Jun 3, 2020 in Analysis

Why Are Some Conflicts More Violent Than Others?


Modernity is the era of revolutions, mass political, economic, ethnic, environmental, anti-war, and other social conflicts. As a consequence, it is essential to study their nature in order to prevent their emergence in the future. One of the major obstacles to a real reflection of the conflicts is undeveloped theoretical and methodological foundations of the conflict behaviour study. It is necessary to admit the lack of a corresponding unified theory concerning the issue in the modern sociology and political science. The same situation appears in regards to the empirical methodology of researchers’ analysis.

To understand the nature of conflicts, it is important to comprehend that the government is always the opponent of the social activities and initiatives, which emerge by their social movements. When conducting the population’s performance analysis, it is important to take into account the response of those, to whom it is directed. Secondly, if one considers the nature of conflict as an inseparable part of the civil society, it is significant to analyse it within the active inactivity, while the active passivity seems impossible. Thirdly, the social conflict may be manifested as the mass organised forms. Therefore, it is shaped as manifestations of social conflict as a deliberate violation of the labour discipline, suicide, known types of offenses, deliberate refusal to have children, mobbing, etc.

Consideration of the social conflict as a part of the civil society is omitted by the researchers as one of the forms of violence of various degree and intensity. Therefore, this paper will discuss the reasons for which some conflicts are more violent than the others. To complete this purpose, it is significant to regard both theoretical and empirical approaches to the conflict as a social phenomenon. To respond the question of why some conflicts are more violent than the others, it is critical to observe a particular example. This paper will pay special attention to the various groups of countries in the Middle East and North Africa societies in order to compare them and define the reasons for which the conflicts bear different levels of violence intensity.


Conflicts’ Brief Description

The numerous discussions about the Arab revolutions provoked the emergence of many theories, interpretations, and policy statements. A certain number of scholars have a conviction that the economic background of the events in the Arab region has played the most crucial role. 

Other researchers state that the political nature of conflicts in the Arab World caused the diverse populations’ demands, such as the struggle against corruption, non-performing social mobility, and not convincing actions of the ruling parties. Moreover, this group of the researchers explains the different activity in the Middle East society and North Africa by the demographic characteristics of the countries: a large percentage of young people aged 20 to 30 years old, received classical Western education. Due to the conflictological approach, it is evident that the totality of the circumstances described above served as the cause of the mass conflicts. A unique role in their occurrence had been played by the people, who are below the poverty line (they joined the conflict, but not the direct organisers). The Western-educated young people and the wealthy middle class became active in organising the conflicts. This process, however, did not suit the distribution of power and privileges. The numerous conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa proved the evidence of a sharp misunderstanding between the supporters of preservation and changed the existing order in the society.

The conflictological approach to the study of the conflict behaviour of the population seems to be a promising trend in the explanation and understanding of the social conflict phenomenon. However, there is a need for an in-depth study of conflictological methodology in order to be able to account qualitatively for the new features of the conflict behaviour in the Arab region. It includes the role of modern technologies and virtual social networks in the revolutionary process, the absence of the traditional religious foundation in the given region. 

Conflicts’ Examination of Similarities and Differences

The social tensions in the Middle East and North Africa had been accumulating over the decades. This process was caused by the fact that the irremovable leaders did not feel that stress or the conflict growth. Hence, they did not understand that the emerged situation could pose a serious threat to their power. Under such conditions, the public tension was one of the reasons, which caused the social rebellion. Social riots occurred in Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, but the waves initially did not spread to the rest of the North Africa. This process was the beginning of the conflicts, which had numerous common aspects.

The mass social conflicts in Tunisia (as well as in both Middle East and North Africa) were connected with the President’s flight. The appointment of a new government soon subsided, although the situation remained tense, fraught with new social explosions. The world community prefers to forget that occasion, being convinced that the social explosion in Tunisia was an accident, which is unlikely to be repeated in other countries. 

