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'New Wars': the Sierra Leone Case
Unformatted Document Text:  often associated with new wars, Kalyvas writes: “To begin with, the perception that civil wars are particularly cruel predates new civil wars—it is one of the most enduring and consistent observations, stressed by observers and participants alike, ever since Thucydides’ depiction of the civil war on Corcyra” (114). He cites evidence that atrocities committed in so-called new wars were “carefully planned and centralized rather than gratuitous and random” (116). While there is truth to this argument, I find a persuasive response stems from the observation that contemporary civil wars are taking place in a very different international context. As Kaldor (2007, 6) points out, “the rise of the modern state was intimately connected to war” and in a sense, the wars we are seeing may be the consequence of “a reversal of the processes through which the modern state evolved.” IV. Using Sierra Leone to Teach About Contemporary Conflicts It can be difficult for students to fully grasp what makes these types of conflicts so different from the more familiar image of general war. The Sierra Leone case offers an opportunity not only to teach about new wars in general, but also to teach about many of the important issues that arise as the international community attempts to deal with these kinds of wars. The war in Sierra Leone provides an excellent case study for analyzing some of these issues that might not be relevant to a discussion on general war. I find that when students learn about wars in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, or the current conflict in Darfur, they question why nothing was or is being done. They are confronted with the constraints the international community faces. In this paper, I introduce the topic of humanitarian intervention in the first lesson and use the Sierra Leone case to discuss some of the moral and practical questions that may prevent international action. Secondly, this particular case study offers the opportunity to talk about the increasing use of private militias. This raises all sorts of questions about the international economy, state sovereignty, and the issue of accountability. Finally, the Sierra Leone case provides the opportunity to talk about the post-conflict environment by introducing students to the topic of transitional justice and reconciliation, and more specifically to truth commissions and trials. A background handout on the conflict (written for students) and three lesson guides (written for instructors) are presented as individual documents. The lessons include (with some variation) basic information, suggestions for introduction and/or follow-up questions for class discussion, bolded vocabulary words, presentation of the topic as it pertains to the Sierra Leone case, options for class activities, and sources of additional information. V. Background on the Sierra Leone War, Three Lessons 6

Authors: Parker, Sara.
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background image
often associated with new wars, Kalyvas writes: “To begin with, the perception that civil
wars are particularly cruel predates new civil wars—it is one of the most enduring and
consistent observations, stressed by observers and participants alike, ever since
Thucydides’ depiction of the civil war on Corcyra” (114). He cites evidence that
atrocities committed in so-called new wars were “carefully planned and centralized rather
than gratuitous and random” (116).
While there is truth to this argument, I find a persuasive response stems from the
observation that contemporary civil wars are taking place in a very different international
context. As Kaldor (2007, 6) points out, “the rise of the modern state was intimately
connected to war” and in a sense, the wars we are seeing may be the consequence of “a
reversal of the processes through which the modern state evolved.”
IV. Using Sierra Leone to Teach About Contemporary Conflicts
It can be difficult for students to fully grasp what makes these types of conflicts so
different from the more familiar image of general war. The Sierra Leone case offers an
opportunity not only to teach about new wars in general, but also to teach about many of
the important issues that arise as the international community attempts to deal with these
kinds of wars. The war in Sierra Leone provides an excellent case study for analyzing
some of these issues that might not be relevant to a discussion on general war.
I find that when students learn about wars in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, or
the current conflict in Darfur, they question why nothing was or is being done. They are
confronted with the constraints the international community faces. In this paper, I
introduce the topic of humanitarian intervention in the first lesson and use the Sierra
Leone case to discuss some of the moral and practical questions that may prevent
international action. Secondly, this particular case study offers the opportunity to talk
about the increasing use of private militias. This raises all sorts of questions about the
international economy, state sovereignty, and the issue of accountability. Finally, the
Sierra Leone case provides the opportunity to talk about the post-conflict environment by
introducing students to the topic of transitional justice and reconciliation, and more
specifically to truth commissions and trials.
A background handout on the conflict (written for students) and three lesson
guides (written for instructors) are presented as individual documents. The lessons
include (with some variation) basic information, suggestions for introduction and/or
follow-up questions for class discussion, bolded vocabulary words, presentation of the
topic as it pertains to the Sierra Leone case, options for class activities, and sources of
additional information.
V. Background on the Sierra Leone War, Three Lessons
6


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