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International and Intranational Conflict

International and Intranational Conflict

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that some international conflicts involve governments, while others involve private organizations.

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Notes on "International and Intranational Conflict"

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When we think of international conflict, we tend to think of conflict between separate nations, separate countries. But sometimes these conflicts really arise from groups within a country. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk with you more about that today.

In fact, I've written two words here on the board. International and intranational. Now, they sound almost alike, they're spelled almost alike, and it can be a little bit confusing.

But I think we're all familiar with international conflict. I'll just underline the inter here, which, of course, refers to conflict between separate nations.

But then there is intranational. And intranational refers to those conflicts that arise from within a country. Typically, this happens between ethnic groups within a country, more than one ethnic group in some cases.

And these kinds of conflicts are also known as intrastate. So intranational, intrastate, and sometimes international conflicts are referred to as interstate.

So what causes these intranational conflicts to erupt? Well, typically, you know, you do have multiple cultural groups with different values and traditions. You know, we've seen and heard a lot about this in the news.

We see conflicts between different groups in the Mideast, Sunnis, Kurds, Shia. There's conflict in Iraq between these groups still, depending on who's in power. And they try to get power from one another.

We see this conflict in Syria. The Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds there are all sectors involved in the civil war going on trying to wrest power away from Assad.

And, of course, we are all aware of and have read about the conflict in Bosnia between the Serbs and the Muslims. The conflict in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsis. The conflict in Sudan between the Muslims and the Christians.

So you have these different groups competing for things such as power, resources, wealth. So these conflicts arise between groups who may have been at war, really, or at odds with one another, sharing deep animosities for years, sometimes centuries.

And one of the things to look at here that helps explain how these things arise is Social Identity Theory, which talks about in-groups and out-groups. And when conflicts like this have been going on for so long and there's been discrimination and control, you find that the groups begin to get their identities very strongly associated with whatever group they belong to.

And, in some cases, this has become so severe it actually does lead to genocide. And we saw that, of course, in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsis.

So these conflicts come very deeply out of discrimination and control by one group over another. Quite often this is over wealth and resources, power. Often one group has the political power, the governmental power, and the group is not sharing in this at all, which is one of the reasons they don't have wealth or resources.

And then there becomes this strong identity with the in-group. Whichever group you belong to, whether it be the Muslim or the Christian, or it be the Serb or the Muslim, or the Hutu or the Tutsi, you identify with that group and that just helps perpetuate these conflicts.

So now these conflicts are happening within a country. But other countries outside the particular nation where this is happening often respond. And now this leads, of course, to issues of interconnection in the world-- we're all connected-- and sovereignty. And I put those two words down here.

First of all, sovereignty. Now, that refers to the established right of a nation or a government, a recognized government in the world, to determine its own policy and law in its country.

So nations have a right to decide how they want to run things, what their laws and their policies are. And when you've got these civil wars erupting and policies that are discriminating against one group, technically, a country has a right to do that within their borders.

But interconnection here refers to how these conflicts and the decisions made in one country impact other countries. So other countries are impacted here, particularly if there are human rights violations, which we certainly have seen in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan.

And if these human rights violations are disturbing and offensive enough, as they are in genocide that we saw, the international community will respond. And there will be trade embargoes, cutting off aid if a country's been getting aid, and there may even be military intervention, as we've seen in Bosnia. That happened.

So there is this interplay between how interconnected we are, and when the actions of one country, one sovereign nation, impact the values and the conditions of the rest of the world so that other nations do respond because of our interconnection.

So international conflict it comes from countries that have conflict with one another. But it can also arise from intranational conflicts, these conflicts between groups within a country, which spread and affect other nations either right around that country or across the world.

So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know

In international conflict, the understanding that the decisions of one country have an impact on other countries through various kinds of formal and informal relationships.

International Conflict

Conflict between differing groups on a national scale within the boundaries of a single political state/entity.


The established right of a recognized government to determine internal policy and law of its country.