Liquid warfare

The consequences of the proliferation of modern military technology on the warfare of autocratic states and non-state armed actors.

The project asks how the proliferation of modern military technology for remote warfare – e.g. ballistic missiles, precision-guided munition, or drones – transforms war and warfare practices of autocratic states and non-state armed actors. Based on the thoughts of Zygmunt Bauman on the reduced role of territory in ‘liquid modernity’, the project develops a typology of solid (territory-focused) and liquid (target-focused) warfare in interplay with each other. Democratic states exhibit a tendency towards the latter, as research on specific ‘western’ practices of warfare has already carved out. The project asks whether we can observe similar developments with regard to autocratic states and non-state armed actors, if they have the respective military technology at their disposal. In this regard, the project analyses in particular the development of warfare practices of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the early 1990s, as well as the warfare of the Houthi in Yemen and the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. In the second phase (December 2023–March 2025), the focus will shift to Russia, China and Turkey.

The results of the research will be presented mainly in the form of articles in peer-reviewed academic journals.



Bales, M., & Heinze, M., & Mutschler, M.

Zooming in on the Yemen War - The Future of Warfare and Human Rights in the Middle East

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung , Bonn (2023)


Mutschler, M.

Auf dem Weg zur flüchtigen Kriegführung? Flüchtige Moderne und Krieg im 21. Jahrhundert

Nomos , Baden-Baden (2017)


Mutschler, M.

On the road to liquid warfare? Revisiting Zygmunt Bauman's thoughts on liquid modernity in the context of the "new Western way of war"

BICC , Bonn (2016)


Mutschler, M., & Bales, M.

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



Mutschler, M., & Bales, M., & Meininghaus, E.

The Impact of Precision Strike Technology on the Warfare of Non-State Armed Groups: Case Studies on Daesh and the Houthis

Routledge , London (2024)


project team

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Dr Max Mutschler

Senior Researcher


Marius Bales



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