Wars Update 2020

Wars Update 2020, by Jim Dunnigan.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1991 deaths from wars and large scale civil disorder (which is often recorded as some kind of war) have led to a sharp (over 20 percent so far) drop in violence worldwide.

Islamic terrorism no longer dominates the news now that ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has been crushed but not destroyed. Global Islamic terrorism-related deaths have fallen by over 50 percent since 2014 when there were 35,000. Global deaths hit 19,000 in 2017 and under 16,000 for 2018. These deaths are still declining. …

Islamic terrorists continue to be, as they have been since the 1990s, the main source of terrorism-related deaths, accounting for about 90 percent of the fatalities. The remainder of the terrorism-related deaths are ethnic (often tribal) conflicts in Africa and Asia. …

The ten nations suffering the most terrorism deaths rank lowest in the Human Development Index the UN has compiled annually during the last 29 years. …

The ten most corrupt nations are Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, North Korea, Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Afghanistan and Libya. …

The number of refugees created by all this mayhem has reached numbers not seen since the aftermath of World War II. The motivation for all this violence is generally about religion, territorial claims or both. … Most Moslem majority nations refuse to accept refugees, especially Moslem refugees.

The revival of empires:

ISIL was not the only major Moslem effort to revive a religion-based empire. There are two others underway and causing lots of problems because they are more about nationalism and ethnicity than religion.

First there is Iran, which has been a regional superpower for thousands of years but fell on hard times after the 7th century because of a succession of damaging visits by invaders. …

In the 1990s the Turks, who had gone secular after their centuries old Ottoman Empire collapsed in the 1920s, decided to give Islam another chance as an elected ruler (Recep Erdogan) tries, with some success, to revive the Ottoman empire using a combination of Islam, technology and creative diplomacy to make Turkey great again. …

In the east, there is China, where the current dynasty is actually a bunch of communist party leaders trying to stay in power using the appeal of lost (centuries earlier) imperial glories. Just as Hitler described his imperial effort as the “Fourth Reich (empire)” in the tradition of ancient Rome followed by the Holy Roman Empire and the 19th century German Reich so does China claim legitimacy because of ancient claims by earlier Chinese empires. …

Fascist China now and Fascist Germany in the 1930s were very similar but there were some key differences. In the 1930s the U.S. had the largest GDP in the world and Germany’s was second. But back then the American GDP was more than twice the size of Germany’s while today the Chinese GDP is about 64 percent the size of the American one. The German military was one of the most effective on the planet with an impressive record of winning battles (and losing wars).

The Chinese military has a much less illustrious track record and usually prevailed eventually because of the ability to mobilize more soldiers for a longer war than their opponents could handle. Historically Chinese armies often looked good on paper but usually proved to be paper tigers when the fighting began. …

Chinese military parade, 2018

China has territorial claims on neighbors and needs more territory and resources for its huge population. The Chinese believe in the racial superiority of the Han ethnic group (which most Chinese belong to) and of historical destiny to rule the largest possible empire. Until the 18th century China was the largest nation-state on the planet but then went into decline for two centuries. Most Chinese agree that it is time for China to once again be the most powerful state in the world. This is causing problems.

The neighbors, and the rest of the world, are more alarmed than inclined to submit. Two potential victims (Russia and India) have nukes. This was something earlier Chinese empire builders never had to face although the Mongols did a pretty impressive job of “killing everyone and burning everything” over a wide area. Like current nuclear powers, the Mongols preferred to use the application of massive violence more as a threat than as a regular practice.