World War Here To Stay?
In recent weeks, events have transpired, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, resulting in increased tension among world powers, regional powers and allies on multiple sides of conflicts that have been festering for years, to the detriment of many innocent people living in the midst of this turmoil. The recent addition of Russian Armed Forces personnel as well as forces from Iran and Turkey in Syria have further muddled the situation on the ground in Syria. Add to that, the announcement on a Friday that the US was changing its strategy in the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and a recipe for a significant escalation of hostilities in the years-long civil war in Syria, involving both the struggle of groups against the Assad regime and the ongoing seemingly futile effort to eradicate ISIS seems inevitable.
The US announcement came as a disappointment to many, since President Obama had vowed to keep US “boots on the ground” out of the conflict against ISIS. It came as a surprise to few knowledgeable observers, however, particularly when a US casualty was reported to have occurred during a commando raid to rescue ISIS prisoners. Denying the vulnerability of US personnel involved in supporting Kurdish and other forces fighting in the forefront of the battle became ridiculous. More Americans’ lives are bound to be lost in the conflict. Acknowledging that fact publicly at least lends some additional transparency to US policy in the region and credibility to those responsible for carrying out that policy.
Many months ago, President Obama had requested from Congress a new Authorization of Use of Military Force to address American efforts in the region, as the one passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 appear to be outdated and further changes on the ground require to be spelled out in more detail. Refusing to do this has helped to create an extremely volatile and muddled situation in which it appears that very little is being accomplished in the way of ending either ISIS dominion over vast areas in both Iraq and Syria or finding a solution to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Responding to the escalation presented by the additional troops and arms supplied by the Russians, Iranians and their allies has resulted in a situation where possible combat between some of the forces which ostensibly share common interests may occur, either intentionally (where differences in goals may occur) or by mistake due to the proximity of so much firepower in such a relatively small area.
Russia is being accused of making aerial incursions on Turkish territory, as well as attacking forces allied to the US which are fighting Assad’s government rather than ISIS. A scenario where American or Turkish air assets shoot down a Russian plane (or vice versa) or one nation’s forces incur casualties as the result of an attack by the other become more likely as the number of raids/sorties are increased. Better coordination among all the parties involved is required. Perhaps an increased emphasis on diplomatic negotiations on the part of all those involved could help defuse the situation somewhat. The agreement to include Iran in these talks is potentially a positive sign in this regard, but much work remains.
Meanwhile, Congress seems content to continue on its merry way, taking long recesses at every opportunity and allowing the President to absorb any blame or credit for what happens abroad. They did, after all, manage to pass a deal averting a possible debt crisis until after the elections in 2016, as well as any potential government shutdown. Calls for them to weigh in on the situation involving Syria, Iraq, ISIS, etc. have been forthcoming mainly from a few Congressional Democrats. Some neoconservatives, such as Presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham, continue to assail the President for being insufficiently bellicose in his actions, but no movement seems afoot to actually come up with legislation dealing with the situation or giving new authorization pertaining to it.
In other news not involving ISIS, Syria or Iraq directly, the Saudis and other Persian Gulf states have become involved in military conflict with forces in Yemen, where the US has had limited success fighting another part of its endless war on terror. Iran seems to be their main foe there. The US has also agreed to extend its commitment to propping up the regime in Afghanistan, which remains incapable of staving off the Taliban forces that were driven out by US forces in the wake of 9/11. Now, American troops will stay on in a combat role at least until a new President is inaugurated in this country in early 2017.
Yet another somewhat alarming situation has evolved involving increasing military tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea. Again, the potential for military conflict between two world powers has been ratcheted up. While ostensibly not directly connected to the situation in Southwestern Asia, it does potentially stretch out American military capability significantly. Add in the ever-present threat presented by the unpredictable North Korean regime, and the potential for worldwide conflict seems closer than it has been since the vaunted end of the Cold War.
Increasing the sheer number of troops present in these hotspots, along with the immense amounts of money spent pumping more and more weapons and ammunition to add to the confused violent mix present there already is bound to increase the scale of the death and destruction taking place. Without concerted effort by the main external forces involved ( The US, Russia, Iran, etc.) as well as the countries bearing the brunt of the casualties and displacement involved in the creation of the increasingly tragic refugee crisis, war will not solve the problems. Diplomacy and negotiation is necessary as well as desired. The UN should be involved, as the major parties are proving themselves unwilling or incapable of resolving the situation among themselves peacefully.
Ending the many conflicts around the globe will not be accomplished by introducing more and bigger weapons of mass destruction (and that includes the so-called “small arms” the major powers have been providing the various militias and rebel groups, as well as the governments involved). Ending the wanton destruction of persons and property must come before healing, repair and reconstruction can begin. The morass of military and civil strife created over the years by local tyrants and fed by competing external powers trying to increase their wealth and power at the expense of others needs to stop. The bombing, shooting and torturing have had centuries to accomplish what they can, but have left us with nothing but death and destruction.
Progress is constantly being made seemingly more rapidly in our ability to kill and destroy others than it does in curing the other obstacles to human well-being – so much so that we threaten the very existence of our own species on this planet. The time for peace is long overdue. In the immortal words of that venerable American politician Chris Christie, it is time for the war mongers and those who produce the tools of their trade to “sit down and shut up” so the rest of us can live lives of peaceful coexistence and build a society worthy of the creative potential of the human race. Like trickle down economics, the politics of endless war has proven itself counterproductive, both in the short term and the long run.
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