Wars Update: Those Who Dread Democracy Are In Despair

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June 1, 2011: The major military powers continue the Great Nuclear Truce (GNT) that began in the 1950s, when Russia got nuclear weapons, and suddenly realized they could not afford to use them (without risking more destruction than past foes like the Nazis or Mongols inflicted). As more major powers got nukes, the "we can't afford to use them, but they're nice to have" attitude, and the unprecedented truce, persisted. There have been wars, but not between the big players, with the largest and most destructive conventional forces. A record was broken in 1986, as there had never before (since the modern state system developed in the 16th century) been so long a period without a war between a major powers (the kind that could  afford, these days, to get nukes). Since the Cold War ended, there have been fewer wars (in the traditional sense) and more low level conflicts (rebellions, civil wars). Most people are unaware of this situation, because the mass media never made a lot of the GNT, it was  something that was just there and not worth reporting. Besides, "nukes (bombs, power plants, medicine) are evil" sell, if you are in the news business.  Calling any incident, with a lot of gunfire and a few dead bodies, a "war" has also been misleading. The fact is, worldwide violence has been declining since the end of the Cold War (1991) and the elimination of Russian subsidies and encouragement for pro-communist rebels and terrorists. 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. However, if you step back and take a look at all the wars going on, a more accurate picture emerges.

Violence has greatly diminished,  or disappeared completely, in places like  Iraq, Nepal,  Haiti, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, ChechnyaCongo, Indonesia and Burundi. Even Afghanistan, touted as the new war zone, was not nearly as violent as the headlines would deceive you into believing. There's actually as much violence across the border in Pakistan, which doesn't reported much in the West. The violence on both sides of the border mainly involves Pushtun tribesmen, but the fact that this whole Taliban/heroin gang mess is another Pushtun uprising, rarely gets reported as such.

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 and other forms of radical socialism), 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.

The War on Terror  has morphed into the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This religious radicalism has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building  for over half a century. Historically, Islamic radicalism has flared up into mass bloodshed periodically, usually in response to corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution on some social or political problem. The current violence is international because of the availability of planet-wide mass media (which needs a constant supply of headlines), and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and economic backwardness. This is why the current Arab Spring uprisings, and their desire to establish democracies, is liable to do some permanent damage to the Islamic terrorism tradition.

Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to gain attention. Most of the victims are fellow Moslems, which is why the radicals eventually become so unpopular among their own people that they run out of new recruits and fade away. This is what is happening now. The American invasion of Iraq was a clever exploitation of this, forcing the Islamic radicals to fight in Iraq, where they killed many Moslems, especially women and children, thus causing the Islamic radicals to lose their popularity among Moslems.  The sharp decline in opinion polls from Islamic nation was startling.

Normally, the West does not get involved in these Islamic religious wars, unless attacked in a major way. Moreover, modern sensibilities have made retaliation more difficult. For example, fighting back is considered, by Moslems, as culturally insensitive ("war on Islam"), and some of the Western media have picked up on this bizarre interpretation of reality.  It gets worse. Historians point out, for example, that the medieval Crusades were a series of wars fought in response to Islamic violence against Christians, not the opening act of aggression against Islam that continues to the present. Thus, the current war on terror is, indeed, in the tradition of the Crusades. And there are many other "Crusades" brewing around the world, in the many places where aggressive Islamic  militants are making unprovoked war on their Christian neighbors. Political Correctness among academics and journalists causes pundits to try and turn this reality inside out. But a close look at the violence in Africa, Asia and the Middle East shows a definite pattern of Islamic radicals persecuting those who do not agree with them, not the other way around.

While Islamic terrorism grabs most of the headlines, it is not the cause of many casualties, at least not compared to more traditional wars. The vast majority of the military related violence and deaths in the world comes from many little wars that get little media attention outside their region. Actually some of them are not so little. While causalities from terrorism are relatively few (usually 5,000-10,000 dead a year worldwide), the dead and wounded from all the other wars actually comprise about 95 percent of all the casualties. The Islamic terrorism looms larger because the terrorists threaten attacks everywhere, putting a much larger population in harm's way, and the more numerous potential victims are unhappy with that prospect. In the West, and most Moslem nations, Islamic terrorism remains more of a threat than reality.

Current wars are listed in alphabetical orders. Text underneath briefly describes current status. Click on country name for more details. 

