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CCADD conference 2007 at Fircroft College

 

Paul Rogers: Likely Sources of Future Conflicts

 

A summary

 

1.1/4bn of the world’s elite are getting richer while the remaining 4bn are left behind.  But ‘gated’ communities like Heritage Park in S. Africa are no answer: you cannot solve the world’s problems by separating the comfortable rich minority from the rest.  This simply keeps the lid on problems (‘liddism’).

 

Today, the marginalised are becoming more aware than ever of their plight, partly because of increased education.  This is a new situation, creating a ‘revolution of frustrated expectations’.

 

In the first industrial revolution the basic needs were all domestically available (eg coal, iron, copper, tin and lead in England).  Today they have to be imported (eg oil) – from particular places, which are often themselves unstable.  Furthermore, human activity affects the environment.  (Ozone depletion was coped with by the Montreal Convention of 1987, but carbon emissions are a different matter altogether).  It was once thought that the environmental problems were confined to the temperate regions, but now it is clear that tropical regions will be very badly affected, but are least able to cope with them.

 

Prior to 9/11 Bush embraced unilateralist thinking for keeping the USA to itself: hence rejection of the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Treaty, strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions etc.  But 9/11 changed all that: now the ‘hawks’ can go and do as they like.  Hence the ‘axis of evil’ speech, the claim of a right to pre-empt conflict, to remove the Taliban, to turn Iraq into a neo-con economy by force. 

 

Al Qaida wanted to draw the US into Afghanistan, having already destroyed the power of the USSR.  Now Al Qaida is not a gang of lunatics, but have a rational set of aims: in the short term to expel all crusader forces, and to replace the Saudi, Egyptian and other regimes, support Palestinians and other groups (eg in Chechnya and Southern Thailand); in the long term to create a new Caliphate for the whole world.

 

The present situation:

 

a)     Afghanistan.  Things are very difficult in the South and East, and the drug crop has doubled and is now refined largely in Afghanistan itself.  This means more profit to Al Qaida. 

b)     Iraq.  Well over 100,000 civilians have been killed, 25,000 are detained without trial,  3000+ US soldiers have been killed and over 20,000 injured

c)      Over 100,000 people have been detained without trial world-wide, some for over five years.   Al Jazeera and other channels constantly report on civilian casualties, torture, rendition and other aspects of the war on terror.   Al Qaida has more support than six years ago, not least because the US presence in Iraq is a gift.

 

Possible solutions:

 

a)     a progressive withdrawal of the Western military from Iraq

b)     a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

c)      better governance and socio-economic justice across the Middle East

d)     far more development support in Afghanistan, a determined effort to prevent civilian casualties and a willingness to negotiate with the more moderate militia groups, including some Taliban elements.

 

There is a need to look beyond the ‘war on terror’: it is necessary to understand things on a global level.  Some military think-tanks have good ideas, but are mostly limited to national security questions instead of looking at the root causes.  ‘Sustainable security’ depends on this.