January 2, 2013:
Planning for peacekeeping works a lot better if you have a good idea of where the next crises will occur. For 2013, there are several potential hotspots where diplomats can’t handle the mess and armed peacekeepers may be needed. In some cases there might also be a call for more peacekeepers in an existing hotspot. That might happen in the eastern Congo, where the largest force of UN peacekeepers has been trying to calm things down for nearly a decade but the violence just keeps going. There’s increasing hostility between Sudan and newly created South Sudan. There are some peacekeepers there but, like Darfur (western Sudan), the violence never seems to stop.
There’s always been the possibility of large scale fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There’s been more and more small scale violence on the border and growing threats from both countries. There is still a lot of tension between Pakistan and India over Pakistani support for Islamic terrorists making attacks in India. Pakistan denies any responsibility, despite a growing mountain of evidence. Neither country would be very hospitable to peacekeepers.
And then there the developing mess in the Western Pacific off China, where Chinese claims to a lot of uninhabited rocks and reefs, is causing a growing outrage from the neighbors. China keeps pushing and with all those armed ships and aircraft facing off, an accidently, or deliberate, shot is possible. China will also be a major player if North Korea finally does its political collapse. The North Korean economy has already tanked, as has morale and living standards. If the government loses control, China and South Korea have both made claims on responsibility for taking over and dealing with the mess.
There is some threat that Islamic terrorism in Nigeria could trigger another civil war. So far there’s not a lot of talk about this, despite efforts by the Islamic terror groups to get one going. It’s similar with the Palestinians, who threaten another terrorism campaign, while forgetting that they are still in the midst of their last one (that was defeated years ago and remains so despite regular efforts to revive the killing). There is also a low probability of violence in Cuba or Venezuela when current strongmen (Castro and Chavez) die (which is likely in 2013).
As Somalia calms down, neighboring Kenya could see another round of tribal violence because of presidential elections. It could turn into a civil war. Growing religious violence in Lebanon, due in part to the rebellion next door in Syria, could trigger another civil war. When the Syrian rebels win, and drive out the Assad government, peacekeepers may be needed to keep things quiet among the victorious rebel factions. Then there are the million or so Syrian Kurds, who are talking about getting over 20 million Kurds in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey to join together to form the long sought Kurdistan. Not likely but always a headline grabbing threat.
War has been brewing in Zimbabwe for two decades and 2013 could be the year the anger gets organized. There are a lot more low probability trouble spots around the globe but unless they get violent enough to attract a lot of international media attention, there is little risk of peacekeepers heading that way.