AFGHANISTAN

The NATO nations with troops in Afghanistan, want to get their forces home. But that would create a heroin producing, Islamic terrorist and gangster sanctuary in Central Asia. You want to know how that works out, look at Chechnya in the late 1990s and Somalia during the last decade. No one has come up with any cheap, fast or easy solution for that, Meanwhile, Afghanistan's core problem is that there is no Afghanistan, merely a collection of tribes more concerned about tribal, than national, prosperity and power. A few percent of the population, mostly living in the cities and working with the foreigners, believes in Afghanistan the country. But beyond the city limits, it's a very different Afghanistan that is currently motivated by growing prosperity.  By Afghan standards, an unprecedented amount of cash has come into the country since September 11, 2001. Between the growing heroin sales, and foreign aid, plus lower losses from violence, it's been something of a Golden Age. It's often forgotten that the 1990s civil war was still active on September 11, 2001. The Taliban (or, more accurately, Pushtun nationalists) have been trying to make a comeback ever since. But most Afghans are more interested in grabbing a chunk of the new economic opportunities. Despite a decline in civilian deaths (and the fact that most of them are caused by the Taliban), the Afghan government plays up every civilian death caused by foreign troops, as a bargaining chip in the effort to cripple NATO anti-corruption efforts. Meanwhile, there hasn't been a "Taliban Spring Offensive" for the last three years, and this year is no exception. The key Taliban financial resource; heroin in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, has been under heavy attack for over a year now. The opium crop declined 25 percent last year, and drug gang income even more. The Taliban expected drug gang profits, al Qaeda assistance, and Pakistani reinforcements to help them out. But al Qaeda is a very junior, and unpopular, partner, and the death of Osama bin Laden was a big blow to morale. Pakistani Taliban are mostly 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 last year (a 37 percent increase from 2009), but it running at the same rate so far this year. The higher foreign troop casualties are because there were more foreign troops in action during the last year, and those troops have been more aggressive. The Taliban roadside bomb weapon has lost 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). Moreover, 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. Two years ago, the Pakistani government finally agreed to take on the pro-Taliban tribes and various Islamic terrorist organizations. That has put pressure on Taliban on both sides of the border. There are fewer safe havens 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. 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.

ALGERIA

The Arab Spring made only a slight impact on Algeria. Many locals are still traumatized by the 1990s war against Islamic terrorists, which is still not completely over. There are few Islamic radicals left in Algeria, with most of them dead, or run off to Europe, or south into the desert and across the southern borders into Black Africa. The danger has moved south, to the border area and the scene of al Qaeda smuggling gangs moving South American cocaine north. Despite the large amount of uninhabited mountains and forests along the eastern coast, the police and army have been operating there for so long that it's difficult to stay hidden. Too many civilians are hostile to Islamic radicalism, and will phone in a tip. Algeria has become a very dangerous place for Islamic terrorists. There has been an increase in terror attacks, as Islamic radicals try to capitalize on the Arab Spring unrest in neighboring Tunisia and Libya. But in both those countries, the popular uprising was against the local dictators and for democracy, not Islamic radicalism. The uprisings have weakened the local security forces, and made it easier for Islamic radicals to move around and recruit. Algeria has increased its border security. The major problem remains an Algerian government that is basically a corrupt military dictatorship that uses the national oil wealth to buy enough votes to get elected again and again. So more Algerians are fleeing, or vacillating between despair and a desire to fight. The corrupt government ensures that there are always more desperate young men willing to give Islamic terrorism a try, but not enough to overthrow the government, or even keep Arab Spring demonstrations going.

BALKANS  

Corruption, crime, and the pursuit of past glories continues to be the main cause of violence here. An Islamic government in Turkey is looking east, like the late Ottoman Turk Empire. But to the east there is only trouble, while Turkey's growing economy looks West, where the trading partners are. Meanwhile, West Europeans got their way, and Kosovo became independent. Serbia disagrees with that, and Big Brother Russia offers all manner of support, and threats. But no one is willing to resume the war, yet. No one is willing to renounce war as an option, either. Bosnia continues to attract Islamic terrorists, despite the local government becoming increasingly hostile to these foreign troublemakers and alien Islamic conservatism. Moldova continues to muddle along and Bulgaria and Romania continue to fight corruption, and lose. The EU is pulling its peacekeepers out of the Balkans, leaving the gangsters, Islamic radicals and corrupt officials more freedom of action.

