The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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There are Ten Wars You Should Worry About
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
January 26, 2004
With several dozen wars going on around the world at the moment, it's difficult to pin down the ten most in need of our attention. So we provide two top ten lists. One lists the wars that are most likely to be of concern to Americans. These are the wars most likely to effect you personally. The second list ranks the wars in order of the local mayhem they create. Let us not forget that, for those caught in the middle of a war, that war is the worst war imaginable.
Wars That Matter Most (or should) to Americans
- The War on Terror. Al Qaeda is trying real hard to bring this war home to Americans. That they have not succeeded since September 11, 2001 has a lot to do with the energetic activities of American armed forces, intelligence and police organizations. Al Qaeda didn't expect their bases in Afghanistan to be gone by the end of 2001. Nor did they expect that their members would be quickly and energetically hounded world wide. The Persian Gulf remained a sanctuary, until early 2003, when Iraq was invaded. This invasion attracted al Qaeda members, who came to Iraq by the hundreds. Most of these fanatics got themselves killed or arrested. Al Qaeda followers in Saudi Arabia decided to take on the Saudi royal family. That move, along with the shock of Saddam Hussein's rapid defeat, made the Persian Gulf a much less hospitable place for al Qaeda. But the organization, and its thousands of followers, survives. Al Qaeda was organized, unintentionally, like the Internet. Al Qaeda has no central headquarters or base. Itís members are scattered in cells all over the planet. You can destroy many parts of al Qaeda, and the organization will reconfigure itself. Al Qaeda members are still trying to pull off spectacular attacks against the "enemies of Islam" (which basically includes everyone who isn't a Moslem.) It will probably take a generation for al Qaeda to fade into utter impotence. In the meantime, the War on Terror will be a low level war that always has the potential to show up in any Americans home town.
- Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Radicals on both sides make peace difficult to achieve. The low level war has been going on since late 2000 and the violence has only been receding in the past year. The conflict is a much hotter issue in the Arab and Islamic world. Now that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and a government full of Islamic conservatives that supports the use of terrorism against infidels (non-Moslems), the stakes have been vastly increased. Israel has over a hundred nuclear warheads, as well as missiles, aircraft and submarine launched cruise missiles to deliver them with. Nuclear war over who controls what real estate between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is not the biggest problem for America, it's the years of diplomatic problems arising from Islamic nations accusing us of being the cause of it all. It's presumed that the Israelis are Americas puppets, and a few sharp words from Washington would quickly straighten everything out. The myth of unlimited American power is a global one, but nowhere is it taken more literally than in Arab nations. Getting the Israelis and Palestinians to make peace would solve a lot of America's problems.
- North Korea. This is the last, heavily armed, Stalinist police state left on the planet. North Korea not only threatens our ally South Korea, but our major trading partner; Japan and a very nervous Russia and China. The U.S. can't easily walk away from this one. Everyone is hoping that North Korea will fall apart gently, as the communist governments did in Eastern Europe in 1989. But there's a good chance that North Korea will come apart with much pain and blood. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to make and sell weapons to anyone with cash. They have not sold anyone chemical weapons, as far as anyone knows. But they have said they would sell nuclear weapons once they figure out how to make them.
- Iraq. While it only took three weeks to conquer the country, it is uncertain how long it will take to pacify the Sunni Arab population that (mis)ruled the place for so long. The Kurds and Shia Arabs account for 80 percent of the population and are generally peaceful and either pro-American, or not particularly hostile towards the United States. This year the United States is turning control of the country back to the Iraqis. The Sunni Arab minority will again be an Iraqi problem. There will still be American troops in Iraq, and for how long no one knows.
- Chechen War. Russia is still a superpower in terms of nuclear weapons, and is still a polyglot nation. The Chechens are the most troublesome of Russia's many minorities. Chechnya is also something of a special case. The Chechens have always been very entrepreneurial, and violent, and this resulted in an independent Chechnya that quickly turned into a safe haven for criminal gangs and Islamic radicals. This brought the Russian army back in and the war has been grinding on since '99. After September 11, 2001, it was noted that a lot of al Qaeda members were Chechens. Think of Chechnya as a little Afghanistan, where the "Taliban" are still very active (at least compared to the real Afghanistan.)
