As the fighting settles down in Gaza in Palestine after almost 2,000 dead, one only hopes that this current ceasefire can last longer, perhaps even lead to an end. It’s not the only serious conflict going on in the world, with full civil war ongoing in Syria, fighting in Iraq, and tensions in Ukraine after sieges, ambushes and planes being shot down, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurrection, which started in 2009 and is nowhere close to ending, has spread to neighboring Cameroon.
Meanwhile, there’s an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has taken almost 1000 lives and spread to at least four nations. In China, deadly violence broke out again in Xinjiang, with the latest last week, prompting a Diplomat article to present a disturbing outlook. At least the Central African Republic has seen a ceasefire between rival factions after a civil conflict that was notorious, even in Africa, for barbarity such as daily street lynchings.
The conflicts in Gaza and the Ukraine continue something that has been a pattern in recent times. Countries don’t fight full-scale wars with each other, but fight localized conflicts with other states, or even groups within a state. For instance, the fighting in Ukraine is indeed a civil war (state fighting separatists) but the separatists are backed and may even include Russian personnel. Meanwhile, Israel’s invasion of Gaza involved tens of thousands of troops and tanks as well as air strikes, which is as close as an invasion of a neighboring “country” (Palestine’s status being somewhat nebulous). And Libya, which is going through some serious trouble currently, was the target of air strikes from British and French troops in support of rebels fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddhafi in 2011.
Back in 2006, Israel fought a small-scale war in southern Lebanon. However, the war wasn’t with Lebanon or its army, but with Hezbollah, a militant Islamist group that controls southern Lebanon, over their abduction of 2 Israeli soldiers. This conflict went on for a month and killed hundreds of fighters and over a thousand civilians but during the whole affair, it was interesting to me how a country could invade another country and fight a war without any declaration of war between the two. Another striking thing is how part of a country could be at war or under attack but things would be normal or peaceful in other parts of that country.
Even in Southeast Asia, several years ago, Thailand and Cambodia fought several small-scale battles, over a disputed boundary surrounding an ancient temple of all things, though war did not break out. Even China’s recent standoff in the South China sea with Vietnam, when it towed a giant rig into disputed waters in May which caused confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese ships, can be considered as another instance of states fighting in limited ways.
Basically, states can take hostile action against other states or parties in other countries, which can result in fighting and death, but they won’t undertake all-out war. Perhaps this is a result of globalization, where countries and regions are interconnected by trade, technology and other links more than ever. Combined with the existence of nuclear weapons and the devastation of regular modern weapons, war is much more destructive than before, meaning that the age of full-scale war is almost over. This can be a positive, now that I think about it, but it also raises a disturbing possibility that the future will see more of these kind of limited conflicts breaking out, with instability and rebellion common. For most of us in developed and stable countries, we’d probably never be affected (and honestly for a lot of us, life is the most safest it’s ever been), but perhaps that’s another disturbing aspect of modern conflicts – the stark contradiction of a range of deadly but limited conflicts in some places with regular materialistic and modern life elsewhere.
To try to offer a little positivity, here’re a few random links.
First off, this is a list of things that can help you in life. Items 11,13,20, and 21 are quite good.
Even in mainland China, there are young people who’ve decided to stop working their asses off in stiff office jobs and do something for themselves, like opening hostels in Shenzhen.