Definitions: What’s the difference between Intrastate, Interstate & Extrastate???

These terms are often used in articles which explore conflicts and war. They are confusing terms, so I thought I should write up some more definitions as they are worth knowing! The terms listsed here have been ‘inspired by’ articles by Sambanis, and Alan Collins book on Contemporary Security Studies.

Intrastate: Intrastate violence is the most common form of conflict today. It describes sustained political violence that takes place between armed groups representing the state, and one or more non-state groups. Violence of this sort usually is confined within the borders of a single state, but usually has significant international dimensions and holds the risk of spilling over into bordering states (the current conflict in Syria would be described as a Intrastate conflict).

Interstate: Interstate violence is a conflict between two or more states (both members of the international system), who use their respective national forces in the conflict.

Extrastate: Extrastate conflict is between a state (member of the international system) and a political entity which does not come in the form of a recognized state. This type of conflict can take place outside the boundaries of the state recognized by the international community.

Hope this helps! 🙂

Miss S.

The Weak-State Security Dilemma, What the Future Holds For Syria and the International Response – Part 1

The Weak-state security dilemma can tell us a lot about the situation in Syria, and how certain aspects of the civil war effect and threaten the functioning of the state. It also allows us to distinguish how weak-states usually respond to threats (how the government of Syria will keep responding to the opposition of its regime). It is interesting that the threats to developing states usually come from inside the state itself – internal threats are more dangerous than international threats. The insecurity that many developing states face is now incredibly difficult to contain within the states that are experiencing internal threats because of globalization (porous borders and so on – we can see refugees pouring into Jordan and Turkey). Developing countries are much more likely to have to deal with serious internal political violence such as military coups, rebellions, violent transfers of power, warlordism, succession, genocide/politicide, ethnic or religious violence, campaigns of terrorism, riots & disorder (e.g. Syria for decades imprisoned and most likely tortured those who opposed the regime, protests and riots occurred and now an insurgency and civil war is taking place).[1]

A spill over effect from all these different types of political instability/violence can include terrorism, illegal migration, drug & arms trading, organized crime, environmental damage and in the most severe cases, state collapse and anarchy.[2] Syria has experienced a dramatic rise in crime, as police stations are left abandoned. Pro-government militias have been accused of numerous counts of rape, and kidnappings that were once rare, are now common occurrences.[3] Destruction of civil structures and institutions are linked to both sides. Some of the oldest historical sites and artifacts are in serious danger of being destroyed. Smuggling of arms to rebel groups across the borders of Turkey and Lebanon are now also a common occurrence. There is a growing fear that extremists – including members of Al Qaeda – will try and hijack the revolution and turn it into a sectarian war as was the case with Iraq – Sunnis against Shiites. There have been 35 car bombings, and 10 suicide bombings (terrorist tactics) 4 of which have thought to be directly linked to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.[4] The FSA has denied being linked with Al Qaeda, however many believe that in time they will be a big contender of influence in the civil war and insurgency.

“A Syrian boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed police station at the border town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, July 29, 2012. The U.N. said 200,000 Syrians have fled the embattled city of Aleppo since intense clashes between regime forces and rebels began 10 days ago.” Image from

A lot of the problems weak states face, are rooted in how the state was formed and how it governs its people.[5] Very often developing states have ruling elites, and the more that these elites try to establish state rule, the more they provoke violent challenges to their rule and authority. Regime security (the condition where governing elites are secure from violent changes) and state security (the condition where the institutions, processes, and structures of the state are able to function effectively, regardless of the makeup of the ruling elite) become inextricably linked.[6] This creates a situation that very often involves ‘structural anarchy’ where groups create insecurity in the rest of the system when they try and improve their own security.[7] This condition of insecurity is self-perpetuating because every effort by the regime to secure greater security for itself through violent force (Syria is using heavy artillery designed for traditional warfare against other states such as Israel, however it is using this artillery against its own civilians that are said to be sympathizers of the opposition and rebel militias who use asymmetric warfare) and thus undermines the institutional basis of the state and the security of the society as a whole. [8]

It is interesting that not only is the Assad regime a tightly knit group of political elites (however some of its elites have denounced the government and left, more cracks within the regime are expected), it is made up of a religious minority in Syria – the Alawites. The majority of Syria’s population is Sunni, and the government of Syria may fear that if it gives up its power, the Alawite community may suffer huge losses. They are not wrong for thinking so. In neighbouring Iraq, the minority Shiites that suffered brutally under the oppression of a Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein, are supporting the Baathist regime of Syria. Why? Minorities that support the ruling governments are usually supported and protected to a certain extent, even though they may be discriminated against in society as a whole. Also, Syria must fear that like in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, violence against minorities (for e.g. Assyrian Christians, Yazidis etc.) will rise drastically.[9] The same example can be made of Egypt after the fall of Mubarak. This religious and ethnic conflict can easily spread across borders and threatens the Middle East as a whole.

