Our Time of Forever Civil Wars

United Nations War

           Pearl River      Without thinking about it – and that’s part of the problem – we know the daily news of the world is full of endless wars, between and within countries, but we become inured.  That’s just the way things are now.  In America, we spent blood and treasure endlessly in Iraq and Afghanistan, solving little, so we’re hardly surprised when we read of far-flung conflicts in countries that most have never visited.  I was caught up short, though, flipping through The Economist, when I came upon a piece that shook me up from sleepwalking through the news of wars to a recognition of the full length and breadth of this nightmare.

Welcome to reality.

  • “The average ongoing conflict in the mid-1980s had been happening for about 13 years; by 2021 it was nearly 20 years.”
  • “A typical five-year civil war reduces income per head by a fifth…”
  • “Between 2001 and 2010 around five countries each year suffered more than one simultaneous war or insurgency. Now 15 do….” “…the number of schools that were closed due to violence trebled, to 9000.  Half the region’s children do not feel safe in school.”
  • “Civil wars are also becoming more international. In 1991 only 4% of them involved foreign forces.  By 2021 that had risen 12-fold to 48%…and interventions by external powers with selfish agendas tend to make civil wars last longer and cost more lives….”
  • Climate change will bring more war. “…a one-standard-deviation increase in local temperature raises the chance of intergroup conflict by 11% compared to what it would have been at a more normal temperature.”
  • Religious conflicts bring more – and longer – wars as well. “…the spread of jihadist groups makes it harder to end wars.  Their demands are often impossible to meet, their foot soldiers are fanatical, and external mediators hate dealing with terrorists.”
  • For some non-religious groups, there’s also money to be made, so “that civil wars in which a major rebel force earns money from illicit drugs or minerals tend to last longer.”
  • “Government forces are often greedy, too.” With “…officers …paid a pittance … [who] can make fortunes from embezzlement and extortion when deployed in combat zones.”  Some start fires, “so the central government has to negotiate with them to put it out.”

What a miserable, horrific situation for some many people in so many poor countries!  What’s the chance of peace?  It seems slim and none for so many wars, which is why they linger.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and earlier its seizure of Crimea, as well as unchecked human rights abuses in China and other countries, and even the USA in the forever wars, has created a culture of impunity that encourages conflicts that seemingly face no consequences.

The United Nations rules have made it powerless in bringing peace.  Vetoes in the Security Council have exploded.  Between 2001 and 2010, “Russia issued only four vetoes; China, two.”  In the last ten years, Russia has vetoed 23 times, China 9, the USA, three (“mostly to protect Israel”), and France and the UK, none at all.  For many countries, the UN has failed to be a place to win peace and has become little more than a shopping trip in New York City.

Like the world itself, the UN seems broken with no one able to fix it, guaranteeing that we will increasingly see more wars, and they will continue without end.