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I disagree with
the above statement, I believe that the international security environment has
illustrated that war, not peace, is
the natural order through trends in conflict. In order to make this argument, I
first lay down the parameters of my essay by defining what comprises the international
security environment and the notion of peace within the international security
environment. The remainder of the essay explores the shift from large-scale
interstate wars to intrastate conflicts, terrorism over the past two decades
from non-state actors, the impact of ideological conflicts and the future
nature of conflict and tensions within the international security environment.
Finally, I will present my view on the trend of religion as a constant catalyst
to conflict that has prevented peace throughout history.

security refers to the combination of measures taken by states and
organisations such as NATO to ensure survival and safety within. International
security and national security are intrinsically linked1, with international
security being national security on the global stage. International security
was first recognised after World War II and expanded drastically since,
covering and incorporating a wide spectrum of issues that can potentially
impact world peace. These issues include both conventional and non-conventional
military operations, activities of non-state actors and ideological conflicts. The
notion of peace within the international security environment has not been seen
consistently enough to suggest that the statement in question is true. Indeed
there have been periods of peace within the international security environment,
however, considering the conflicts that have occurred in recent decades, it
seems that conflict is the norm, with spates of peace in between.

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Before the wave
of extremist Islamic terrorism that the international security environment has
faced in recent years and continues to face, the geopolitical tension after
World War II that escalated into The Cold War spanned four decades where peace
within the international security environment was far from stable. One can
argue that there was a steady decline in intrastate conflict after the
dissolution of the communist federal states in the early 1990s2 until the recent conflicts
within Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. However, this brief period of relative peace in
the international security environment does not support the statement that
peace is the norm. This period of time does also include the deployment of a multinational
coalition to Afghanistan to supposedly preserve international security but
which instead only led to further deteriorate a war-ravaged country and create more
hatred towards the west, with large swathes of the country falling back into
Taliban hands in recent months.3

A trend in
recent decades has seen a shift away from large-scale interstate conflicts to
smaller intrastate conflicts4. Civil wars within
countries across Africa and the Middle East have been continuous and with
seemingly no end in sight, will continue to pose a threat to international
security. These seemingly internal conflicts within countries are often also
part of larger proxy-wars that do pose a significant threat to international
security. For example, the Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, sometimes referred
to as the Middle East Cold War5, has been on going since
the Iranian revolution in 1979 and has spanned and had influence upon seemingly
internal conflicts such as the Lebanese Civil war and the Syrian Civil war to
name just two. This involvement by larger state players poses a significantly
larger threat to the international security environment than if the conflicts
were purely internal. This has been an increasing trend over the past two
decades as the geopolitical landscape has changed and states that would have
previously actively deployed troops in a particular conflict can no longer due
to lacking public support and are forced to instead arm, support and advise
countries; this indirect involvement within countries then leads to rising
tensions on the international stage.

conflict in Syria is a prime example of how seemingly internal conflicts can
become embroiled in international politics and de-stable any idea of peace
within the international security environment. While Russia has deployed 48,000
troops in support of the Syrian Arab Republic, the United States has actively
supported the Free Syrian Army, a group whose main intent is to bring down the
Syrian government6.
Furthermore, The United States has also deployed conventional forces in an
advisory role to rebels and Special Forces in a more direct role in the battle
against so called ‘Islamic State’. This melting pot of troops and forces within
Syria has the potential to cause catastrophic standoffs and international
incidents involving two of the world’s greatest superpowers. An example of such
an incident was in June 2017 when a US Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian
government warplane. The United States said that the plane had attacked
US-backed forces and was downed “in collective self defence of
coalition-partnered forces”.

condemned the attack and stated that it would treat any plane from the US-led
coalition flying west of Euphrates River as a potential target.7 Both Russia and The United
States are involved in tackling so called ‘Islamic State’, however tensions between
the two countries over incidents, such as the downing of a plane mentioned
above, have the ability to spark a US-Russia conflict that would have
catastrophic outcomes.

long-reaching and potentially de-stabilising outcome of seemingly internal
conflicts across Africa and the Middle East, is the human impact and in
particular the refugee crisis that these conflicts create. People from war-torn
countries are forced to flee their homes and travel thousands of miles in
search of the safety and security that the international community is not
providing them with.   