CENTRAL ASIA

The Arab Spring tried to spread to this area, but didn't. Local dictators continue to brew rebellion by suppressing democrats, Islamic radicals and anyone else who objects to strongman rule. Not much violence most of the time, just a lot of potential. The dictators in the "Stans" (the former provinces of the Soviet Union that became five independent nations; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan) have been rebuilding the Soviet era secret police. The new dictators noted that the Soviets never had any problems with Islamic terrorism, or any other kind of terrorism, and are going old school on this new problem. Popular uprisings have succeeded here. But, as happened in Kyrgyzstan, just replaced an existing despot with a new one who only seemed like a reformer for a while.

CHAD

Chad and Sudan halted their support for each other's rebels last year, and formally made peace. Now the biggest problem along the border are the bandits, who prey on the refugees and the foreign aid workers. The peacekeepers have left, and the foreign aid groups threatened to follow if  Chad security forces were unable, or unwilling, to deal with the banditry in and around the refugee camps. Chadian soldiers and police did keep the bandits in check, and the aid groups (a major source of economic activity in eastern Chad) remained. The unrest along the Sudan border is caused by refugees from tribal battles in Sudan, who bring their feuds with them. Prospects for peace are not good in Sudan, so the Sudanese refugees are not going home soon. Chad is now quieter, but not peaceful. Same with its neighbor, the CAR (Central African Republic), which suffers from the same plague of multiculturalism-induced rebellions.

CHINA

China has developed a major Cyber War capability, and has been using it for several years. China will not admit this, but has loudly announced that it is increasing its control over its 400 million Internet users and forming a "Blue Army" to defend China from Internet based attacks. Meanwhile, the targets of Chinese Cyber War efforts, in Western Europe and the U.S., are moving closer to some form of retaliation for the increasing Chinese aggression. Meanwhile, China has become major secret supplier of cheap weapons to bad guys everywhere. World class weapons are planned for the future, some 10-20 years from now, but every year, China offers more advanced weapons to the world market. The rivalry between China and India becomes more obvious, and dangerous. China is mainly concerned about its trade routes through the Indian Ocean.  The confrontation with Taiwan continues to subside, replaced by kind words and gracious lies, along with increases in trade and commerce. Taiwan buys more arms and China speeds up modernization of its armed forces, but in ways Westerners have a difficult time understanding. The latest shock is a plan to build fleet of aircraft carriers. The first carrier is almost ready for service, and training of naval aviators is underway in several new facilities.

COLOMBIA

After over three decades of violence, leftist rebels are rapidly losing support, recruits and territory.  The drug gangs and leftist rebels have merged in many parts of the country, and the war is increasingly about money, not ideology. The leftist rebels are definitely fading, but all that drug money will keep them in the game for quite a while. Alarmed at this, leftist demagogue Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has increased his support for the Colombian rebels, and their cocaine producing allies. Chavez is also spending several billion dollars a year on new weapons (mostly Russian) and warning everyone that he is about to be invaded by the United States and Colombia. This is mainly to disarm internal critics, upset at how Chavez has trashed the Venezuelan economy and democracy. Popular discontent in Venezuela threatens to turn that country into another Colombia, but Chavez sees Venezuela becoming a socialist dictatorship supported by oil revenue. His neighbors consider Chavez an increasingly dangerous demagogue. Chavez appears determined to allow his actions to develop into civil war.

CONGO

Not much change since the last update. Multiple tribal and political militias, plus an increasing number of bandits, continue to roam the eastern border area, perpetuating the bloodiest (and least reported) war of the last decade (several million dead, depending on who is counting). Peacekeeper and army action have reduced the size of these violent groups, but not eliminated them.  However, there are fewer places where the bad guys can roam freely. Attempts to absorb rebels into the army have not worked well. The last major problem is a Tutsi militia which will not disarm until the government destroys Hutu militias, organized by Hutu mass murderers who fled neighboring Rwanda in the 1990s. This the Congolese government finds it cannot (and to a certain extent, will not) do. The reason is money, the millions of dollars available each year to whoever has gunmen controlling the mines that extract valuable ores and allow the stuff out of the country. UN peacekeepers are criticized for not fighting more, but that??s not their job. The Congolese army is not up to it yet either, so there it simmers, with the rebels slowly losing strength, month by month. Meanwhile, the inept and corrupt government creates more anger than contentment, setting the stage for another civil war. But the population is not eager for more violence, not after two decades of mayhem.

