and complex weaponry machinery, ensuring better protection and momentum responds to military actions.

On the contrary though, that also leads to terrorism, organized crimes, violence as well as, weapons of mass destruction. With the ability of producing and exporting such powerful technology, the safety of humans and the brutality of contemporary warfare are surely not on the way of declining. Another negative consequence of globalization results in the different economical level of the world countries and the continuous growing gap between them. Indeed globalization is useful and helpful for powers like Japan, USA and Russia but other countries like Sierra Leone or Eritrea definitely lack the benefits of globalization.

This creates poverty, eventually crisis, which could lead to civil wars and more bloody violence. In the past decade, 95% of the armed conflicts have occurred within states rather than between them. Such new wars take place in states where the economy is extremely poor or even collapsing. Conclusion: Many of the characteristics of warfare mentioned above are not new features of war conflicts. They have been existing for a long time since early human history. That includes religious or ethnic confrontations, or any other kind of conflicts performed with extreme brutality.

What really empowered the contemporary warfare and made it so massively destructive is globalization. It is the human ability and necessity to protect or manipulate, to defend themselves or just to apply control over a state of civilians. It is hard yet to predict what other crucial impacts globalization would have on humanity and eventually on warfare. Whatever the reason though, wars would never stop to exist and they would be always a human norm of a social behavior, that would adopt according to the current environment and current period of time.


Baylis, John, Smith, Steve and Owens, Patricia (eds.) (2008). The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, Oxford: Oxford University Press (4th ed.)

Boyer, P. (2001). The Oxford Companion to United States History. Post–Cold War Era. Retrieved January 29, 2011 from: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O119-PostColdWarEra.html

Encyclopedia of the new American Nation. Cultural Relations and Policies - Globalization and the cold war. Retrieved January 29, 2011 from:

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Which Has Exerted a Bigger Effect on War: the End of the Cold War, or Globalization?. (2017, May 08). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/exerted-bigger-effect-war-end-cold-war-globalization/

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