As a
result of the conflict in Syria that began in 2011, 80% of Syrians now live in
poverty, with over 13.5 million people inside Syria still in need of
humanitarian assistance8. Furthermore, Syria has
been described as “the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time”,
with over 4.5million registered Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict and
risking their lives to get away from war. This influx of refugees has had a
negative impact on neighbouring states infrastructure and development and
caused rising tensions among the international community as some countries such
as Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have not offered any
resettlement for Syrian refugees but are among the richest and most able
nations in the region.

The war in
Syria is just one example of how a seemingly internal conflict can have a long
reaching and de-stabilising effect on the international security environment.
Moreover, the War in Syria is a current example of what can be argued has been a
trend in the international security environment since the end of The Cold War.
Wars have been fought over territory and ideology and have had large state
players supporting, arming and advising non-state actors in order to achieve
their underlying intentions without the larger scale conflict that, in the case
of The United States and Russia, the larger scale conflict mentioned could have
and could still result in World War III. For example, the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989)
that saw The United States arming and supplying the Mujahedeen to fight against
the Russians.9
This trend in proxy wars and tensions on the world stage since the end of the
Cold War does not support the notion that ‘peace, not war, is the natural order
of the international security environment’. 

            Although, as conflict trends show,
deadly large-scale political conflict has been gradually decreasing over the
past two decades10,
terrorism has and continues to be one of the largest threats to the stability
of the international community and one of the largest preventers of peace
within the international security environment. International terrorism has
spiked since the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 with US policy
makers “declaring transnational terrorism the next extreme threat to
international security” in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. In 2015, the
number of deaths from extremist Islamic terrorism in North America and Europe
rose distinctly, supporting the view that the world, and in particular the
international security environment is more volatile and unstable than it has
been in the past. It has also been found that weak or failed states are centres
of activity for terrorist activities and as such can have a devastating impact
on international security 11




attacks on September 11 2001 (9/11) undoubtedly illustrate a shift in primary
motivation for terrorism to the religious and fundamentalist realm.12 However, before the wave
of extremist Islamic terrorism that the world is facing currently, other
terrorist organisations threatened and disrupted the peace within the
international security environment. Nationalist and often separatist ideologies
were considered the main motivation for terrorism before the shift after 9/11. Examples
of such separatist movements included the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which
conducted terrorist operations against the United Kingdom throughout the late
twentieth century. Another example of such terrorism that has prevented peace
throughout the international security environment is the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna
(ETA) that has conducted attacks within Spain and France, killing over 820
people to date.

throughout the past century has evolved and changed continuously, from its
motivators to the way in which it is conducted. However, terrorism has always
been a constant threat to the international security environment and with no
real end to terrorism in sight, as political and religious ideologies clash
around the world, it is not far-fetched to believe that terrorism may be
viewed, in some way, as a norm for the international security environment.

The future
of international security environment suggests that war, not peace, is going to
be the norm within among the global stage. Trends in religious and ideological
conflicts across Africa and the Middle East in recent decades suggest
international intervention will occur with varying degrees of success. Furthermore,
these international interventions will cause a mixed reaction and divide public
opinion among many of the contributing nations; we have already seen riots and
uproar in retaliation to coalition bombing across the Middle East in recent

In the
more immediate future of international security, transnational terrorism
motivated by religious or fundamentalist views will continue to threaten and
disrupt peace across the global stage, as it has done for the past seventeen
years. This problem may become exacerbated by the refuge crisis, where
optimistic would-be terrorists are travelling to countries under the false
pretence of seeking asylum. Furthermore, as international intervention
increases, and organisations continue to use social media and cyber warfare as
a means to conduct terrorist activities, home grown terrorism will continue to
prevent peace within the international security environment.

