Posts tagged war

From haaretz:

Six Day War breaks out, this time on Twitter: Over six days in June, the Israeli army will reenact the 1967 war with minute-by-minute updates from the front on its Twitter page.

This seems like a really interesting way to teach history, perhaps? 

From haaretz:

Six Day War breaks out, this time on Twitter: Over six days in June, the Israeli army will reenact the 1967 war with minute-by-minute updates from the front on its Twitter page.

This seems like a really interesting way to teach history, perhaps? 

Why are we still at “war” in Afghanistan?

On my drive today, I caught an update on the situation in Afghanistan. For years now, it’s rather bothered me that we keep referring to the situation in Afghanistan as a “war”—and the idea that we’ve been “at war” in Afghanistan for about 12 years now. 

The reason this bothers me has nothing to do with my opinion on the mission in Afghanistan per se. I think the Taliban was horrible, I’m glad they were removed from power, and I think the international community should actively support efforts to consolidate a democratic regime in Afghanistan. All of those are noble, worthwhile goals. I’ll go even further and suggest they’re goals worth fighting (and dying) for.

But I don’t think that constitutes a “war” the way we typically understand it. When I think of a war, I think of a conflict between two belligerent parties of equal status (though not necessary of equal capabilities). Two states can go to war with each other, then one surrenders (or is simply wiped out). I understand, of course, that the term “war” does cover a broader range. If you want to think simply about the difference between “peace” (the absences of violence) and “war” (high levels of violence), then we can talk about what’s going on in Afghanistan as a “war.” But by that definition, every major city in the world has been in a state of “war” for  as long as we can remember. Eventually, a word covers so much space, that it becomes meaningless (this is what political scientists call “conceptual stretching”).

For me, the “war” in Afghanistan lasted maybe a year—at most. The regime in power was overthrown, and the last significant remnants of its organizational infrastructure were mopped up sometime in 2002. Sure, Taliban elements remained at large, but they were no longer a credible threat to the new regime. Since 2003, the Taliban has made a resurgence, but it’s been more of an insurgency. What US, NATO, Afghan, and other allied forces are doing in Afghanistan today is mostly trying to suppress an insurgent guerrilla movement.

It’s not much different from other insurgency suppression campaigns around the world, from Colombia (against the FARC), Peru (against Shining Path), or India (against Naxalite-Maoists). But it’s also not much different than historical examples like the Mau Mau rebellion (in British Kenya), the Viet Min rebellion (in French Indochina), or the Philippine Insurrection (in American-controlled Philippines).

I think the later comparisons are the ones that are troubling. None of these examples have been resolved to date. Colombia has been battling the FARC since the 1960s (and with roots in the previous civil wars, one could say the conflict began in the 1948-1958 civi war). Peru has been fighting Shining Path since the 1980s (with a respite in the 1990s). India has been fighting the Maoists since the 1990s. The other three cases didn’t end successfully (from the point of view of the dominant power). The Mau Mau rebellion lasted eight bloody years, and set the stage for the end of British imperialism in Africa. The “First Indochina War” lasted seven years, set the stage for the end of French imperialism in Southeast Asia, and set the stage for our own Vietnam War (or, as some call it, the “Second Indochina War”). The Philippine Insurrection is the exception. But in that case we (the United States) denied a country its own independence. Not something we normally celebrate (you won’t see many monuments to the brave soldiers who died to make sure Filipinos wouldn’t have their independence).

Now, I’m not trying to stir up trouble by arguing that what the US is doing is imperialism (at least not in any normatively judgmental way). Or equating the Taliban with other “freedom fighters” (I personally see nothing “liberating” about their ideology or goals). Nothing of the sort. But we can learn from the other cases of insurgencies—we can use some comparative perspective.

