Conflict Resolution, Proxy Wars, International

It is understandable that conflicts in the world have existed since the earliest of human interaction, but so has the process of resolving those conflicts. Humans form tribes that grow into a community, the community forms nations, nations collectively form states and when states are formed, probability of conflicts is more likely. To balance out the odd of bloodbaths, treaties were signed and alliances agreed upon. Around 19th century, formal bodies to monitor such pacts were formed – which in today’s political and jurisprudence language are termed as International Governmental Organizations. Warfare in the modern century has evolved into a complex matter, surpassing the mostly aging international bodies.

The incorporation of modern technology and overall development in the weapons industry acted as an accelerator for the continuation of conflicts around the world. Though, the mentioned factor is not solely responsible for the ongoing wars but is most certainly one of the many driving factors involved – superiority in the aspect of bearing advanced arms by a country spares them of the chances of sending in on-ground troops (invasion of Iraq , Afghanistan, Libya are exceptionally extreme cases of proxy war that included ground forces ). The proceeding wars are termed as “proxy war”, a phenomenon slightly different from conventional warfare but far more destructive, lengthy and varies from toppling governments to funding rebels, separatist groups and weapons supply to achieve maximum control – both in terms of human and natural resources (any conflict between the Cold war itself and till date can be classified as a proxy war).

Out of the many IGOs, the United Nations is the largest umbrella in the group with subsidiaries including the Security Council. Maintenance of global peace, avoidance of any illegal occupation or conflict is one the prime building blocks of an organization such as UN.  States are bound to peaceful relations, which of course in realistic terms, has never been the case.  Secondly, the UN itself is not a neutral organization and the hegemony of powerful states remains evident, which directly infects the moral character of UN, this leads to the question of its effectiveness as a watch dog of the world and world politics. The question posed above, points towards a general loop-hole in “theory-versus-practical application” when it comes to study of world politics.  Theories of subjects like International Relations and International Law provide a narrow and myopic view when it comes to practical management of world affairs. Under UN charter, the Security Council’s sole responsibility lies in maintaining international security and peace, it is also in-charge of monitoring UN Peacekeeping forces and related operations and hence its precise modus operandi makes it a key player in the process of world peace but it is not without the due skepticism. Both bodies mentioned here, provide states with a plinth to dissolve quarrels, if they fail to achieve it themselves or if any party violates the agreed pact. The case of proxy war and the states involved in them, however, seem to bypass all UN charters, as a result of which conflicts worldwide are on the rise.

Current proxy hotspots lie in states like Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq unto the shores of South China Sea. Involvement of multiple players in the aforementioned proxies extends the damage beyond the point of immediate ceasefire or normalization. Records show the situation in these countries is far worse than before (barring reference to South China Sea), and despite the huge influx of refugees, no serious attempts to halt wars have taken place. Cases of Palestine and Kashmir (Indian occupied), are conflicts ongoing for decades with uncountable violations of even the of basic human rights. Till date the UN has been incapable of resolving, yet alone de-escalating the deplorable situation in both the countries – the reality of both is not hidden from the world in general and can be studied as classic case of failure of the UN (given the powers that the UN holds, it can push states to oblige). Some analysts, however, might not consider the two to be proxy wars but would call it a matter based on socio-religious aspect. But owning to one similar trait that also is evident in a proxy war is the illegal occupation of foreign land for personal gains. Powerful states like US, UK and others manage to stir UN and Security Council in directions benefitting their agendas. Invasion of other countries like Iraq and Libya by US and allied forces (all of whom are members of UN and Security Council) have not been questioned over the matters despite evidence of no threat to any member state by the ousted leaders of the country, both of which are now strong holds of much bigger threat to the world peace i.e. ISIS. Afghanistan was considered an internal matter of the US foreign policy, due to “allies turned foes” and 9/11. The sprawl drew in the neighboring Pakistan in a mess and rise of terror attacks in the country is yet another sign of proxy infection.

Trouble with proxy wars is that the process itself is irreversible and governments of more dominant states – have the ability to destabilize (or even stabilize) a situation in a certain geographic area while having an indirect but permanent presence in the region. Hence drawing a clear map of such proxies is impractical. Executing such a proxy in an effective way is by spreading the idea of “liberation” among the people of a particular country. This is a commonly practiced trend in proxy war, which is propagated through various channels such as media which develops the narrative, support for fractional separatists or rebel groups against a stable government of a country i.e. Syria, Iraq and even the Arab spring are perfect examples of such propaganda-influenced proxy war). Proxy is used by both militaries and intelligence agencies as it lessens the burden of their human resource (troop involvement) which is where the use of advanced weapons like drones becomes effective.

