Bringing the transnational into ‘new wars’: the case of islamic state

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In her seminal 1998 work on ‘new wars’ Mary Kaldor developed a heuristic framework usefully for understanding the characteristics of armed non-state groups involved in contemporary conflicts. This framework was derived from analysing the 1992-1995 Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict. Some two decades after this however, adjustments may now be necessary. A focussed examination of the strategy used during 2014 by Islamic State Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) reveals Kaldor’s framework may now need to include a more explicit focus on the transnational. Since the mid-1990s, the transnational has been made more accessible by advances in social media in particular, and by globalization more generally. ISIS’s use of the transnational indicates this may be an area that astute non-state actors can advantageously exploit - perhaps better than states - although there are some difficulties involved. ISIS’s success suggests that the transnational may in time have greater influence on the politics of international society.

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