Potential Hot Spots: December 31, 2003


Where Will There Be War in 2004? While the War on Terror has been shutting down a lot of ongoing wars (by cutting down on fund raising, gun running and foreign nation support), there are still plenty of hot spots that could erupt into full blown wars. Here's our analysis of those places that might slide into armed strife in the coming year.

Iran- The majority of the population wants to be free from the stifling (politically and economically) repression of Islamic conservatives. A 1980s constitution, imposed by armed Islamic radicals, gives the "Council of Guardians" (composed of conservative Islamic clerics) veto power over whatever the popularly elected legislature and government officials try to do. By law, Islamic conservatives control the courts, police and armed forces. Thus reformers who seem to pose a threat to the Islamic conservatives are jailed and prosecuted. The Islamic conservatives have the support of less than a third of the population, but they have the guns and the majority have, so far, backed off from an armed insurrection. Memories of the bloody 1979 Islamic revolution, and the war with Iraq in the 1980s, are still fresh. But most of the population is under 30, and they want their freedom. In 2004, many of them may decide to fight for it.

Nigeria- International surveys regularly tag Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. Despite the oil wealth, most of which is stolen by corrupt officials, the country is poor. There is also an increasingly violent divide between the Moslem north and the Christian south. Dozens of major tribal populations are organizing to attack corruption and each other over economic and religious disputes. If the violence gets organized, there will be a war. A big one. It's happened before.

North Korea- For half a century, it was feared that North Korea's huge army would explode outward against South Korea. Now there is a growing danger of an implosion, as a starved and brutalized population fights back. It's a conscript army, and the families of the soldiers are suffering more each year. Discipline in the army is down and corruption is up. If the soldiers rebel, it could all blow up in '04.

Central Asia- The five former republics of the Soviet Union are now independent nations run by the communist officials who were in charge before the Soviet Union dissolved. Two of these nations, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, dominate the region. Uzbekistan has the most people, while Kazakhstan has the most territory, and the most oil. Like the big two, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are all battling the growth of militant Islam. As soon as the Soviet Union fell, Saudi financed Moslem missionaries showed up, establishing religious schools, and the ideas that all five "stans" should be united as one big Islamic Republic. Most of the armed Islamic militants were trapped in Afghanistan in late 2001, and killed, captured or dispersed. Some made their way back to the stans, where they are recruiting and training new fighters. The Moslems of Central Asia are more upset with their corrupt rulers than they are interested in establishing an Islamic Republic. But the Islamic radicals are preaching war on corruption as well. Saudi Arabia's current crackdown on terrorism makes it difficult to get a lot of cash into the stans, and Iran is showing restraint as well. So this war may be delayed for a while until the rebels scrounge up weapons and money.

Venezuela- A leftist president who got the middle-class vote on the promise of reform and fighting corruption has turned out to be a Fidel Castro wannabe. The poor love him, while those with any assets hate him. A lot of people in Venezuela have guns, so a bloody class war is not out of the question.

Burma- A military dictatorship is wearing out it's welcome. The Burmese are a patient people, but they are fast approaching their limit. 

Zimbabwe- A power hungry "president for life" is starving the population in order to stay in power. The population may just sit there and die, but some may fight instead. 

Equatorial Guinea- A smaller version of the Nigerian situation. 

And, of course, lots of current wars will continue. While the War on Terror has cut off money and weapons for many wars, leading to numerous peace talks, ceasefires, there are still wars that are well funded, or manage to get by on little. Wealthy Saudis are still getting their charitable contributions to armed Islamic radicals in places like Kashmir, Sudan and Southeast Asia. So the fighting in those areas continues. In many parts of Africa, cheap AK-47s and pillage keep wars going. Little additional funding is necessary. 

Happy New Year


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