Sunday, January 02, 2011

Peace Has Broken Out!

Well not quite yet. Strategy Page has posted one of their periodic War Updates A Perspective on the on all the world's wars going into the new year.

Worldwide violence continues to decline, but most people are unaware of this because the mass media will feature whatever wars and disorder they can find. This is an old journalistic technique, and it's good for business. But not so helpful if you are trying to keep track of what's really happening out there. Oddly enough, the most bloody conflicts (like Congo) get the least media coverage. Reporting tends to be distorted by how accessible wars are, as well as how easily your viewers could identify with the combatants. The media also has a hard time keeping score. For years, Iraq was portrayed as a disaster until, suddenly, the enemy was crushed and the war was won. Even that was not considered exciting enough to warrant much attention, and that story is still poorly covered. Same pattern is playing out in Afghanistan, where the defeats of the Taliban, and triumph of the drug gangs, go unreported or distorted. If you step back and take a look at all the wars going on, a more accurate picture emerges.


All this continues a trend that began when the Cold War ended, and the Soviet Union no longer subsidized terrorist and rebel groups everywhere. The current wars are basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies, which are seen as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism), that still resonate among people who don't know about the dismal track records of these creeds. Iran has picked up some of the lost Soviet terrorist support effort. That keeps Hezbollah, Hamas, and a few smaller groups going, and that's it. Terrorists in general miss the Soviets, who really knew how to treat bad boys right.

They then have a country by country review. I will copy the two in which we currently have the most interest. The links by each country go to SP’s archive for that conflict.


The headlines in the media are all about a stronger and more widespread Taliban, but it's the Taliban who are increasingly getting hammered. There hasn't been a "Taliban Spring Offensive" for the last three years, and the key Taliban financial resource; heroin in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, has been under heavy attack for the last year. The opium crop declined 25 percent this year, and drug gang income even more. The Taliban expected drug gang profits, al Qaeda assistance, and Pakistani reinforcements to turn the tide. But al Qaeda is a very junior, and unpopular, partner, and the Pakistani Taliban are sending refugees, not reinforcements. With all that, violence nationwide was up, mainly because there are more foreign troops in the country, being more aggressive against the Taliban and drug gangs. Foreign troops lost 295 dead in combat during 2008, and that increased 76 percent, to 519, in 2009. That's about half the casualty rate for foreign troops in Iraq during the peak year of 2007. Foreign troops lost 711 dead this year (a 37 percent increase), the casualty rate running at about the same rate of last year because there were more foreign troops in action this year. The Taliban roadside bomb weapon is losing its punch because of more MRAPs, and specialized intel and engineer troops moved in from Iraq. This has not helped civilians, who suffer far more deaths from Taliban action. In fact, independent minded tribes, warlords, corruption and drug gangs remain a greater threat to peace, prosperity and true national unity, than the Taliban (on both sides of the Pakistan border). The "Taliban" are not an organization, but a Pushtun movement that is active on both sides of the border, among less than ten percent of the 40 million Pushtun in the region. The Pakistani government finally agreed to take on the pro-Taliban tribes and various Islamic terrorist organizations. That has put pressure on Taliban on either side of the border. There is no longer a safe haven for the Taliban. Violence inside Afghanistan is growing, largely because of the drug gangs, and their support for tribes (especially pro-Taliban ones) that oppose the corrupt national government. The foreign nations, fighting their war on terror in Afghanistan, have finally realized that there has never been an Afghan national government that was not corrupt, and changing that is going to be more difficult than fighting the Taliban or finding bin Laden. NATO is now fully aware of the trans-national nature of the Pushtun tribes and the Taliban movement. The "war in Afghanistan" is more of a "Pushtun Tribal Rebellion," and is being handled as such.



Islamic terrorists are now a police problem. U.S. troops have withdrawn to suburban bases, and casualties are sharply down. U.S. deaths declined from 314 in 2008 to 150 in 2009, and 60 in 2010. This is way down from the 2007 peak of 904 (when there were three times as many U.S. troops around). Violence in general continues to be down over 80 percent from the bad old days of three years ago. More areas of the country are now at peace (as some have been since 2003.) The Sunni Arab minority has worked out peace deals with the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs. But some Sunni Arab Islamic radicals are still active, supported by Sunni Arab nationalists in the Persian Gulf, and former Saddam supporters in Syria. Some Sunni Arabs, who had fled the country, are returning, but nearly half the Sunni Arabs are still gone (either outside the country or hiding inside Iraq). The Shia militias have been defeated as well, mainly by Iraqi police and troops. Corruption and inept government are now the major problems, with potential Iranian meddling (or even invasion) a permanent threat. The major U.S. TV news operations have pulled out. The war is over.
(bold text is mine)

Let us hope the trend continues.

Related: Democracy and Peace in a Unipolar World

NOTE: I have a love/hate relationship with this site. I don’t like their sourcing policy - they don’t - but if you want to you can usually find it with a quick google search, they have a tendency toward terminal curtness in titles style etc. but that is probably good marking. On the other hand they cover in a single place, in an easy format, items that would be impossible to keep up with otherwise, and there meta -analysis’ are usually among the most plausible and they do not spin their analysis to support agendas or either side in domestic politics. This type of article is SP at it’s best.


El Jefe Maximo said...

I certainly agree that the world is relatively more peaceful than it has been, although I'm somewhat dubious on whether the situation can continue.

Most of the relatively serious problems appear to be in east Asia. The continuing deterioration of North Korea, combined with the humiliation of the ROK leadership over the recent string of incidents, and the inability of China to exercise much leverage on the North, is cause for very serious concern. If that's not a war breeder the thing doesn't exist any more.

Similarly I am not sure what to make over the mid-term of the Chinese emergence as a real great power. China today reminds me so much of Wilhelmine Germany: an unfelicitious combination of amazing economic growth and great military power combined with a healthy dose of bumptious nationalism and an underdeveloped domestic poltical system. As in 1914, dealings with such a system are subject to terrible accidents.

I am not as apocolyptic about Iran as some. I tend to think we missed the boat on keeping them from getting nukes, and are going to have to try to live with them. We must hope for changes in Iran herself, and that the mullahs don't do anything stupid in the meantime.

Then there are the jokers in the deck, the jumped up tinpot in Venezuela, the rusted out tinpot in Cuba and the steady deterioration of the Mexican state. . .which brings us to our own problems.

But on the whole, the world has looked a whole lot worse.

hank_F_M said...

El jefe

Even if the total keeps going down that does not mean there won't be more. There is a lot of potential either way, hope for the best - para belum

I think that our withdrawl from Iraq will mean that Isreal can bomb without flying through US guarenteed air space. Then things could get interesting, as in the old Chinese curse.

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