You may be surprised to find out, that a state gains authority and legitimacy through a monopoly of instruments of violence. The state has to be able to physically disarm its opponents and convince its population that violence is wrong and only legitimate when the state controls it.[10] A lack of political and institutional control along with a monopoly of force creates a spiral of insecurity, a semi-permanent situation of emergent anarchy where armed groups are forced to engage violently in strategies that help their survival.[11]  So when we are dealing with a state government that is using its machinery and force to just continue its reign, the concept of state security or national security (the security of a whole socio-political entity, a nation with its own way of life and independent state government) is impossible in that contextual environment. So weak state security is regime security as I mentioned before.[12]

So we are in bit of pickle :S What options does the Assad government have? What outcomes will be a result of this? And what is the response of the International Community – and why do states differ so widely in opinion? All of this will be looked at in the next post J. Until then!

Miss S.


p.s. if you need another fix, don’t forget I’ve got a Facebook group! And we would love you to join in on the shenanigans!

[1] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[2] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[6] B. A. Job, ‘The Insecurity Dilemma: National Security of Third World States’ CO: Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 1992

[7] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[8] Ibid.

[10] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

To Sail Away To Greenland…

It’s one of my dreams to visit Greenland. Why many would ask? The pristine beauty for starters, as I love being close to nature in it’s most ‘purest’ forms. Secondly, for the pure adventure of it! Travelling somewhere so far away (from Australia it’s a bit of a treck) to place most people have never even considered. Check out this gorgeous and epic short movie photographed and edited by New Zealander Richard Sidey. Watch it in full screen if you can, just to be able to take it in just that little bit more!

Another video I love, is one made by the I Love Greenland team (their FB group is worth checking out). They show us how to make a ‘Greenlandic Coffee’. I’d def go just for the coffee experience 😛

In Greenland they have something called ‘Kaffemik’ – a Danish word that means a social gathering where Greenlanders gather around a cup of coffee (and maybe some other treats like cake and sweets*). I find it so interesting that even in this part of the world, so far away from most, you can connect to people you would have thought to be so ‘foreign’ and removed from your regular lives, over something so simple and familiar to us as coffee. I think that’s such a simple yet profound thought!

Here are some random pictures I thought you might enjoy!

This is a photo of Nuuk airport. I love that Air Greenland’s planes are RED! (My favourite colour :D)

The photo of a runway is taken at Narsarsuaq. Another fun fact is that in order to get to many of Greenland’s towns, you have to either sail or fly by plane as their isn’t always roads connecting towns.

There was also talk that after the 2nd World War (if not before it as well) the U.S. wanted to acquire/buy Greenland from Denmark, for the purpose of air bases I suppose. Denmark however refused. The U.S. oddly enough however does have an airbase in Greenland – Airbase Thule. It is the U.S’s most northernmost base and was established in 1943 in order to give the U.S. weather information and signals (thought to give them an advantage over the Germans in regards to air attacks). There isn’t to much info out there about this, but oddly enough there is a page on it on wikipedia (if you’re interested – Kinda crazy huh?

I seriously cannot wait to visit! Don’t be surprised if there is more posts on Greenland in the future! Do you wish to visit any ‘quirky’ or less known countries?

Until next time!

Miss S.

Improv Black Tie Beach Event 2012

This video should make you smile 🙂 My favourite was the two guys walking down the beach in tuxedos and a boom box lol oh and peoples reactions! It feels great to do something crazy and unexpected. I think we should try and remember this, especially since we so often get bogged down in our daily routines

Definitions: Genocide and Politicide

I used the term ‘politicide’ in the post ‘Is Syria in a state of Civil War? Part 2’. I have not explained what these terms mean. For clarification, I thought I should post these definitions. Definitions are taken from Harff and Gurr, and both definitions refer to actions (violence) perpetrated by the state. The difference lies between how the state identifies its victims.