With both
The United States and North Korea having potentially as volatile and
unpredictable leaders as each other, the potential for all out, potentially nuclear,
warfare is gradually increasing. This ever-increasing tension within the
international community has strained relations and put the international
community on edge, awaiting either side’s next move.

human history, conflict and war have been an ever-present factor in life and
while the technology and nature of warfare may have changed dramatically over
centuries, the reasons and motives behind conflict and war have not. Religion,
money, power, territory and fundamental ideologies are just some examples of
the catalysts that have ignited the war machine throughout history. One can
argue however that religion and ideological conflicts can be seen as a constant
factor in international conflicts. From The Crusades sanctioned by the Latin
Church against Muslims, fighting over territory that both religions believed to
be sacred, to the modern day so called ‘Islamic State’ attempting to secure a
caliphate in Iraq; religion and conflicting ideologies have been and will ever
continue to be a key reason behind conflict. Throughout recent decades, the
Middle East has been at the epicentre of religious tensions that have not only
seen conflict within the countries themselves but have had large negative
impacts around the world, from the refugee crises to increased political
tensions between the superpowers of the world.

 It can therefore be argued that religious
conflict is a trend that can indirectly influence the international security
environment in such a way that it undermines the peace that the international
community seeks to establish.

within the international security environment seems a long way off with threats
to national and international security abundant. Moreover, the trends in
conflict in recent decades would suggest that war, not peace is the norm and
while there have been sporadic periods of peace within the international
community, the threat of conflict has always loomed.

1 Cha, Victor D. “Globalization and the Study of
International Security.” Journal of Peace Research (Sage) 37, no. 3
(May 2000): 391-403.


2 Smith, Meagan, and Sean M Zeigler. “Terrorism
before and after 9/11 – a more dangerous world?” Research and Politics
(Sage) 4, no. 4 (November 2017).

3 Roggio, Bill, and Alexandra Gutowski. “LWJ Map
Assessment: Taliban Controls or Contests 45% of Afghan Districts.” FDDs
Long War Journal (FDD), September 2017.

4 Szayna, Thomas S, Stephen Watts, Angela O’Mahony, Bryan
Frederick, and Jennifer Kavanagh. What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts,
and What Do They Mean for U.S. Defence Policy? RAND Arroyo Centre, RAND
Corperation, RAND, 2017.


5 Gause III, F Gregory. “Beyond Sectarianism: The
New Middle East Cold War.” Brookings Doha Centre Analysis Paper
(Foreign Policy at Brookings) 11 (2014).

6 Holliday, Joseph. Syria’s Armed Oposition.
Middle East Security Report 3, Institute For The Study of War, Institute For The Study of War, 2012.


7 Dejevsky, Mary. “As Syria’s War Enters its
Endgame, the Risk of a US-Russia Conflict Escalates.” Syria Opinion
(The Guardain), June 2017.

8 Tyyska , Vappu, Jenna Blower, Samantha DeBoer, and
Shunya Kawai. The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Short Orientation. Ryerson
Centre for Immigration and Settlement, Ryerson University , 2017.


9 Riedel, Bruce. What We Won: America’s Secret War in
Afghanistan (1979-1989). Brookings Institution Press , 2014.

10 Szayna, Thomas S, Stephen Watts, Angela O’Mahony, Bryan
Frederick, and Jennifer Kavanagh. What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts,
and What Do They Mean for U.S. Defence Policy? RAND Arroyo Centre, RAND
Corperation, RAND, 2017.

11Piazza, James A. “Incubators of Terror: Do Failed
and Failing States Promote Transnational Terror.” International Studies
Quarterly (International Studies Association) 52, no. 3 (2008): 469-488.


12 Blomberg, S Brock, Khusrav Gaibulloev, and Todd
Sandler. “Terrorist Group Survival: Ideology, Tactics and Base of
Operations.” Public Choice (Springer US) 149 (2011): 441.


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