But it seems that we—policymakers, citizens, and the media—have latched on to a narrative that just doesn’t make sense. (Fortunately, the military doesn’t think of it this way, and perhaps we should start understanding that.) This is not a war. The US role in Afghanistan is as an enforcer—a “police action” in the purest sense of the term—in a foreign territory. We are trying to suppress a native insurgency in a far away place. We need to recognize two very hard truths: 1) This is an insurgency. 2) We are an occupying force. Once we do, we can start looking at our strategic options to deal with insurgencies, their costs and benefits. And we can start deciding whether we have the will to do that, knowing that there is no “victory” in sight, because we already defeated the enemy a decade ago. 

Basically, we have to start thinking like cops. No matter how amazing a job the police in Chicago do, there will be murders and crimes next year. And the next. And the next. There will never be a “victory” against crime (organized or otherwise). There is simply the next year’s campaign. And the next. And the next.

This is insanely useful for any course on world history or international relations. Kudos! (Although I should point out that prior to the 1700s or so, it’s very Eurocentric.)
From futurejournalismproject:

Maps + Mashups + Conflicts + History = Conflict History
Part amazing, part depressing, Conflict History is a Google Maps timeline mashup that lets you browse from past to present to learn about the world’s conflicts.
The screenshot above shows 2001-2010. Selecting the Info icon on the left gives background information on the conflict with additional links to related materials. The slider on the bottom brings you forward and back in time.
For example, we just learned about the Sicilian Wars of 600 to 264 BCE.
Most of the content is pulled from Wikipedia and Freebase, a Creative Commons licensed data source.

This is insanely useful for any course on world history or international relations. Kudos! (Although I should point out that prior to the 1700s or so, it’s very Eurocentric.)

From futurejournalismproject:

Maps + Mashups + Conflicts + History = Conflict History

Part amazing, part depressing, Conflict History is a Google Maps timeline mashup that lets you browse from past to present to learn about the world’s conflicts.

The screenshot above shows 2001-2010. Selecting the Info icon on the left gives background information on the conflict with additional links to related materials. The slider on the bottom brings you forward and back in time.

For example, we just learned about the Sicilian Wars of 600 to 264 BCE.

Most of the content is pulled from Wikipedia and Freebase, a Creative Commons licensed data source.

globalvoices:

Afghan Youth Voices Festival is a place where young Afghans can express themselves, whether it is through filmmaking or Facebook, through new media tools like blogs or traditional ones like theatre.

globalvoices:

Afghan Youth Voices Festival is a place where young Afghans can express themselves, whether it is through filmmaking or Facebook, through new media tools like blogs or traditional ones like theatre.

OK. This isn’t good. Via thepoliticalnotebook:

The sixth day of fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border. Clashes between troops in a disputed area around three temples in the Dangrek mountains continue today. So far 14 people have been killed (1 civilian) and 50,000 people have entered evacuation centres.  Above, Thai soldiers patrol in Surin province near the fighting.  Reuters photo via Al Jazeera. Read more.

OK. This isn’t good. Via thepoliticalnotebook:

The sixth day of fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border. Clashes between troops in a disputed area around three temples in the Dangrek mountains continue today. So far 14 people have been killed (1 civilian) and 50,000 people have entered evacuation centres.  Above, Thai soldiers patrol in Surin province near the fighting.  Reuters photo via Al Jazeera. Read more.

"How Do You Hire Mercenaries?" | FP Explainer

If you didn’t know, Foreign Policy magazine has a feature called “FP Explainer” on its website. This week, they answer the question: How do you hire mercenaries? The immediate context is about Libyan dictator’s Muammar al-Qaddafi’s use of mercenaries to put down protests. But read on. Mercenaries are used much more broadly.

The Future of War | Foreign Policy
An interactive feature on the state of the world, with a focus on trouble spots, probabilities of international conflict around the world, and the weapons that will likely be used.

The Future of War | Foreign Policy

An interactive feature on the state of the world, with a focus on trouble spots, probabilities of international conflict around the world, and the weapons that will likely be used.