The international response to civil wars and conflicts involving armed or insurgent groups was the subject of discussion as the Department of Political Affairs recently hosted the contributors to a special issue of Dædalus, produced as part of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project.
Martha Crenshaw, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford; Tanisha M. Fazal, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota; and Stathis Kalyvas, Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science at Yale, spoke about the evolving profile of armed groups, particularly those ostensibly motivated by religion. Following the 17 November discussion, Politically Speaking spoke to the researchers, whose work aims not only to contribute to current policy-making but also to contextualize current trends by building a larger conceptual understanding of the threats posed by the collapse of state authority associated with civil wars and insurgencies.
Politically Speaking: At the UN we often talk about the internationalization of civil wars, the mobilization of outside support, the involvement of foreign fighters and spillover effects. Can these phenomena be prevented?
Martha Crenshaw: It is not possible to contain civil wars within national boundaries or prevent linkages and spillovers, especially when conflicts involve parties motivated by transnational ideologies such as jihadism and its accompanying sectarianism.