Friday, October 28, 2016

Rumors of War October 2016

Lets now move beyond the grim reality of the collapse of our political system, and lighten things up around here by considering whether or not we are on the brink of another serious regional or world war. Not only is this a very reasonable time to ask such questions, it also leads into the larger blog theme of “predicting the future”. In this case, no esoteric knowledge is necessary, we can rely on our own knowledge of history and what we can see of world events.

Whenever a war happens, there are always people who say that there were clear signs that the war was obviously going to happen and that either we should have been better prepared, or should have avoided it, or that the government knew it was going to happen and wanted it to happen, or any of a number of other opinions, some of them interesting, many of them completely out-of-their-mind crazy.

Hindsight is 20/20 but in the real world there are always tensions and conflicts that could explode into a major war. But it also the case that there are a variety of “indicators” that a war may be on the horizon. Here are a few drawn from recent history: (a) a nation is pursuing what it sees to be a goal of critical national importance and another nation executes economic sanctions (war) against it, (b) a nation is executing a rearmament of their armed forces as fast as they possibly can, (c) a nation executes an intense intelligence attack on another nation with whom they are at peace of a size that is unparalled in peacetime, (d) a nation insists that it controls another nation's territory or that a formerly public right-of-way is declared to be their sovereign territory, and always has been.

Do we see any of these four situations in the world today? In fact, we see all four of these.

Russia has a centuries long relationship with Ukraine and Crimea. They see that relationship differently than we do. For them, Crimea is the ice-free port that Russia strategically requires. For them, Ukraine is a slavic territory that has been part of Russia for centuries. The very origins of Moscow and Russia can be traced to Kievan Rus in what we might now call Ukraine. The west has imposed sanctions on Russia for the events in that part of the world. Right or wrong, these sanctions are certainly hurting Russia.

Both Russia and China are extensively rearming and reconfiguring their armed forces. The Russian army, navy and air force seem to be rebuilding at a vastly increased rate. China is doing something similar.

For the last decade, China has executed a cyber-attack against the United States of unprecedented scope. The only people who do not know it at this point are people who are really not paying attention (or don't want to know). The US Government has given every indication that it knows and that it wants it to stop. We know that something has been going on in part because our country has begun an immense investment in offensive and defensive cyberwar.

China's actions in the South China Sea are about as aggressive as a nation can be in times of peace. It is a setup for a hot war, and they are arming for it. They want it, they need it, they have to have it. And if we don't like it, we have to fight for it. The problem is not what we want, the problem is what all China's neighbors want and we are in a mutual defense alliance with those neighbors. Probability of war? High, about as high as war between India and Pakistan, for example.

Oh, did I forget to mention India and Pakistan?  Or India and China?  Or Vietnam and China? Or Pakistan's financing of terrorist groups? The war in Syria and the refugee crisis? Russia's blatant cyberwar against America? N. Korea and its nuclear weapons? Russia and Chechnya (what's left of it)? Or the Congo? Or Somalia? Or Sudan? Or Libya?

So are we headed to world war? Not necessarily. After all, even a hot regional war does not imply a world war.  But if we do end up in a major world war, there will be people who say that there was plenty of evidence that it was on the horizon.

This topic continues here.

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