  • Genocides: victims are identified based on their ethnic, racial, national or religious identities. Victims may not necessarily think of themselves in these terms. However, as a matter of identifying targets for murder, the state does.
  • Politicides: victims are identified primarily in terms of their political opposition to the regime and dominant groups or in terms of their position within the society (for example, peasants, intellectuals, etc).

It is most likely that in both genocide and politicide, the state goes out of its way to target victims, hence usually the consequences of such violent state behaviour is on a massive scale and widespread.

Remember, as I mentioned in my posts on Syria, different forms of violence can change and morph. So if a state is responsible for genocide, it may in the future change its focus and transpire into politicide. Many forms of violence can also be practised/utilized during one period of time and continuously change. This is one of the difficulties in studying conflicts and political violence. The U.N. Genocide Convention does not state in its definition of genocide that the perpetrator must be a state. This is a valid point, as other powerful groups may also be the perpetrators of genocide. The U.N. genocide Convention does not name politicide, and does not mention the targeted killings based on political identification. It does mention that genocide is also constituted through serious bodily or mental harm to member of a group.

Hopefully these definitions help and will be useful later on! 🙂 Don’t forget to like me on Facebook (I post lots of quirky and funny bits and pieces, as well as more useful international information of course) Also, please let me know what you think of the blog and blog posts so far!

Until next time,

Miss S.

Lukla Airport, Nepal

> Or Hillary Tensing Airport (Lukla Airport was re-named in 2008, but most people still refer to it as Lukla)<

I found some pictures and information about this airport today, and wow talk about flying/landing at new heights… This airport is at an elevation at 2800m. The landing strip is only 450meteres in legnth and UPHILL,  halfway up a cliff face. Apparently in hiking season it is a very busy landing strip, seeing as many as 50 flights a day. It  is located at the base camp of Everest and the views are spectacular. The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla takes 35 minutes and would be amazing and a once in a lifetime trip. I have a feeling I would get quite nauseous at the realisation how huge and high these mountains are. Actually, I’m getting nervous just thinking about it now. I can’t seem to comprehend the massive-ness (not a word, I know, but it should be!) of the landscape.








Image from:






Image from:

Smh also did a report on the airport, and notes that Intrepid Travel runs 15-day Everest Base Camp treks out of Kathmandu. $1230 a person includes staying in mountain tea houses and Kathmandu hotels, guides, porters and return flights from Kathmandu to Lukla( TEA HOUSES?!? I am a huge tea fan, so the thought of going all the way ‘up’ there for some tea (ok and some hiking I suppose) not only amazes me but also inspires me to do so. Apparently in the Himalayas they produce and grow black, green and white teas. The image below is of the Antu tea plantations nestled between the Himalayan mountains. So who’s game? 😛

Image from:

Is Syria in a state of civil war? And what are ‘coding rules’? Part 2

Now that we know what coding rules are, we can move onto the coding rules advocated by Nicholas Sambanis[1] and use them against what we know about the Syrian Conflict. This may seem like a long-winded post (and that it probably is!), but I promise that it is worth having a read through. Why? Well the answers to the following questions (aka coding rules) tell us basic facts about the conflict and how it is taking shape. It is a conflict with incredibly high casualty rates, and devastating effects for the people of Syria (plus surrounding states, and a pickle for the international community). If that isn’t enough of a reason to keep on reading I don’t know what is… So lets continue! An armed conflict should be classified as a civil war if:

A)     “The war takes places within a territory of a state that is a member of the international system with a population of 500,000 or greater. (This coding rule is a bit more demanding that some others that are out there, states Sambanis.) This rule also pertains to states that are occupying foreign territories that are claiming for independence (e.g. West Bank and Gaza in Israel). A strict application of this coding rule would mean that cases would be dropped if the states claim of independence is rejected by the U.N.”[2]

The Syrian Arab Republic is an independent state and joined the U.N. on the 24th of October 1945. This means that it is a member of the international system. It has a population approximately of 22,500,000 (July 2012 estimate). So yes the Syrian conflict does meet this criterion.

