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War without end

By Owei Lakemfa

THE world is at war on various fronts and continents with no end in sight. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel on Tuesday May 2, 2017, travelled to Sochi, Russia to discuss the state of two of the wars with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  They skirted around the self-inflicted conflict in Ukraine which has seen the Crimea part of that country go to Russia and the rest broken in two. On the one hand, in the Ukrainian proxy war, the Merkel-led European Union,EU, back the coup plotters in Kiev who threw their country into chaos after overthrowing two elected governments. As a follow up, the EU  imposed some laughable sanctions on Russia while the war continues. On the other,  Russia is backing the separatists. While Merkel and Putin spoke politely to themselves, there were no concrete proposals on how to put out the fires in Ukraine.

They also discussed another proxy war where they are also on opposite sides. The Russians have gone far in finding a military solution to the seemingly  intractable war in Syria, and enticing the  non-fundamentalist rebels  to talk  peace.

The United States  under Barack Obama and its allies in Europe and Middle East had sought  to snuff out the Bashar al-Assad Government in Syria  with the type of aerial bombardment they had unleashed on the Ghadaffi Government in Libya. That had given the fundamentalists in Libya victory over the patriotic forces and handed the country to the fundamentalist ISIS, al-Qeada and other centrifugal forces.

But commonsense had prevailed on Syria, and  the ISIS had lost the opportunity of being handed over its first country which might have become the headquarters of its Caliphate. Syria is a constant reminder that  wars may never depart the doorsteps of humanity. Virtually all the major powers and their supporters are involved in the Syrian conflict;  America, Russia, Iran,  Saudi Arabia,  United Kingdom,  Qatar, Lebanon, France, Iraq, and Jordan. There are also non-state actors like the  Pro-American Free Syrian Army, FSA, the fundamentalist al-Nustra Front, the Lebanese  Hezbollah ‘The Party of God’ led by the charismatic Hassan Nassrallah and the ISIS led by the reclusive Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.

With the decisive Russian air strikes against rebels,  a demoralised FSA  fighting government and fundamentalist forces, ISIS fighting for survival in Iraq, and the pro-American  Kurdish and Turkish forces at war in Syria, the al-Assad Government is inching towards  victory. President Donald Trump had sought to reverse the trend by bombing a Syrian Air Force  base under the unsubstantiated claim that the al-Assad government used chemical bombs on its civilian population. Cleverly, al-Assad ignored the provocation while it made limited response to Israel’s March 17, 2017 bombing of Syria. It didn’t want to open other fronts.

Putin told Merkel that the solution to the Syrian war is through  United Nations mediation. Meanwhile, the war continues.

Trump is one of the biggest beneficiaries   of the fires across the world; his sagging profile was strengthened  when he bombed the  Syrian Air Force  base on April 6. His rating further  jumped when  five days later, he authorised the drop of a 21,600-pound-bomb on Nangarhar,  Afghanistan. With that, he received more applause and America found a place to test its  largest non-nuclear bomb. With the applause still ringing in his head, the American Twitter-in- Chief   who has also been active in  the multi-national war  in Yemen, turned his attention to North Korea where the youthful President Kim Jung-un has been testing nuclear-tipped missiles.

The way  so much fuss is being made about the North Korea nuclear tests  gives the impression that it is the only  the country possessing or improving its  nuclear capability, whereas of the nine nuclear countries, it has the least number of nuclear weapons. The Russians have a stockpile of 7,500 nuclear weapons followed by United states with 7,200,  with France coming a distant third with 300. China follows closely with 250 and United Kingdom with 215 nuclear weapons. Pakistan has some 110 and India, 100 with Israel having eighty. North Korea with 10   nuclear weapons has the least. There are also NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, nuclear ’sharing states’ like  Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey.

With 93 percent of the known world nuclear weapons in their arsenal, Russia and United States have been pressured over the years to reduce their nuclear capability under the  Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.  It is not that the military leaders of the world are against nuclear weapons; otherwise, they would have significantly reduced their nuclear arsenal and worked towards a nuclear-free world.  Rather, they do not want a proliferation which is why the United Nations  has been brought in to impose sanctions against North Korea.

America is also uncomfortable  with North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons  because its client-state, South Korea does not have such capability. So the Americans have used the excuse of the North Korea nuclear tests to further militarise the Korean Peninsula  and built a Nuclear Shield in South Korea.

America was of the opinion that North Korea under former President Kim Jong II should not have nuclear weapons because he was allegedly unpredictable and fanatical. Now, it does not think that country should have nuclear weapons partly because the President is too young, and unpredictable. It argues   that North Korea  having such weapons is like giving nuclear weapons  to a child.

Virtually all the countries  leading the campaign against North Korea nuclear tests either have similar weapons,  or aspire to own some of their own.  The Trump Presidency had in March announced that it would negotiate with North Korea only if it gave up  its nuclear weapons otherwise, a military option against it was open. Then in April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had thundered: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea” adding that it was ready to take action, if necessary, alone. Then last Wednesday, Senators were bussed to the White House for briefing on planned actions against North Korea. It was a farcical drama. The next day, the White House said it is open to negotiations, and twenty four hours later, Trump said the South Koreans will have to pay for the THAAD Missile Defence System America installed. Talking about unpredictability, I’m not sure who can be said to be more unpredictable; Trump or Jung-un?

When the First World War broke out, the writer,  H.G. Wells in assessing the magnitude, predicted that if German militarism were   defeated, that would be  “The war to end war”  or “The war to end all wars”   Germany was defeated, but a more catastrophic Second World War came thirty two years later. The combination of the wars going on today across the world may take more lives. We are engaged in a world of wars without end.



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