ETHIOPIA

Not much change since the last update. The border dispute with Eritrea festers, and rebellion by ethnic Somalis in Ogaden province persists. There's oil in Ogaden, and that has caused the Ethiopians to be brutal to the rebels. Ethiopian troops are still active along the Somali border, as a warning to any Somali groups that might be tempted to move into Ogaden. The peacekeepers in Somalia were withdrawn in early 2009, but are poised on the border for a possible return. Ethiopia is accustomed to dealing with the Somalis, something the rest of the world should study more closely. Internally, rebellious Moslem groups are a constant threat, especially with more active support from Eritrea. 

HAITI

Not much change since the last update. Technically at peace. Peacekeepers keep a lid on two century old violence between the rich and the poor, and the criminal and political gangs. Peacekeepers have busted up many of the gangs, and sharply lowered the crime rate. But the government is still corrupt and prone to breed lawbreakers and disorder. Same pattern of poverty and corruption that has sustained chaos for the past two centuries. No good prospects of breaking the cycle are in sight, and the major earthquake in January 2010 only created more chaos in the capital (and largest city.).

INDIA-PAKISTAN

The May 2nd U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden caused an unexpected popular backlash against the Pakistani military. Not just for sheltering bin Laden (which the generals denied), but for being unable to spot the "invading Americans", or stop local Islamic radicals from carrying out "revenge attacks" that have left over a hundred dead. This comes on the heels of growing hostility with India. After the Mumbai terrorist attacks in late 2008, India pressured Pakistan to quit playing media games, and get serious about anti-Indian Islamic terrorists. This caused a struggle within the Pakistani government, over how to deal with Islamic radicalism. Meanwhile, India has to deal with religious (Islamic) separatists in Kashmir, plus tribal rebels in the northeast, and Maoist (communist) ones in between. In 2010, India launched a large offensive against the Maoists, a war they expect to take several years to finish and, not surprisingly, is proceeding slowly. Pakistan has Islamic radicals in the north, and rebellious Pushtun and Baluchi tribes along the Afghan border.  The Taliban had become stronger in Pakistan, where it originated, than in Afghanistan. The elected (2008) Pakistani government tried to make peace with the Taliban and when that failed, invaded the Taliban heartland. The previous military government had always avoided open war with the Islamic radicals. The Taliban were beat up pretty bad, and the number of terrorist attacks increased in response. The military refused to clear the Islamic radicals out of their two last refuges in North Waziristan and Baluchistan. Meanwhile the economy is a mess and the favorite national pastime is blaming foreigners for all these problems. By way of comparison, Moslem Bangladesh, which broke away from being part of Pakistan in the early 1970s, has no such Islamic radical problem (leftist rebels are a bigger problem). India and Pakistan both have nukes, making escalation a potential catastrophe. As a result, recent peace talks have lowered the possibility of war, but both sides continue an arms race.  Pakistan has always been a mess, and does not appear to be getting better. But at least it's becoming less hospitable to Islamic radicals. Even those Islamic terrorists who concentrate on attacking India, are being hammered a bit. There are still many Pakistanis, including government officials, who back Islamic radicalism, but recent developments (especially a daring raid on a navy air base) have made it more popular to criticize Islamic radicals for the many problems they cause. Pakistan still has a way to go in dealing with that demon. The U.S. has threatened to invade if Pakistan-based Islamic terrorists launch a successful terror attack in the United States. Evidence is piling up that Pakistani-based groups have supported, and still support, efforts to carry out attacks in the U.S. America has told Pakistan that this would have consequences, but the Pakistanis fear a larger civil war of their own if they go after the radicals, mainly because about a third of Pakistanis still back Islamic radicalism. The moderates are a majority, but the minority is more willing to die for their beliefs. That, however, is beginning to change.

INDONESIA

Not much change since the last update. Mostly at peace, but separatism, pirates, Islamic terrorists and government corruption create a volatile situation that could get hot real fast. Islamic terrorists have been greatly diminished, as Islamic moderates flex their traditional popularity. Aceh still has a few diehard separatist rebels. Newly independent East Timor has been unable to govern itself and is stuck in a cycle of perpetual poverty. 

