Potential Hot Spots: The Absence of War, Doesn't Mean the Presence of Peace


: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

December 30, 2006: There are several wars that have, well, "stalled", for want of a better word. These include; Ivory Coast, Nepal, Haiti, Central Asia and several Pacific islands. In most cases, peace negotiations are under way, but the contending forces remain armed and ready to resume fighting.

In Ivory Coast, where the dispute is basically between new migrants, attracted to the labor shortage in the booming cocoa growing industry, and the more established residents in the south, egged on by a demagogic president who doesn't like the competition. The southerners want to keep the northerners out of the political process, and the northerners won't put up with that. Peacekeepers, including French troops, keep both sides apart. But there is no final resolution, the economy is a mess. Neither side is willing to resume the fighting, but neither side is willing to make a deal. It just drags on.

Nepal has, officially, settled its anti-monarchy uprising. But unofficially, the place is still a powder keg. The anti-monarchists were mainly radical communists (Maoists, in fact), and they now have some armed factions that disagree with the compromise (the Maoists will share power and join a democratic government). There are also armed monarchists (much of the army, for example), who do not want to see their king diminished.

Haiti is a multi-sided version of Ivory Coast. Many factions. Basically, you have armed gangs representing populist politicians and criminal gangs. Another bunch of armed groups represent the upper class (of the poorest nation in the Americas), the police and more gangs. Peacekeepers try to keep the warring parties apart, and suppress the criminal activity. Fact is, no one wants to go to war, and the desperate poverty makes criminal activity a more attractive prospect. For Haiti, this is as close to "normal" as you get. Been like this for over two centuries, and the current effort to break the cycle isn't going very well.

Central Asia had outbreaks of Islamic radicalism and pro-democracy activism in the past decade. Neither of these did very well against the post-Cold War dictators that have taken over the new (formerly parts of the Soviet Union) nations. The Islamic radicals had something going when the Taliban ran Afghanistan. But when the U.S. took out the Taliban in late 2001, many Central Asian Islamic radicals died, or were captured, in the process. There weren't many survivors, and many of those ended up across the border, hiding out in the Pakistani tribal territories. Most people in Central Asia are still unhappy with the strong men (usually former communist era bureaucrats) who seized power when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. All want better than the corruption, incompetent rule and police state treatment they are getting now. Democracy is new and exotic, and having a hard time gaining traction. Islamic radicalism is more familiar, but not very popular. Islamic radicalism has not worked in the past, and has a hard time overcoming its heritage. But both the democrats and Islamic radicals keep trying.

The Pacific Islands (Fiji, Solomons, Tonga, Papua, in particular) are largely new nations, with many people who are just a few generations away from a stone age existence. Lack of experience, and tribalism, combine to create a very unstable situation. So unstable, in fact, that few factions can even get an effective revolution, or government, going. When there is a tiff, it usually ends in a sloppy stalemate. Little is ever resolved, but the political pot always seems to be boiling.

There's a lesson in all this. The absence of war, doesn't mean the presence of peace.


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