Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Proxy War

Watching the smaller-scale violence in Somalia brings a sense of perspective to the notion of the war on terror, I suppose. But given the state of utter anarchy in the Horn of Africa, it's been a long time coming. What's becoming more and more clear, through the wonders of hindsight, is that all these dirty little proxy fights during the Cold War, supporting all these abysmal strongmen, had the ancillary effect of tamping down some ugly cultural and sectarian forces.

This is precisely the sort of thing John Robb has analyzed so consistently well, and something that we're simply not prepared to address, either politically or militarily. Low-level conflagrations in little-known or regarded areas, in the aggregate, will continue to disrupt regional infrastructural and financial systems. This particular flare-up is made more dangerous simply by its proximity to the Middle East, but it seems similar to what has been happening in Nigeria for some time -- Islamic courts in the north implementing draconian law and order mechanisms outside of official government purview in Lagos.

It seems that as these events and situations add up, especially in resource areas such as Nigeria, an enterprising unipolar superpower (hyperpower, whatever) could very easily find itself having to constantly put out fires. And constant crisis management, as any small business owner knows all too well, halts expansion and sets you in a pattern of chronic wheel-spinning.

Lots of people (and I am one of them) have postulated scenarios in which an ascendant Asian power bloc, centered around China and/or India, begin challenging U.S. hegemony by as soon as 2020. It would not even have to be in a military sense -- we are so in hock to China right now that a waffling Euro/Russian tilt to the east could tip the financial balance in their favor, perhaps irretrievably, given our overextension almost on the scale of the British Empire.

Third World states devolving into fractious enclaves would also catalyze such a scenario, as America gets caught between trying to get international cooperation to put these regional fires out without losing our own access to the local resources, and overcoming the world's building cynicism about our motives and means. A failed Somalia is bad enough, but something the world has already been witnessing for well over a decade. A failed Iraq is already a likelihood, no matter what we do at this point. The failed-state systempunkt paradigm, in terms of expenditures versus potential returns, is going to be where most of our upcoming problems will arise over the next decade, especially if it starts affecting keystone resource areas such as Nigeria.

1 comment:

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