IRAN

The radical, Israel hating and anti-corruption president Ahmadinejad has openly taken on the senior clerics who hold the ultimate power. Ahmadinejad is popular because of his anti-corruption efforts, but the major crooks are clerics or their kin. Meanwhile, popular unrest has been greatly reduced by increased government suppression. The basic problem, for all the things that bother Iranians,  is that an Islamic conservative minority has veto power over the larger number of reformers. Most Iranians just want a better life. The supply of peaceful solutions is drying up. After that comes another revolution. There are some more complications. Half the population consists of ethnic minorities (mainly Turks and Arabs), and some of these groups (Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis) are getting more restive and violent (for different reasons). Meanwhile, the Islamic conservatives are determined to support terrorism overseas and build nuclear weapons at home, rather than improving the economy and living standards. Unrest and terrorist violence are becoming more common, and government seeks foreign adventures to distract an unhappy population. That is not working, and the inept management of the economy is creating more unemployed young men desperate for a solution. But the religious dictatorship is backed by religious fanatics that are willing to kill to stay in power, and guys like this are very difficult to remove. Meanwhile, the nuclear weapons program moves forward, and is very popular with nearly all Iranians (who feel they are a great and powerful people who need nukes to prove it once more.)

IRAQ

Islamic terrorists are now a police problem and the government wants to keep some American troops in the country, instead of having all of them out by the end of the year.  U.S. troops have already 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. The casualty rate has not changed this year. All 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.  There is still a lot of tensions between the Kurds in the north (over northern oil fields) and the Arab majority. That could trigger a civil war, because the Kurds are better prepared for war, and the oil money is very important to preserving their autonomy. Plus, the Kurds don't trust the Arabs.  

ISRAEL

Despite its peace deal with Fatah, Hamas continues to preach endless war against Israel. Some Palestinians keep trying to make any kind of peace, in order to reverse the economic disaster they brought on themselves as a result of their decade old terror campaign against Israel.   Polls show that Palestinians are tired of terrorism, even though they still support it (in order to destroy Israel, which remains an article of faith in the Palestinian community). The Palestinian economy in Gaza has collapsed, as a major component, foreign charity was reduced because the people elected the Hamas (Islamic terrorists) party to power. Civil war between radical Hamas and corrupt Palestinian old guard (Fatah) has split Palestinians. Long time Arab allies are giving up on the Palestinians, who seem to have abandoned any meaningful attempt to make peace with Israel. Iran backed Islamic radicals Hezbollah and Hamas are allies, and most Lebanese back the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah violence threatens to drag Lebanon into another civil war, or another war with Israel. Meanwhile, the Israeli economy booms, partly because of a very effective counter-terrorism campaign. This annoys Arabs most of all.

IVORY COAST

The war is over. The national elections, finally held in late 2010, gave victory to the north. The southern leader refused to concede power and lost the ensuing mini-war. The north and the south have worked out differences over money, religion and power, but there are still some southern nationalists who won't accept defeat. French and West African peacekeepers helped oust the stubborn southern leader, first by refusing to intercede when the northern forces moved south. The final blow came when French troops went to the bunker of the southern leader and forced him to surrender.

KOREA

Growing unrest, corruption and privation continue to weaken the iron control that has long kept the north peaceful and the Kim family in control. North Korea continues to destroy its economy, in order to maintain armed forces capable of invading South Korea and maintaining its own population in bondage. Continued famine in the north has prompted China to send more and more troops to the border to keep hungry North Koreas out. North Korean military power declines, as lack of money for maintenance or training causes growing rot. The government is split into reform and conservative factions, making change difficult to achieve. Torpedoing of a South Korean warship and firing artillery at a South Korea island in 2010 are seen as a signs of factions maneuvering for control once Kim Jong Il dies. South Koreans are growing tired of the madness that still reigns in the north, and have, for the first time in over half a century, promised retaliation if the north fires again. This could lead to war. Meanwhile, it's become clear that political collapse in the north is now a matter of when, not if.  Growing popular unrest in the north is more evident with each passing month. The illness, and imminent death, of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has created a struggle over when, and to what extent, his heir will take over. Kim has selected his youngest son. Some factions are not enthusiastic about this, but China has endorsed the heir, and that is that for the moment. Kim Jong Il appears to be less ill than previously thought, and is being courted by China (to enact economic reforms.)

