Post-modern armies and the question of peace and war: The Israeli defense forces in the "new times"

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The end of the Cold War brought about a feeling of imminent wide-scale social change that might also lead, if not to the "end of war," then at least to a reduction in its frequency and the diminishment of its destructive power. Globalization trends and an apparent decline in the strength of the nation-state only helped consolidate the new outlook. Instead of a bellicose state, we were presented with the picture of a peace-seeking, liberal-democratic society that prizes economic interests above military conflicts. It follows, according to this approach, that armies, too, will adopt the "new times" posture or the post-modern perspective and become forces of peace. Yet how far can this hypothesis explain reality? One way to test it is by examining the armed forces, the means of organized violence in a society, which in the modern era were perceived as encapsulating the might of the state and the unity of the nation. Is the army's political role changing in the post-Cold War era? Has a change occurred in its organization? Does it have the same legitimation it did in the past? Can armies be agents of conflict resolution, harbingers of peace on earth? The extensive academic literature about armed forces in the post-Cold War era, albeit mainly in the West, usually describes them as both post-modern and peace-making bodies. This paper questions that assumption and cites the Israeli case to demonstrate the possibility of a post-modern army that does not have a peace-making goal. But its importance lies in the fact that it resembles other cases in which armies assume a postmodern character and find themselves in conflict with the society around them. Hence, an understanding of the role of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in violent conflicts of the kind that occur between Israel and its neighbors can not only provide theoretical insight that differs from the conventional but also suggest possible future tendencies that may develop in other parts of the world on questions of peace and war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-70
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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