The two main drivers of war are philosophy and land. Under the broader category of philosophy, we can identify two subsets – religion and nationality – while battles over land often boil down to economic security.
Why does this matter? Because if we can figure out the causes, we can perhaps identify solutions that can minimize the occurrence of such tragedies. And although war between nation states is on the decline, war at the smaller level, at the regional level, continues at a pretty good clip.
For example, we in the US don’t consider ourselves to be at war except in the broadest terms. We’re assisting in Iraq (about 5,000 troops) and Afghanistan (about 8,000 troops). We’re trying to wipe out ISIS and Al-Qaeda. We’re threatening Syria and North Korea and possibly Russia, but we’re not sending thousands of troops to do battle anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, ISIS and Al-Qaeda are at war with us, while Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia are committing hostile acts against us or wish they could commit hostile acts against us, so even though we don’t consider ourselves at war against them, they might not look at it the same way.
So if we define war more broadly than nation states engaging in combat operations against other nation states, we discover that there are many conflicts ongoing throughout the world, and we figure into a good percentage of them.
How do we diminish these conflicts? By either aligning our philosophy to better match the philosophies of the groups that wish us ill, by forcing those groups to change their philosophies to become more like us, or by somehow bestowing on them greater economic security so that they’re less inclined to want to attack us, or anyone else.
Examining the philosophy angle, we can immediately see the difficulties presented. We are unwilling to change how we view the world or God or our place on this earth for the sake of a bunch of radicals.
And the other side likewise refuses to alter their views of the world or God or their place in it. We think we’re right. They think they’re right. Never the twain shall meet.
No, philosophy is not the answer.
Which leaves us with economic security. If we want to stop the resentment and rage directed against us, we need to be willing to provide financial aid or at least revise our policies to assist those in dire straits so they can find a way out of their economic troubles.
Building manufacturing facilities in Syria and Venezuela. Educating students in South Sudan and Nigeria, and providing jobs when they complete their schooling. Assisting farmers in Afghanistan and the West Bank so they can grow the crops they need to provide for their populations. These are the kinds of things that can improve the world order and lessen the impact of conflict around the world.
Granted, these aren’t simple things. No one wants to risk lives and millions of dollars on building infrastructure that rebels and radicals are likely to bomb into oblivion. But here’s the thing. If we start, if we offer hope, the citizens in these areas will help us police them. If they have the potential for good jobs, they’ll help keep the terrorists at bay.
Obviously there will be setbacks, facilities bombed and employees murdered. Any progress forward will come with the occasional step back.
But the problems the Third World faces aren’t going away. They’re here for the long run. And if we keep ignoring these areas, their increasingly desperate denizens are going to engage in increasingly desperate actions.
Even a small portion of what we spend on military might can go a long way toward solving some less developed country’s economic issues. We can start small, work our way up, showing how it can be done in those areas that aren’t quite so problematic, gradually easing the more troublesome spots into economic success.
But I suspect our leaders, our large businesses, will reject what I propose out of hand. ‘Why should we sacrifice for these hoodlums?’ they’ll say. ‘We worked hard to get here. Why do we have to help them? Let them do it themselves.’
And yet … if we don’t help them, we condemn ourselves to an almost endless cycle of hatred and conflict. We’ll need to beef up our military spending because as the situations in an increasingly hostile environment worsen, the pressures on us will be exacerbated too.
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