B)     “The parties are politically and militarily organized, and they have publicly stated political objectives. (This coding rule distinguishes insurgent groups and political parties from criminal syndicates and riotous mobs. ’Terrorist’ groups would be classified as insurgent groups, as terrorism is a form of political violence, however they would have to cause a significant level of violence. The distinction between criminal violence and political violence may become blurred in some cases. Non-combatant populations that are often victimised in civil wars are not considered a ‘party’ to the war if they are not organised in a militia or able to apply violence in pursuit of a political objective.)”[3]

The armed Syrian opposition is identifiable, organized, and capable even if it is not entirely unified. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is nominally headquartered in Turkey, thus functions more as an umbrella organization than a traditional military chain of command.[4] The FSA is a politically motivated militant group whose aim is to overthrow Syria’s current government (led by Bashar al-Assad). At the beginning of the political uprising in mid-March 2011, the FSA’s objective was to protect the rights of peaceful protesting civilians against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s government is using its traditional security forces as well as pro-government militia (the Shabiha militia) against the opposition of its regime, calling the FSA a terrorist organisation.[5] So yes the Syrian conflict does also meet this criterion.

C)     “The government (through its military or militias) must be a principle combatant. If there is no functioning government, then the party representing the government internationally and/or claiming the state domestically must be involved as a combatant. (Extensive indirect support – monetary, organizational, military – by the government to militias might also satisfy this criterion, however here it becomes harder to distinguish civil war from communal violence. In some cases where the state has collapsed, it may not be possible to indentify parties representing the state because all parties may be claiming the state, and these conflicts will also be hard to distinguish from intercommunal violence, e.g. Somalia after 1991.)”[6]

The Syrian government is still retaining control of most of the state and state security forces. There is talk that the government may be collapsing from the inside as more persons defect, however it may not fall any time soon as they still have support stemming from Russia and Iran. At the moment Syria meets this criterion as well.

D)    “The main insurgent organization(s) must be locally represented and must recruit locally. Additional external involvement and recruitment need not imply that the war is not intrastate (intrastate was can be taking place at the same time as interstate war – I will post up some definitions of this). Insurgent groups may operate from neighbouring countries, but they must also have some territorial control (bases) in the civil war country and/or the rebels must reside in the civil war country.”


The FSA was started by soldiers who deserted the Syrian state security forces (therefore the FSA started locally). It is thought that the FSA’s main base is in Turkey.[7] The FSA has control of some parts of Syria (map of current strongholds Figure 1)[8]. Syria’s Kurdish Militia has been helping the FSA, and the FSA now controls large areas of the northern and central countryside. By controlling some parts of the border (Qusayr and Azaz), the FSA is able to smuggle weapons from Lebanon and Turkey. Syria meets this criterion as well.




Figure 1.



E)     “The start year of the war is the first year that the conflict causes at least 500 to 1,000 deaths. If the conflict has not caused 500 deaths or more in the first year, the war is coded as having started in that year only if cumulative deaths in the next 3 years reach 1,000. (This range can be relaxed to a range of 100 to 1,000 because fighting might have started late in the year). Finding credible sources of casualty rates is incredibly difficult when armed conflict takes place. If there is no good estimate of deaths for the first year, we can code the onset at the first reported large-scale armed conflict, provided that the violence continues or escalates in the following years”.[9]

Unfortunately trying to figure out exact figures of casualties on both sides of the conflict, plus civilian casualties, is not an easy task. Each side of the conflict may exaggerate their efforts and number of killings, there may be confusion as to which group an individual belongs, and numerous people may go missing during the conflict. Foreign aid agencies and international news groups do their best at totalling the casualties, but all figures are not likely to be 100% correct. With that in mind, I have found it to be almost impossible to find out when and where the first ‘major’ clash occurred between the FSA and government forces. This is what I can be certain about. The first clash between civilian protestors and the Syrian government forces occurred in mid-March 2011 (Probably on the 16th of March, on the ‘Day of Dignity’ when civilians in Damascus were demanding the release of political prisoners, 35 people were said to have been arrested. In the city of Deera, another rally was being held called the ‘Day of Rage’, and this time the Syrian security forces shot numerous protestors, sparking even more rallies and protests.).[10] This would not be considered the beginning of the civil war. These acts of violence fall under the category of ‘politicide’.[11] After these events, more clashes occur between Syrian security forces and civilians. Defectors from the Syrian security forces (later becoming known as the FSA) begin to fight against the Syrian Security Forces in the summer of 2011 (June/July), this would probably be the time a civil war began to progress. It is thought that in June 2011 there was 400 casualties, and in June 2012 3,000.[12] It is also thought that by August 2012, 21,000 people had died in the conflict.[13] Most of those being civilians. I have tried to find statistics for casualty rates pertaining the to the Syrian Security Forces, and the opposition militia, however these vary greatly depending on sources and so it seems that general casualty rates are the most consistent. It is clear however, that from June 2011 until June 2012, thousands of casualties have resulted from the conflict. Even though these figures may not be exact, it is without a doubt that in the first year of ‘civil war’ more than a thousand casualties were recorded. The civil war would have been regarded as having started in June/July 2011. This criterion is also met.