KURDISH WAR

Not much change since the last update. Turkish forces continue to battle Kurdish separatists, and push their bases further into Iraq. Iraqi Kurds have agreed to crack down on the PKK separatists the Turks have been fighting for over a decade. Kurds continue a 5,000 year struggle to form their own country. Iran is cracking down on its Kurds, in cooperation with Turkey. Even Syria is going after Kurdish separatists among its Kurdish minority. Iraqi Kurds believe they will get control of some Iraqi oil fields, providing cash for all manner of opportunities. But that is opposed by Iraqi Arabs and other minorities, not to mention Turkey. Despite all this, Turkish Kurds are gaining more support in Turkey for autonomy and freedom to be Kurds (and not "mountain Turks.").

MEXICO

Not much change since the last update. The U.S. border is like a war zone, and it's been getting worse. The passing of one-party rule, the growth of drug gangs, and increasing corruption in the security forces, has triggered unprecedented levels of violence and unrest. The government has gone to war with the drug gangs, and the outcome is still in doubt.

MYANMAR (Burma)

Not much change since the last update. Elections last November replaced the military dictatorship with the same people, out of uniform and trying to hide the fact that they rigged the vote. Decades of low level fighting against ethnic separatists in the north has resulted, in the last three years, in major victories for the government. Not a lot of fighting, but major movements by Burmese troops into separatist areas that were long outside the control of the government. Over 100,000 ethnic Chinese tribal separatists fled across the border into China (annoying the Chinese government). The tribesmen returned, and are producing major quantities of methamphetamine to support continued fighting. Tribal separatists continue to flee into Thailand. The half century old military government remains entrenched in power, even as its status as an international pariah grows.

NEPAL

Not much change since the last update. Radical communist rebels succeed in eliminating the monarchy, via an alliance with other political parties in 2006. Since then, Maoists have been deadlocked with other parties over writing a new constitution, and who should control the government. Meanwhile, Maoists refuse to completely disarm their private army. All this has triggered more violence by other unhappy groups (more radical Maoists, hill tribes, ethnic Indians), along with a newly organized group of "Young Maoist" street thugs. The Maoists are trying to intimidate the government into ceding control to a communist dictatorship, but, so far, it isn't working.

NIGERIA

A group of Taliban wannabes in the north are increasingly violent. But the group is too small to have much impact on a national scale. Meanwhile, too many tribes, not enough oil money and too much corruption create growing  unrest. The government continues to placate the ethnic oil gangs and rebels in the oil producing region (the Niger Delta) with a 2009 amnesty deal. That worked because, while the gangs were getting organized, and a lot more violent, the government was moving more police and military forces into the region. Most gang members accepted the amnesty, rather than take on the armed forces. The amnesty deal may not hold, but it has reduced attacks on oil facilities. Meanwhile, the northern Moslems want more control over the federal government (and the oil money).  The situation is still capable of sliding into regional civil wars, over money and political power. Corruption and ethnic/tribal/religious rivalries threaten to trigger, at worst, another civil war and, at least, more street violence and public anger.

POTENTIAL HOT SPOTS

Various places where the local situation is warming up and might turn into a war. Arab Spring violence in Syria and Bahrain, plus unrest in Zimbabwe and Guatemala are hot right now. Syria may get a lot worse, but the other three won't.

PHILIPPINES

Not much change since the last update. Islamic minority in the south wants its own country, and the expulsion of non-Moslems. Communist rebels in the north fight for social justice and a dictatorship. Both of these movements are losing and the Moslems are negotiating a peace deal that inches closer to a done deal. The communists are taking a beating, and are now willing to negotiate. The Moslems have, as always, lots of clan feuds and internal violence, which will survive any peace deal with the government. Meanwhile, most Filipinos are more concerned with corruption and the resulting economic stagnation.

RUSSIA  

Not much change since the last update. Rebuilding and reforming the decrepit Soviet era armed forces continues. They have to, because the Cold War era weapons are wearing out fast. It's either new stuff, or nothing that works anymore. The war against gangsters and Islamic radicals in Chechnya has been won, but the Islamic radicals continue to operate in other parts of the Caucasus, preventing the government from proclaiming peace.  Russia returns to police state ways, and traditional threatening attitude towards neighbors. Rather than being run by corrupt communist bureaucrats, the country is now dominated by corrupt businessmen, gangsters and self-serving government officials. The semi-free economy is more productive than the centrally controlled communist one, but that just provides more money to steal.

