An Aggressor in International Conflict

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AnAggressor in International Conflict


AnAggressor in International Conflict

Forone to identify the aggressor, knowledge about the bone of contentionbetween conflicting parties is critical. Samuel (2016) states that ininternational conflicts involving two parties, there must first bespecific perception and expectations that parties have towards eachother, violation of which leads to conflicts. The author furtherargues that significant changes in the equilibrium position of powersmay come along with a shift in interests, capabilities, credibility,and willingness. One or both parties may feel that the agreements andunderstandings, duties and responsibilities, and the distribution ofspecific rights are unjust, incorrect, and inconsistent and need tobe altered to the advantage of the other or both parties.Additionally, he postulates that a conflict cannot arise if none ofthe parties is willing to lock horns with the other implying theessence of willingness and capability. Once people discover theunderlying motive and the reason behind an existing conflict, theaggressor is identified (Samuel, 2016). The approach of identifyingan aggressor by digging deep to the root cause of the problem isessential in solving international conflict as it creates room toalso recognize possible inhibiting conditions to extended conflictsthat can be applied to provide a lasting solution. The scope of thiswork is to explain factors to consider in identification of anaggressor and whether this is of any significant benefit ininternational conflict.

Inthe context of conflicts involving two or more parties, the termaggressor refers to the specific person, nation or party that startsthe conflict or war (Bothe, Partsch and Solf, 2013, p.329). Theauthors note that, in general use, it is common to fail distinctiontest between the ‘author of an attack’ and an aggressor. Todifferentiate the two terms, the ‘author of an attack’ isdescribed as the party that starts military operation on the outbreakof hostility on his subject, with little significance to hisposition. In other words, this party plays defensive role. However,an aggressor is the person who commences the actual conflict, whetherarmed or implied hostility. For example, in 2003, the U.S. governmentattached the Iraqi administration leading to one of the most infamousconflicts in the modern world (Heinrich, 2015). A surface look onthis instance might lead to a conclusion that the U.S. is theaggressor while the Saddam Hussein led government is the victim ofthe conflict. However, researchers have spent years studying andwriting the underlying rationality for the American Government toenter into the war. To begin with, Saddam Hussein’s government wasrevealed to be in support of the Muslim rebels who were behindterrorism attacks in some parts of U.S. and other affiliated nations(Heinrich, 2015). To protect the citizens against terrorism, it wasinevitable to destroy the authority that not only aided terrorismoperations, but also worked hard to build infrastructure for massdestruction. Looking at the matter from this perspective, it would bejustifiable to term Iraq as the actual aggressor and the U.S. as anauthor of attack.

Underwood(2007, p.106) states that a nation should not negotiate withterrorists at all costs. However, if an aggressor is identified, astrategy referred to as appeasement may be applied which grants a setof concessions after negotiations as a way of solving the conflictand in hope of avoiding war by eliminating its justification.However, appeasing an aggressor in a bid to avert their perspectivedoes not in most cases realize any meaningful result as evidenced ina number of historical cases. History reveals that most aggressors donot abandon or honor the appeasement agreement and they afterwardseither implement their initial plans or come up with new strategies,often worse than the previous ones. For example, in 1938, countriesallied to Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia still joined forces to fightthe German Hitler who had been in battle for three years even aftersigning a treaty before to hold combats. Underwood (2013, p.108)argues that this act of pacification amounted to total diplomaticfailure which was largely the triggering factor of the Second WorldWar. Moreover, Israel and Palestine have been in war for as far backin history as most people can remember and as recorded in the oldestexisting historical manuscripts. In their case, it is particularlychallenging to substantiate who is the actual aggressor and who isthe subject to aggression, but it is commonly believed that thePalestine is the real aggressor for failing to appreciate Israelexistence as an independent nation. Many attempts to appeasement havebeen made as part of peace establishment efforts and conflictsolution between the two incompatible nations. However, none of thenumerous strategic efforts have made an impression on Palestinianofficials that by any chance Israel has any rights to be inexistence. From time to time, thousands of lives are lost throughsuicide bombings that are still a common activity. The anti-Israelrhetoric has been for decades rallying force from other extremists inthe Middle-East to possibly terminate the nation of Israel. Thechallenge in this case is that identification of an aggressor may notbe possible (or it is irrelevant) as there is no willingness toconflict resolution.

