Escalation and De-Escalation in Irregular War: a Clausewitzian Case Study

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Escalation and De-Escalation in Irregular War: a Clausewitzian Case Study

Type: Master thesis
Title: Escalation and De-Escalation in Irregular War: a Clausewitzian Case Study
Author: Levy, U.
Issue Date: 2013-11
Keywords: Irregular War
Strategic Studies
War studies
Nation Branding
Asymmetric War
Abstract: In this thesis, the author observes the puzzle of escalation and de-escalation in irregular war, accounting for both the strong and weak actor, using a Strategic Theory (i.e. Clausewitzian logic) narrative. He focuses on two arguments: (1) domestic politics cause friction for both actors, (2) international pressure (from state and non-state actors) causes friction for both actors. This international pressure also includes image. Using a variety of observation techniques and limited quantitative analysis, the author finds that (1) domestic political rivalry facilitates escalation for the strong and the weak actor and has no bearing on de-escalation; escalation erodes and diminishes domestic political rivalry. (2) International pressure and image facilitates de-escalation on both sides in order to maintain a positive image. (3) The weak actor must start de-escalating in response to the strong actor’s de-escalation; else it may very well damage its own capacity to achieve its political objectives. He then discusses the policy implications that this conclusion has, most notably (1) the way that policy-makers may change their behavior in order to improve their own image, or the image of the actor they represent. (2) They may or may not be more cautious when dealing with domestic rivalry, as they may seek to avoid escalating, and would rather tackle the actual cause of domestic rivalry. Opportunities for future research in the thesis. Most notable opportunities for future research include (1) the relationship between strong actor de-escalation and weak actor de-escalation and the way the former enables the latter. (2) The effect of the situation on the ground, rather than on the purely political level, on each actor’s decision to de-escalate.
Supervisor: Erk, Dr. J.G.Willigen, Dr. N.J.G. van
Faculty: Faculty of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Department: Political Science (Master)
Specialisation: Political Science
ECTS Credits: 20

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