RWANDA & BURUNDI

Not much change since the last update. Wars between better organized and more aggressive Tutsis and more numerous Hutu tribes have died down in both countries. It's been going on for centuries, but the latest installment has finally ended, with the last Hutu group in Burundi giving up, then changing its mind, but not making nearly as much trouble as in the past. Rwanda blamed for continuing violence in eastern Congo, as they attempt to destroy Hutu terrorists based there.

SOMALIA

Islamic radical groups stopped fighting each other over the question of how "international" (pro-al Qaeda) they should be, and turned to confront growing local opposition. Between the peacekeepers and Western trained troops of the transitional government, the Islamic radicals are in retreat.  Somalia is still a failed state that defies every attempt at nation building. But the situation is worse than it appears. Somalia was never a country, but a collection of clans and tribes that fight each other constantly over  economic issues (land and water). The  new "transitional" government, was nearly wiped out by  an "Islamic Courts" movement (which attempted  to put the entire country under the rule of Islamic clergy and Islamic law). When Islamic Courts threatened to expand into Ethiopia, Ethiopia invaded in 2006 and smashed the Islamic Courts. The Islamic radicals have turned to terrorism, which Eritrea continues to provide support for. The country remains an economic and political mess, a black hole on the map. Not much hope in sight, until the pirates (which have been around for a decade) became a major problem. Now the major trading nations have to decide whether to occupy and administer (stamp out piracy) Somalia, or pay several billion dollars a year in ransom, insurance and security costs. No real enthusiasm for an occupation, despite the fact that the Somalis are beginning to export their violence. Most promising development has been feuds among Islamic radical groups and warlords willing to be less corrupt in return for more foreign aid (especially training and equipping Somali troops).

SRI LANKA

Not much change since the last update. This one is basically over, with the defeat of the LTTE rebels in 2009. The Tamil minority (descendents of migrants from southern India) battled long and hard to partition the island.  A long ceasefire ended and fighting resumed. Tamils (the LTTE) lost decisively this time. LTTE survivors threaten to return to terrorism and banditry, but not much of this has happened yet. Give it time, especially with the political infighting and corruption among the victorious Sinhalese.

SUDAN

Civil war appears to have started, as the south is due to vote on secession. The government agreed to the vote, but does not really back the idea, and has sent troops to seize border areas recently. Moslems in the north tried, for decades to suppress separatist tendencies among Christians in the south, and Moslem rebels in the east (on the coast) and west (non-Arab Darfur). All this is complicated by development of oil fields in the south, and Moslem government attempts to drive Christians from the oil region. Now the central government is trying to halt, or rig, the independence vote in the south. Meanwhile, battles over land in the west pit Arab herders against black Sudanese farmers. Both sides are Moslem, but the government is backing the Arabs. The government uses Arab nationalism and economic ties with Russia and China to defy the world and get away with driving non-Arab tribes from Darfur. Sudan is also an ally of Iran, and recipient of weapons and advice on how to best terrorize a population into submission. The government believes time is on its side, and that the West will never trying anything bold and effective to halt the violence. So far, the government has been proven right.

THAILAND  

Now there's a border conflict with much weaker Cambodia. It's all about ancient (and conflicting) claims and nationalism. Negotiations keep getting interrupted by random gunfire. Meanwhile, Malay Moslems in the south (three percent of the population, and different) continue to cause problems.  Most Thais are ethnic Thais and Buddhist. In the south, however, Islamic radicalism has arrived, along with an armed effort to create a separate Islamic state in the three southern provinces. Islamic terrorists grew more powerful month by month for several years, and refuse to negotiate. Security forces persisted and are making progress in identifying and rounding up the terrorists. Meanwhile, civil war brews between urban (royalist "yellow shirts") and rural (populist "red shirt") segments of the population, under the leadership of political parties that differ on how the nation should be run. The minority are the elitist urbanite royalists, and who are considered an illegitimate government by the majority of Thais. This struggle isn't over, but it has not trashed the economy either.

