Peace…For Now…

The world has certainly enjoyed an interesting couple of weeks recently and although it appears we are no further from another major conflict than we were at this time last month at least it we can say we haven’t come much closer either.  While I will always be a firm believer that peace can prevail even in the most treacherous of times, these days I find myself taking comfort in a lateral move over many of the alternatives as I fear the world is simply too complex and there are too many powerful interests at stake to maintain the current uneasy truce for long.  At some point we will have to decisively choose one direction or the other and unfortunately I can’t see it as much more than a toss-up that we will move toward any type of sustainable peace in the near future as we walk the minefield of high-level global geopolitics amid the backdrop of election cycles, economic recessions (depressions), and the scarcity of the world’s most precious resources.  Still, here’s a quick overview of the road we’ve traveled in recent weeks and the direction it appears we may take in the next few.  I don’t presume to be right about any of my assumptions or intuitions but then I’m afraid I am seldom very far off the mark.  Take a look, do a bit of research, and let me know what you think…

First there is the issue of West Africa.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere (or in the United States of America) I’m sure you are aware of the military coup in Mali which took place last month and was led by a young junior officer (who did a bit of training at Ft. Benning) motivated by the outgoing president’s lack of support for the military operations against the Tuareg rebel movement in the north.  On the surface this looks like a pretty standard case of African domestic policy where the military overthrows a government then promises elections and civilian rule.  However this case is a bit peculiar due to the fact that the northern rebel movement has actually taken ground during the upheaval and even declared a separate state in northern Mali.  There is also the interesting factor of a growing Islamist movement with ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that appears to be gaining influence in the region amidst the chaos.  Personally, I have very serious cognitive problems believing any of the worldwide Al-Qaeda narrative as it appears to be far too similar to the “communism as a monolith” mentality that covered up a lot of very shady and unsustainable policies all over the world during my parents’ time as well as the fact that almost nobody believes in transnational jihad anymore except for a few completely dispossessed and disconnected societal outliers looking for an excuse to express their frustration at the darker side of globalization.  Still, any violent crisis should qualify for concern although I am slightly more concerned about the possibility of substantial unexplored Malian oil reserves in the North than a bunch of radicals striking at the far enemy from the middle of one of Africa’s most under-developed nations.  Ultimately we’ll have to wait and see how this game plays out but with increased American presence in West Africa, rising oil prices throughout the world making exploration more economical, and more globalized fears over the danger of rising and monolithic militant Islam I wouldn’t be surprised if things take a turn towards more violence in the near future…but I’ll gladly accept the peace as long as it lasts…

Going a bit east it looks like Libya is finally settling down although recent arguments over its oil resources have shed a bit doubt over the true altruism behind US intentions leading the NATO campaign against Qaddafi last year.  Still as long as the country doesn’t erupt into renewed mass violence (there is still a bit of it going on) I’m pretty happy leaving it alone as long as the oil flow isn’t interrupted causing prices to climb and not-so-nice ripple effects in other places.  Continuing with the Arab Spring trail though it looks like Egypt is at least not planning to fight a war with anybody else or itself anytime soon and while its transition to democracy will likely remain incomplete for at least the foreseeable future as long as traffic through the Suez remains uninterrupted things will likely remain relatively stable.  Moving forward along the eastern Med, there are also positive signs given that Israel hasn’t started any new wars yet and might not plan to at least for the next month or so.  The situation still has not improved for the Palestinians but then the status quo is better than many alternatives these days.

Of course there is also Syria, the only nation to see its grassroots democracy movement hijacked by foreign interests to a greater extent than Libya.  Luckily recent progress has at least prevented the civil/proxy war from expanding beyond the nation’s borders involving much larger powers and there is even considerable hope that some type of a lasting truce might actually break out in the next few weeks, albeit with Assad still in power.  It is interesting though that only a year ago I was captivated by the power and romantic intensity of the Arab Spring movement, taking it as a sign of long-term sustainable change in the region and now its cries for democracy and self-determination seem to be just another footnote in history amid the continuation of business as usual.  Yet regardless of the movement’s failures it is still incredibly difficult (ask any diehard Occupy Wall Street protestor) to stop an idea whose time has come.  Ultimately when that idea’s time will come remains to be seen, but let’s just hope it doesn’t involve the escalation of more war by proxy…too many people tend to die that way and very little ends up changing…

