The Limitations of Military Psychology: Combat-stress and Violence-values among the Chechens and Albanians

Leiden University

This article examines the presence, impact and role of combat-stress among Chechen and Albanian rebels during the latest Russo-Chechen conflicts (1994-1996, 1999-present) and the Serbo-Albanian conflict in Kosovo (1997-1999).

It examines the interplays between combat-stress and traditional violence-values—two of the four variables of my Brutalisation theory. Ten Dam finds that stresses and traumas of Chechen and Albanian combatants account for many of their brutalities (also in post-war settings). Such brutalities—even if less common and systematic than Russian and Serb atrocities during and after the wars—violate international and local norms, i.e. the very violence-values of martial valour and honour that enhanced their combat-stress to begin with.

The author recommends that brutalisation theory must be tested on more conflict cases to assess its (degree or lack of) validity. Most urgent is pioneering fieldwork with structured and informal interviews of active and former non-state combatants about their combat-stresses.

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