UGANDA

Not much change since the last update. Religion and tribalism combine to create a persistent rebellion in the north (the LRA), which was aided by Sudan. But now the northern rebels have been worn down, and largely chased from the country. The unrest is just about done with. Final peace deal with LRA rebels proved impossible to negotiate. Ugandan army got permission to enter Congo, and other countries, to try and finish the rebels off. Uganda also has tribal violence caused by feuds and land disputes, all made worse by the arrival of cheap AK-47s over the last two decades.

WAR ON TERROR

Osama bin Laden was killed by American commandos on May 2nd, and there were some "revenge" attacks (mostly in Pakistan, where bin Laden was hiding in plain sight). But it's not the terrorist backlash that's important. International terrorism has created a international backlash and a war unlike any other. These days, most terrorist victories are in the media. On the ground, the terrorists are losing everywhere. Their last refuges are chaotic, or cynical, places like Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Gaza, the Sahel, a few of the Philippine islands, and especially tribal regions of Pakistan (where al Qaeda is staging a well publicized last stand). They were chased out of Iraq (and replaced by terrorists who are diehard Saddam supporters),  Indonesia and the Philippines. Iran continues to support terrorism in the face of much local disapproval. Lebanon is in chaos because of Iranian subsidized terrorists. Gaza went the same way. Islamic radicals are a traditional reaction to tyranny in their region, and the inability of local despots to rule effectively. Economic and diplomatic ties with the West are interpreted as support for "un-Islamic" thought and behavior, leading to  attacks on Western targets. After 2001, this resulted in a devastating counterattack. The result of this in the Moslem world has been dramatic, finally forcing leaders and people to confront their self-inflicted problems. Al Qaeda is as self-destructive as its many predecessors. Al Qaeda suicide bomb attacks kill civilians, turning Moslems against al Qaeda in a big way. But the terrorists justify such dumb attacks because their doctrine holds that Moslems who don??t agree with them, are not really Moslems. You can imagine how well that goes over with the survivors, and the many potential victims. You can, but al Qaeda can??t, and that is what guarantees their demise. That will be well covered by the media, because the Islamic terror groups have learned how to play the media. Many "Islamic terrorists" help out, while safely on the sidelines, with media manipulation and producing propaganda. The Internet has made these efforts possible, and quite popular. Since all this is religion based, and Islam is a faith that calls for world conquest and violent intolerance of other faiths, you have a large pool of ambitious and murderous new recruits. Many Moslems insist they do not support the "world conquest" crowd, but few are willing to confront the maniacs head-on and denounce the killing on religious grounds. Islam has some internal problems that Moslems will have to deal with before all this unpleasantness goes away. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that the various Arab Spring movements were dominated by pro-democracy groups. Islamic radicals were a minority, and one that was often feared, and not trusted, either.

YEMEN

The Arab Spring hit Yemen hard and upset the "arrangement" that left one group of tribal, criminal and business leaders in charge for over three decades. This uprising is still unresolved, because a successor coalition has not sorted itself out yet. Meanwhile, there are still many Yemenis who have a grudge against the government. Most of this can be traced back to the civil war that ended, sort of, in 1994. That war was caused by the fact that, when the British left Yemen in 1967, their former colony in Aden became one of two countries called Yemen. The two Yemens finally united in 1990, but another civil war in 1994 was needed to seal the deal. That fix didn't really take, and the north and south are pulling apart again. This comes back to the fact that Yemen has always been a region, not a country. Like most of the rest of the Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa region, the normal form of government, until the last century or so, were wealthier coastal city states, nervously coexisting with interior tribes that got by on herding or farming (or a little of both). This whole "nation" idea is still looked on with some suspicion by many in the region. This is why the most common forms of government are the more familiar ones of antiquity (kingdom, emirate or modern variation in the form of a hereditary dictatorship.) The most active Yemeni rebels have been the Shia Islamic militants in the north. They want to restore local Shia rule in the traditional tribal territories, led by the local imam (religious leader). This arrangement, after surviving more than a thousand years, was ended by the central government in 1962. Yemen is the new headquarters of "Al Qaeda in Arabia" (Saudi Arabia no longer being safe for the terrorists). Islamic terrorists have been more active since the government became more active in arresting key members of al Qaeda in 2010. Other groups (mainly tribal leaders) in the south want more say in the government, and a larger share of the oil revenue and foreign aid.

 

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