- South Asian Islamic Radicals. This is more than the long standing Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. Pakistan is the only Moslem nation with nukes, along with a goodly supply of homegrown religious fundamentalists. We don't want a nuclear war in South Asia, and we don't want Pakistan sharing its nuclear secrets with hostile Moslem states or sects. We don't want Pakistan providing shelter for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Unfortunately, what we have got is a Pakistan that is mired in corruption, tribalism, religious strife and Islamic radicalism. The Islamic angle is a relatively recent one, which grew in popularity over the last decade as a cure for all of Pakistan's other ills. Now Islamic radicalism is just another problem, having failed to cure any of the others. But the Islamic solution still has a lot of fans in Pakistan, and they support the radicals fighting throughout south Asia.
- Greater Albania. Peacekeeping in Kosovo has not stopped locals from organizing, arming and training troops for expanding Albanian control into Serbia and Macedonia. American troops are there, along with NATO contingents, trying to keep it all from exploding into another war. Most Albanians are Moslems, and in the middle of all this, there is Bosnia, populated by many foreign Moslems who support al Qaeda.
- Colombia. This is the major source of hard drugs coming into the United States. Colombia has also had constant rebellions and civil unrest for the last fifty years. The drug lords and their leftist rebel armies are moving into other Latin American nations because a new Colombian government is getting the upper hand. Thousands of American troops and civilians are actively involved helping the government.
- Taiwan Straits. All of America's Asian allies are concerned about China's growing military power, and diplomatic aggressiveness. There is also an economic angle, for Taiwan produces critical percentages of key electronic components. So any actual, or attempted, Chinese takeover is dangerous because of the potential economic danger to U.S. high tech industries. There is also the reputation issue. Taiwan and America have been allies for over fifty years. To abandon an ally like that would not help U.S. relations elsewhere. So if the Chinese push, America is likely to find itself in the line of fire. And don't forget, China and Taiwan ("The Republic of China") are still technically at war.
- Iran. Before al Qaeda, there was Iran. Since 1979, Iran has been at war with Israel and the United States. Not willing to risk military retaliation from the United States, Iran has concentrated on supporting terrorist organizations in Lebanon and supporting attacks against Israel. After seeing what happened to Iraq and Saddam, the Iranian Islamic radicals are even more keen on not antagonizing the United States. But Iran continues to host a large number of Islamic terrorist organizations. Fortunately, Iranians belong to the Shia sect of Islam, and are thus not likely to work too closely with al Qaeda. This is because al Qaeda is largely composed of Sunni Moslems of the Wahabi sect (which is quite hostile to Shia Moslems). Iranian Shia radicals and al Qaeda Wahabi will often grit their teeth and cooperate against common enemies. But such arrangements are tenuous and, well, not quite natural.
Most Violent Wars
These are the wars that generate the most casualties and mayhem.
- Korea. As the extent of starvation and general brutality becomes better known, this conflict between the government of North Korea and its people goes to the top of the list. In the last decade, over a million North Koreans have been killed by their government. This sort of thing is called democide, and North Korea is currently the most vigorous practitioner.
- Sudan. You don't see much of this on TV because it's pretty dangerous even for journalists. Raids, battles, sieges, slaving, a regular medieval misery of mayhem. While peace has been made in the south, another rebellion has broken out in the western part of the country.
- Congo. While this war is also winding down, the large number of armed men wandering around the countryside, killing and pillaging as they go, keeps the death toll high.
- India and Pakistan. The two countries are holding peace talks, but the killing still goes on in Kashmir, and in several other rebellions and local disputes. It adds up to hundreds killed each month.
- Indonesia. Major military operations in separatist Aceh province, and fighting between Christians and Moslems in several areas.
- War on Terror. This is the collective casualties among the terrorists who associated them selves with al Qaeda and those that actively oppose them. That is, Islamic radicals who are making war on the "enemies of Islam". Lately, most of the casualties have occurred in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, although there have been some in Europe and Asia.
- Colombia. The government has made peace with the right wing militias, and is on the offensive against the left wing armies. The leftist groups have begun a bombing campaign in the cities.
- Iraq. Casualties are covered intensively by the media, making the action appear a lot more violent than it actually is. Now that the extent of Saddam Hussein's police state violence is known, the monthly death toll is probably lower now than when Saddam was running things.
- Chechnya. This has turned into a civil war, with the pro-Russian Chechen government fighting the various criminal, nationalist and Islamic groups. Most of the dead are Chechen, despite over 50,000 Russian troops and police in the area. Some of the casualties are in neighboring regions, as the Chechen rebels try to use terror to get the Russians to leave.
- Afghanistan. The death toll is not much different than it was before the Taliban were overthrown. Many of the casualties are caused by tribal or personal disputes, although some of these are also related to Taliban and al Qaeda activities.