Considering deeply the situation in the North Africa, the similar conflict emerged in Egypt. The powerful forces uprising in Egypt, considered as a model of stability, reliability, and predictability in the Arab world, have brought the modern world from a state of ‘forgetfulness.’ The revolt in Egypt immediately became an anti-American phenomenon, and the US, which relatively easy observed the events in Tunisia, were forced to intervene.

Concerning the Middle East societies, in most cases, when there is any social conflict in the Arab countries, its participants appeal to the religious norms of Islam in order to prove their convictions and solve a particular problem. For example, today Iraq is divided along religious lines. The reason is that the Iraqi society is characterised by the struggle between two branches of Islam, such as Shiites and Sunnis. Moreover, this historical separation of Islam exists in other Arab countries. However, this difference was the ideological basis for a serious socio-political crisis in Iraq. In other words, Islam has become the subject of speculation between the warring groups. The same development appeared in Syria, where the involved parties represented different directions of Islam. The Assad’s government is officially supported by Shiites as well as in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The Syrian opposition also has Sunni support from the majority of the Islamic world’s countries. This is another similarity, which is evident throughout the numerous conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Middle East society tries to find and prove a theoretical point of view of the feasibility of their religious brethren’s destruction. This is an example showing that some interpretations of Islam are actually the theoretical ground of opposition. However, both in Iraq and in other countries, there are some social groups and communities, religious leaders, who  intend to follow the religious norms in order to finish this conflict, referring to the fact that all Muslims are brothers, regardless of their religious direction to which they belong. Therefore, under such circumstances, Islam serves as the basis for the removal of the social tensions. This example is a manifestation of the differences in the corresponding conflicts. It is worth noting that not all the countries, which are engaged in the conflicts, follow the Islam outlook.

A Critical Analysis of Competing Theoretical Approaches

When analysing the conflicts in both societies, it is possible to state that they are united into a single term of ‘Arab Spring.’ Moreover, while investigating the problem of the ‘Arab Spring,’ the researchers are engaged in various scientific disciplines, for the reason that this socio-cultural and political phenomenon is more heterogeneous regarding its content. Many scientists have tried to uncover the root causes, the main preconditions, and consequences of the ‘Arab Spring’ events. For example, Wallensteen notes that while analysing the ‘Arab Spring’ development, the prediction of the situation and its consequences are critical. Thus, the world community should pay attention to the historical feature of the Muslim community’s phenomenon (the ratio of spiritual and secular power), particularly the functioning of its civil institutions, the state, and authority traditional elites. In other words, the two societies – the Middle East and North Africa ones – have different approaches to the conflicts’ conduction; however, they are similar in their origin aspect. 

Some experts in the study of the Middle East and North Africa societies democratization processes, analysed in detail the relation of Islam with the political system of the society. They emphasise the fact that, at the present stage, there are different concepts of a religious state in the countries of the Arab East. However, it should be noted that ignoring the role of Islam and Sharia in the development of the social and state structure is unsafe and impractical.

Nowadays, there are no political forces and leaders in the Arab world, who are able to solve this problem. However, this is the smallest part of the problem. The most important and urgent task is to introduce the positive economic change, social and political reforms, which could start the revival process of the Arab countries, raising the population’s welfare and meeting the interests of the masses. 

The West, which is ready to participate in the rise of the developing countries’ health, takes weaker position nowadays. Meanwhile, the fact that the world will never be the same, that it is changing, that the socio-political dynamics of the modern world is moving from West to East, requires a deeper reflection to those who intend to be leaders in the Arab and other countries of the developing world. Thus, while critically evaluating the situation, it is possible to state that there is a need to establish a normal turnover of the leaders, shaping responsible governance. The corresponding  aims were required by the United Nations Organization as the primary conditions of modernisation. However, there is a specific challenge due to the fact that the Arab countries cannot enter independently into the modern era. It requires a new worldwide global project of severe socio-economic transformation.

A Clear Empirical Answer to the Question Posed

In order to clearly respond to the question why some of the conflicts are more violent than the others, it is possible to introduce the corresponding analysis of the conflict’s similarities and differences. Having regarded the conflict situation in the Middle East and North Africa, it is necessary to state that first, any action of misunderstanding is a manifestation of the social conflict between the supporters of conservation and supporters of changing the existing order in the society. Therefore, the theoretical and methodological basis of the social conflict research should be extrapolated from conflictological sociology paradigm.

