Sunday, May 31, 2020

Endless War

Modern wars are mostly about power and treasure. And they go on, and on, and on. A new study shows that 60% of the world’s wars have lasted for at least a decade. 

Libya’s civil war entered its 7th year this month with no end in sightLibya is a classic case of a state of chaos deliberately fed and manipulated by external powers, in this instance Turkey, Qatar, Russia, Egypt and the UAE. Here, as elsewhere, rival rulers claim to be upholding order or fighting “terrorism” while, in reality, they seek to extend national influence and economic advantage. As long as these aims remain unmet, they show scant interest in peace.

In Afghanistan, conflict has raged on and off since the Soviet invasion in 1979. America’s Afghan war is now its longest ever, part of the open-ended US “global war on terror” launched after the 2001 al-Qaida attacks.

Syria began initially peaceful uprising against the autocratic presidency of Bashar al-Assad formed part of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts. It quickly turned into full-scale war as Assad’s regional foes, notably Saudi Arabia, seized a chance to overthrow a regime allied with Iran. Since then upwards of half a million people are estimated to have died.

Yemen’s conflict is in its sixth pitiless year.

The war in Yemen commenced in March 2015.  More than 40,000 people have fled their homes since January, adding to the 3.6 million displaced. Unicef says 12 million children need humanitarian assistance. The impasse owes much to the fact the main protagonists – the Yemeni government, led by exiled president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the Houthi rebel movement, which represents Yemen’s Zaidi Shia minority – are backed by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively. The Saudi military intervened in 2015 after Hadi was forced to flee, backed by the US, UK and France. But while civilian casualties and alleged war crimes have rocketed, the Houthi insurgency appears largely unscathed. Meanwhile, al-Qaida terrorists are exploiting the chaos and southern separatists based in Aden have gained ground.
In Israel-Palestine, war – or rather the absence of peace – has characterised life since 1948. 

Somalis have endured 40 years of fighting. 

It’s hard to say exactly when the trouble began in the DRC. This vast central African country experienced an extraordinary civil war between 1997 and 2003 when an estimated five million people died. Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel and Sudan is fuelled by the fact that millions of young men in Africa, where the median age is 19.8, lack fulfilling work or a meaningful stake in their country’s future. Long-running inter-state or intra-state violence is also rooted in the climate crisis and resulting resource scarcity, poverty and dislocation.

These are but a few examples in a world where the idea of war without end seems to have become accepted, even normalised.

Today’s wars are mostly undeclared, undefined and inglorious affairs typically involving multiple parties, foreign governments, proxy forces, covert methods and novel weapons. They are conducted without regard for civilian lives, the Geneva conventions regulating armed conflict, or the interests of host populations in whose name they are fought. New technologies and weapons such as drones are lowering the up-front cost of conflict while enlarging potential theatres of war.

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