Mitigating the Million Mutinies

The second millennium has embarked on its sixteenth year. Metaphorically, it’s the “sweet sixteen” of the millennium; the age characterised by joyfulness, optimism, and enthusiasm. Who doesn’t want to celebrate this blissfulness? New year brings new hopes, new commitments and expectations galore. Leaving behind the unpleasant encounters and experiences of the past years we want to move on with optimism, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? But amidst the ongoing civil wars, widespread terror attacks, devastating conflicts, social and ideological polarisation leading to large-scale human suffering, can we remain optimistic about a delightful spring? Isn’t uncertain future continuing as the chilled extended winter?

Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, North Korea - human sufferings seem to far exceed the limits of human tolerance. Desperate migration, terrorist attacks, retaliatory actions causing a huge collateral destruction of human lives and property and irreversible ecological disaster; catastrophe looms large all over. As if the ISIS terror acts, Syrian refugee crisis, jihadi spread and onslaughts were not enough, the North Korean dictator welcomed the new year with a nuclear bang. What a spectacular welcome of the new year! Shock waves have spread far and wide and so has the despondency. The teenage of the millennium seems turbulent; can we expect its youth to be different?

Is the world at war? This question inevitably haunts our mind. From the conventional perspective, the answer is “no”. Conflicts, acts of terror and proxy wars seem to have replaced conventional wars, at least for now. Consequently, war has spread far and wide. Boko Haram has its terror spread over a number of Sub-Saharan nations including Nigeria, where it has its origin. Saudi Arab and Iran are fighting proxy wars built along ideological and sectarian lines of Shia-Sunni clash in the Middle East for decades. Their battlefield stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon have become their proxy battlefields.  Pakistan is fighting a proxy war against India since its defeat in 1971. Its proxy soldiers, who it calls “non-state actors” have dared to attack India’s military establishment of late and it is considered terror not war! Using highly radicalised, misguided, remorseless, brutal terrorists and non-state actors instead of regular army, is the new war strategy. Rouge states are creating and nurturing them as their strategic assets to fight their proxy wars.

Widespread intense conflicts are destabilising the peace and harmony of the world at a time when the weapons of mass destruction are not confined to a few nations. The Second World War left nearly sixty million people dead. These low-intensity wars and consequential humanitarian crises are leaving tens of thousands dead all over the world. 

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has left thousands of Palestinian children so traumatised that they need special psychological treatment. Will the disproportionate use of force not create a fresh band of ruthless enemies of humanity? According to the Iraq Body Count agency the war and subsequent conflicts in Iraq has killed 205,992 people. In Syria 210,060 people have lost their life in last four years as per Reuter. Half of those killed were civilians. The civil war, which broke out there in 2011, has rendered 9 million Syrians homeless. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that over 3 million Syrians have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. However, their desperate attempt to enter Europe via Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Malta, and Cyprus has created a fresh round of geopolitical instability in Europe. Following the Syrian crisis, Angela Markel’s liberal stance to accommodate Syrian and other refugees in Germany has earned her people’s wrath. Reporting the widespread anger of the Germans, The Telegraph wrote, “Mummy Merkel followed her heart on refugees - and lost Germany.” In a recent survey conducted by the German newspaper Bild, 48 percent people opined that they don’t want Markel back in power due to her soft policy on West Asian refugees whose number has touched nearly 1 million mark.

Causes of these disguised wars are complex and many. Yet Oxford scholars Collier and Hoeffler’s have attributed them to two major factors - greed and grievance. Greed refers to the economic motivation to wage a war such as share in war booty, controlling vital resources, etc, while grievance refers to the fight for ethnicity, identity, class struggle and religion among other. Between the two they hold greed more responsible for the conflicts. However, are the factors as segregated as they have been made out to be? For example, on the one hand ISIS is fighting for an Islamic state, but on the other amassing wealth by illegally selling oil to Turkey. Narco-terrorism, the link between illicit drug trade and terror, has been the backbone of Afghan Taliban. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), executive director Antonio Maria Costa warned of the rising evidence of the use of drug money to finance criminal activities including terrorism. 

He also emphasised that fighting drug trafficking is equal to fighting terrorism. Drugs were also the principal source of funding for Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terror network though it was ostensibly fighting for the religious cause. Today economic interest, religion and political ideologies, Jihad, ethnicity, identity, oppression; all have mixed up. Religion, ideology, oppression, exploitation- the have become lame excuses for perpetuating conflicts, acts of terror and proxy wars. The million mutinies must me mitigated soon; much before the entire world is pushed to another world war, which few of us will be left to narrate to the coming generation.

(Author is a Senior Faculty of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Views expressed are personal)
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