Inidentification of a conflict, it is paramount to differentiatebetween private-sector international conflicts and those that involvenational governments (Malek, 2013). The former are those that involveencounters between individuals or businesses which have differentnationality backgrounds. They are almost similar to those that arisebetween interpersonal domestic cases apart from the fact that theyare more complicated owing to the difference in cultures,jurisdiction, distance in many instances, language which leads toambiguity of law during translation, and application. Thejurisdiction disputes are often the major cause of problems infinding solutions to cases cutting across geographical boundaries. Asan example, take a case where a company in the United States has acontractual agreement with Japanese firm which supplies motherboards.If the terms of agreement are supplying 15,000 pieces per month butdue to unforeseen circumstances the company supplies only 10,000,this would result in private international conflict. Although theconflict does not involve the Japanese Government against that ofU.S., the case would be handled by an international court ortribunal. As a second example, take an American couple who signs adeal with a Chinese expectant woman to adopt a baby once it is born.Upon delivery, the couple is summoned to China to pick the child,only to be informed upon arrival that the child is no longer‘available’. If the couple decides to seek legal solution inChina, they would be extremely disadvantaged due to many factorsincluding difference in jurisdiction and language. The best option intheir situation becomes seeking for international intervention.

Accordingto Malek (2013), public international conflicts are extremelycomplicated to resolve due to nature and definition problems. Forinstance, it is common to apply international conflicts resolutionmethods to nations experiencing internal crises as seen in Ireland,Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, and Rwanda to solve issues relating tosovereignty of a certain ethnicity within the country in question.Malek (2013) argues that lack of political equality, fairdistribution of economic resources, and other social disequilibriumare often the root cause of the conflicts. At the end, the aggrievedparty establishes itself to fight for independence or separation.Depending on the mechanism used to advocate for this, the defendingnation may enter into war to either defend its political power orstop the actions that would lead to division. In this scenario,identification of an aggressor lies in analyzing the issues at hand.Any of the two parties might have started the conflict while theother becomes the defender or simply the author of war. An idealexample of international conflict is, for instance, the one thatinvolves the U.S. and the Afghanistan group of extremist popularlyreferred to as Taliban. However, it is important to note thatinternal conflicts that invite international interventions may alsobe classified as international.

Whilegeneral knowledge dictates that identification of an aggressor isvital to conflict resolution, the process has to be done carefully toavoid what might appear as partisanship when the blame is shifted onone side (Samuel, 2016). This might explain why the United Nationsand other international bodies delayed in intervening grave conflictssuch as the Rwanda genocide, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and the NATOmilitary response to Kosovo (The National Academies Press, 2016,p.2). If a nation engages in a peacekeeping or peace building missionbetween conflicting parties, there are likelihood of beingmisinterpreted as making initiative to impose its own philosophy andauthority on others who do not share similar ideologies and politicalviews. Identifying an aggressor is tantamount to passing judgment onwhat is wrong and right about a certain group. This may explain whymany conflict resolution efforts record historical failures.

Inconclusion, the identification of an aggressor in internationalconflict requires a deeper analysis of matters than just makingrushed decisions based on surface evidence. One needs to substantiatethe root cause of the problem leading to conflicts. Distinguishingbetween private-sector international and public conflicts isessential in understanding the reason why private individuals preferto seek international legal action. The bottom line is thatidentification of an aggressor is equivalent to finding the realcause of international conflict. This work recommends that in orderto find lasting solution to the many conflicts facing the worldtoday, the parties involved in resolution efforts must appreciate theparamount role of differentiating the aggressor and the victim.


BotheMichael, Karl Partsch, and Waldermar Solf. 2013. NewRules for Victims of Armed Conflicts: Commentary on the Two 1977Protocol Additions to the Geneva Convention, 2nd ed. Boston: MartinusNirjihoff.

Heinrich,Markus Nicholus. 2015. “One War, Many Reasons: The US Invasion ofIraq.” E-InternationalRelations, us-invasion-of-iraq/.

Malek,Cate. 2013. “International Conflict.” Crinfo.Org,

Samuel,R.J. 2016. “Causes and Conditions of International Conflict andWar.” Hawaii.Edu,

TheNational Academies Press,. 2016. “Conflict Resolution in a ChangingWorld.” TheNational Academies Press,

Underwood,Lori. 2007. Terrorby Consent: The Modern State and the Breach of the Social Contract.New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

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