Speaking of war though, it looks like one with Iran might be put on hold at least for the near term as there appears to be a small amount of cautious optimism for the upcoming nuclear talks.  Iran has even mentioned that it may be willing to suspend its legal 20% uranium enrichment and focus on the 3-5% required to fuel nuclear power reactors.  While this is still far from the zero enrichment demanded by the US and Israel it is a step in the right direction and I don’t expect any breakthroughs in the middle of a US election year as Obama would have no hope of winning reelection by showing “weakness” through avoiding a war with Iran.  Somehow I guess it’s possible for the president who has assassinated more people than any leader in American history while overseeing one of the greatest expansions of executive authority ever in a time of “peace” to still appear weak on national defense by not threatening to start the second major war of his presidency.  I don’t think I’ll ever really understand American society or politics…thankfully I’m really not a part of either…

As far as real wars being fought right now are concerned, Afghanistan actually appears to be going rather well.  The level of violence hasn’t risen too much despite the warmer spring weather bringing in a new fighting season.  Still it is a bit perplexing that the US is conducting negotiations for a military presence in the country through 2017 regardless of the fact that the war effort itself seems to be progressing on schedule in terms Afghan military and police capabilities and leadership as well as the reduced violence.  Yet given that the Afghan government just signed back on to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline deal (good luck finding this covered in US media) to be completed roughly in 2016 barring any other (likely) major setbacks it makes a bit of sense.  There is also the issue of Pakistan which seems to be increasingly high on the US radar screen as well as the Central Asian republics slowly falling back in the Russian sphere of influence (the airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan might be closing in mid 2014) and you can see how Afghanistan has been crippled by the curse of bad geography for most of its history.  Of course with only two months left of this deployment, I’ll be happy with as quiet a fighting season as I can get, we’ll have plenty of time to sort the rest out a bit later, and maybe I’ll even get a second all-expense-paid trip to Central Asia in the coming years…

Yet regardless of the situation in the rest of the world, we will always have to deal with the ever-present issue of American energy security and an economy that might take another turn for the worse.  There has already been talk of further exploration of potential oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the Arctic as well as the continued lobbying and debate over the possible Keystone XL pipeline going from the tar sands of Ontario to the Gulf (to the anger of just about every environmental group known to man).  With all of these moves domestically plus the strategic maneuvering (and I haven’t even mentioned anything about East Asia in the post) in terms of foreign policy it appears all bets are being placed on energy as the key to continued US prosperity and global hegemony.  Whether this will help sustain a relative Pax Americana long into the future remains to be seen, but for now any time we can buy is probably worth the cost.  While we are still a long way off from the dream of truly sustainable peace and the achievement of the first global human civilization, we can at least take some hope out of the last few weeks that we might have a bit more time than we once feared.  What we do with that time though will likely determine a lot more about the future of our species than many of us feel comfortable thinking about.  Here’s to an uneasy peace…let’s try not to squander the opportunity…



13 APR 2012, 0040(L), Sharana, Paktika, Afghanistan


About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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2 Responses to Peace…For Now…

  1. Bravo, Brian. Here, here! Keep writing. The lines about US media not covering these important world issues in Mali, Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere are presented in a seemingly lighthearted but effectively very serious way which can only educate. Didn’t think you would be in the military and the media and the education field at the same time did you, but that is what the world has come to. The words about your parents’ generation especially ring true. In our modern age, we need more information from people on the inside, educated people with first-hand experience, and no commercial pressure to sell a story for profit, only a genuine desire to utilize their skills to help people. Keep writing!

    • I don’t even know what field I am in anymore these days as every one is simply a lens through which to look through certain aspects of the same complex system. And like anything else the more lenses you are capable of using the clearer your perception will be…whether that is actually a good or comforting thing will of course be up for debate but I feel it tends to work both ways depending on the circumstances. Unfortunately the media is perhaps a greater reflection of the state of American society than we would like to believe both in the stories it covers and the ones it ignores. Real change and reform is going to take a bit of time, but we’ll make it happen…if nothing else simply by the law of physical necessity.

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