Now, conflict resolution – as the term itself suggests is the idea of dissolving conflicts with the help of set apparatus (UN, Security Council and international laws). Theorists are of divided opinions even in this field and the counter term for resolution is conflict transformation – where war is not completely stopped but rather becomes short term yet rapid agreements or counter operations over certain matters take place to slow down the process of the entire conflict itself. (Pakistan’s case of operation Zarb-e-Azb can be categorized as a form of conflict transformation where counter-terrorism operation due to the spike of terrorist attacks in the country was considered an urgent call).

Deeper study of conflicts mentioned earlier, prove that neither of the two concepts assists in de-escalation of a clash (even on humanitarian grounds) nor do the states actively and truthfully participate in the process, even if heinous cases of war crimes are committed. With residing bodies like United Nations and its subsidiaries, the Security Council, and the extensive theoretical methods proposed for conflict resolution, more and more states are becoming aggressive and cynical due to the lack of accountability, baseness and hegemonic structure within the international body itself.  This crack within peacekeeping bodies is where newer techniques like proxy wars slips through. The danger of neglecting such issues for a long period of time is the mere survival of the war torn states and its citizens since there is no process of reverse in a proxy war and the fact that one clash only leads to another- forming a never ending cycle of conflicts. Despite the argument that UN or Security Council might have tackled other issues, it does not portray its overall success as an IGO, given chaotic and insecure atmosphere of the world.

Aisha Saeed

Aisha Saeed

has done her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications and Political Science from Forman Christian College. She was previously associated with U.S Undergraduate Student Exchange Program. During the course of her degree she focused on the emerging media and foreign policy theories. She tweets @MsAishaK

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    Ans Majoka Reply

    October 21, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Interesting article. As i see from the lens of political science, there are few things i want to say. 1; The gap between theory and practice, in above scenario, is only true for liberal theories of world politics. All the pleasant picture liberal theorist try to construct is clearly refuted by all the current examples of war-torn world. By contrast, your data patiently conforms with the ‘Realists’ assumption. They(REalist) as in their purest form see state as nothing but a mere interest seeking and promoting institution. Thus the current warmongering( including proxies in the guise of humanitarian purposes) is reflective of realist interest-centric assumption and in turn the gap between theory and practice seems elusive. 2: I found this thesis very interesting that Peace-keapers(U.N & subsidiaries) hold no more credentials and ability to maintain peace. In fact the peace-keeping body has become inherently incapable to maintain order of the world. A, series of contemporary so called ‘proxy wars’ confirms this claim. But i am finding hard to digest this hypothesis in its totality. This argument is surely well suited for journalistic accounts but the scholarly approach( As purely based on the methods of Political science) finds so many inherent contradiction, fallacies and over-generalization; Elaborating this point, let us agree that U.N in its very role is not the policemen of the world who inherent the responsibility to ‘dictate’ the order. It is merely a place that in essence was intended to facilitate better cooperation. Ultimately the institution of state was and is responsible for the order of the world. So whatever has happened over the years ( warmongering) do not overwhelmingly undermines the role of U.N but of state as individual, independent, and rational actor. It cannot dictate ind and pak to reach a peaceful resolve it can only assist in providing matrix where these two can forge a better relation (Note: Declarations of the un over Kashmir have voluntary status and U.N cannot independently dictate the resolve). In sum, it must not be perceived as i have speared UN from any responsibility but it was only mentioned to press the need to view other-side of the coin as well. In fact, it is required to conduct a well rounded and detailed scholarly study to see the validity of your hypothesis and one must not quickly jump to hastily conclusions as over generalization causes conceptual stretching and thus hinders reality of the issue.
    Over all i must say a very good effort. Appreciated

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    Saleem Akhtar Malik Reply

    January 11, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    A very thought-provoking article by a Formanite. Gives a comprehensive account of the wars being fought by the ” Geostrategic Aristocracy” which use the Third World countries as their battleground. The proxy wars, generated by the world powers, will remain the major instrument to exploit the resource-rich but politically unstable and under-developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Interestingly, the United Nations, ostensibly created to act as a forum for conflict resolution, actually panders to the interests of this elite club of industrially advanced countries. Conflict resolution, as defined by the world powers, is a euphemism for shaping and maintaining the world to fulfill their interests. An incisive and in-depth analysis.

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