Second, the social conflict as a logical phenomenon of the public life regularly occurs in any society as a consequence of the actual laws, which are implemented due to the joint activities and combating social subjects. However, this does not imply that any conflict action is justified, legal, and appropriate. Thus, it is evident that there are no conflicts, which can conduct the same (or similar) level of violence.

Third, any particular form of conflict arises as a result of the complex interaction between the specific objective and subjective reasons. Thus, depending on this reason, the conflicts occur and, are consequently characterised by the various intensity and violence levels. Fourth, the conflict is an incident to its corresponding stage, the study of which involves identifying the preliminary process before the event (conflict situation) and the following actions (appeal, confrontation, etc.). Fifth, the sociological and political analyses of any conflict action involve the investigation of a conflict, in which a violent action was performed. This diagnosis should be performed using a particular methodology and technology including the approach of empirical sociology.

Moreover, each share of the social conflict has both negative and positive (for the society and conflicts) consequences. The kind of prevailing consequences is represented by the relative issues and the needs to be addressed in the study of conflicts. The central feature of contemporary crises and disputes, national and regional scales is a wide direct or indirect involvement of external actors. Those parties are interested in international politics, seeking to provide military, financial, and information support of one of the parties in their interests as well as prominent international organisations. 

It is an evident fact that the events in Libya and Syria, Iraq and Iran, etc. do not allow the national authorities to consider such a conflict as an internal affair, even if it appears to be one, from the international legal point of view. Another reason foe which the modern conflicts are of various violence level is their value dimension, which is realised in the form of the struggle between ethnic, cultural and religious identities. This value factor is often used as the ideological justification and propaganda cover for the parties involved in the conflict. However, there are many actual situations when overcoming the incompatibility of interests and the conflict do not abate due to the irrational desire of the radical movements’ leaders to fight to the end ‘for the faith’ or ‘in the name of real independence of the nation.’ This is determined by the idea of protecting national interests and dignity, which can now be used as a mobilisation reserve.

Another reason for which the violence in conflicts is different is that there is wider international involvement of the community in the conflict. This totalisation tool is advocated by the media and social networks, creating public opinion, which influences the positions of the state leading persons and international organisations.

Thus, due to the significant number of the conflict between internal and external parties, its geographical boundaries are not clearly delineated. Considering the interdependence of many socio-economic, religious, and humanitarian aspects of the development, it is difficult to predict any future actions as well as make corresponding analysis and prognosis. This becomes one of the most difficult tasks nowadays. 

Creation of a global information space helped to improve the politicisation of the population. Moreover, it increased people’s awareness of the fact that there is a wealthy country, successfully operating in the background of the other states with the old economic and social problems in the world. Such approach destabilises the social and political situation in the countries with insufficient political systems and governmental institutions. Thus, the ‘Arab Spring’ has become an important socio-political phenomenon in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Despite the importance of the traditional Islamic religious norms in the Arab society, the Arab revolutions do not always occur under religious slogans or due to the reasons of socio-economic nature. This approach can be regarded as another reason for which the conflicts are of different violence level. Due to the various interpretations of Islamic doctrine the social conflicts are a common phenomenon in the Arab countries. Moreover, there is a tendency to use religious prescriptions of Islam for a variety of conflicts between the social groups in the Arab world. Nevertheless, the ‘Arab Spring’ has caused the creation of other radical groups acting in response to the liberalisation and Westernisation of the Arab society. Due to the popularisation of extreme views on Islam in the world, there are several concepts, which denote the degree of violence in the conflict. They are the following:  Islamic fundamentalism is often interpreted as the Islamic faith itself, which is wrong and unacceptable. A correct understanding of Islam should contribute to the settlement of the existing Middle East conflicts as well as prevent new ones in this volatile region. Thus, the various situations and their intensity serve as a reason for which the conflicts contain different violence degrees.


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