F)     “Throughout its duration, the conflict must be characterized by sustained violence, at least at the minor or intermediate level. There should be no three year period during which the conflict causes fewer than 500 deaths.”[14]


At the moment the conflict in Syria has been continuing on for just over a year. We cannot know just yet when the armed conflict will cease. There has been a high level of violence recorded since June 2011, until the present date.

G)    “Throughout the war, the weaker party must be able to mount effective resistance. Effective resistance is measured by at least 100 deaths inflicted on the stronger party. A substantial number of those deaths must occur in the first year of the war. This criterion must be proportionate to the intensity of the conflict. If the violence becomes effectively one-sided, even if the threshold is met, the civil war must be coded as having ended, and a politicide or other one-sided violence must be coded to have started.”[15]

As we all probably know, the intensity of the conflict has been very high, and the government has been using very high and according to some, disproportionally high levels of violence against the opposition.  However, the opposition must be doing something right as they are still holding onto some strategic strongholds, and according to the Syrian government, 4,000 of its soldiers have been killed in the conflict to date.[16]  So yes, the Syrian conflict also meets this criterion.

H)    “A peace treaty that produces at least 6 months of peace marks the end of the war.”[17]

We have not yet reached that stage of the conflict as of yet.

I)      “A decisive military victory by the rebels that produces a new regime should mark the end of the war. Because civil war is understood as an armed conflict against the government, continuing armed conflict against a new government implies a new civil war. If the government wins the war, a period of peace longer than 6 months must persist before we code a new war.”[18]

We have not yet reached that stage of the conflict as of yet.

J)      “A cease-fire, truce, or simply an end to the fighting can also mark the end of a civil war if they result in at least 2 years of peace. The period of peace must be longer what is required in the case of a peace agreement because we do not have clear signals of the parties’ intent to negotiate an agreement in the case of a truce/cease-fire.” [19]

We have not yet reached that stage of the conflict as of yet.

K)     “If new parties enter the war over new issues, a new war onset should be coded, subject to the same criteria. If the same parties return to a war over the same issues, we generally code the continuation of the old war, unless any of the above criteria for coding a war’s end apply for the period before the resurgence of fighting.”[20]


We have not yet reached that stage of the conflict as of yet.

In conclusion: From all of the answers gathered from the ‘coding rules’ questions, yes, Syria can be deemed to be in civil war (not a huge surprise really)…


The next post will be about weak state theory and how this relates to Syria’s future.  I will also be looking at the international community’s response to the conflict and why states choose the positions they choose.





[1] Nicholas Sambania, ‘What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an operational Definition’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, 2004

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Joseph Holliday for the Institute For The Study Of War, ‘Syria’s Armed Opposition’, Middle East Security Report 3,, March 2012

[5] Jane’s World Insurgency and Terrorism, ‘Free Syrian Army (FSA), Groups – Middle East – Active,July 24, 2012

[6] Nicholas Sambania, ‘What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an operational Definition’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, 2004

[7] Joseph Holliday for the Institute For The Study Of War, ‘Syria’s Armed Opposition’, Middle East Security Report 3,, March 2012

[8] Al Jazeera, ‘Fractured Revolution’,

, 08/09/12

[9] Nicholas Sambania, ‘What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an operational Definition’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, 2004

[11] International Coalition For The Responsibility To Protect, ‘Crisis In Syria’,, 2012

[13] Ibid.

[14] “This criterion makes coding very difficult because data on deaths throughout the duration of a conflict are hard to find. However, such coding rules are necessary to prevent to prevent one from coding from coding too many war starts in the same conflict or coding an ongoing civil war when for years after the conflict has ended…” Nicholas Sambania, ‘What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an operational Definition’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, 2004

[15] Ibid.

[16] Mail Online, ‘Killed in an instant: Moment a Syrian rebel checkpoint takes direct hit is captured in powerful photographs that show the cost of war’,, 09/09/2012

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.