Lecture Notes




































Interstate Wars and Insurgencies

Most wars todays are insurgencies.

Arguably, the primary job of the United Nations is to keep the peace, but we’ve already noted that the UN is not very good at it. In fact, on any given day, there are about 30 or 40 wars going on in the world.

But now let’s ask a pertinent question: How many of those wars are interstate wars? (An inter-state war is a war between two sovereign states).

The answer is “Virtually none of them.”

Then what are they?

They are insurgencies. An insurgency is a military conflict between the government of a country and an armed rebel group. It may also refer to a conflict between an armed rebel group and a foreign occupying power.

The United Nations, based as it is on the principle of sovereignty, was never designed to stop or prevent insurgencies. The principle of collective security applies only to sovereign member states. Insurgencies are domestic problems—internal affairs—and thus they fall outside the jurisdiction of the United Nations.

Thus, when we say that the United Nations is not very good at preventing wars, we should probably note that preventing all wars has never been the explicit mission of the United Nations.


Check Your Understanding

  1. What is an interstate war?
  2. What is an insurgency?
  3. How many wars are going on in the world today?
  4. Are most of those wars interstate wars or insurgencies?
  5. Has the United Nations been successful in preventing wars? Explain your answer.