Liquid or Solid Warfare? Autocratic States, Non-State Armed Groups and the Socio-Spatial Dimension of Warfare in Yemen

Release date: 2023-01

Precision-strike warfare from a distance is frequently presented as a particularly democratic way of war. Governments of democratic states avoid boots on the ground, as they fear not getting re-elected should a war result in many casualties and high economic costs. From the perspective of ‘liquid modernity’ (Bauman 2000), where power is uncoupled from the control of territory, liquid warfare, a way of war that eschews territorial confinement and related responsibilities for order-building, should be a tempting option for autocratic states and non-state armed groups (NSAGs), too – if they have the technological means at their disposal. Based on socio-spatial concepts from political geography, this article develops a typology of liquid and solid warfare and probes, whether and how the proliferation of precision-strike technology to Saudi Arabia and the Houthis has influenced the socio-spatial dimension of their warfare in the internationalised Yemeni civil war. The findings suggest that liquid warfare is not necessarily confined to Western, democratic conduct of war, posing the question whether these labels do fit anymore.

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