World War Three
by Chris Bowers, Mon Jul 24, 2006 at 09:52:22 AM EDT
Despite a formal end to the war in July 2003 and an agreement by the former belligerents to create a government of national unity, the state remains weak and much of the eastern region continues to suffer from violent conflict. In 2004, an estimated one thousand people died every day from violence and disruptions to basic social services and food supply. Sporadic outbreaks of fighting continue to lead to large scale forced migration. But I guess we didn't care back then, just like we didn't care during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when another million people died. Central Africa is the poorest place on Earth, and as such holds little or no strategic, diplomatic, economic, or political value to the West. That over five million people died in war and genocide, and that several million more starved or were displaced, in this region, was little more than a footnote in our national consciousness. That none of parties in the conflict didn't much car about the Unites States either only helped fuel our disinterest.
I wanted to point this out before breaking my promise to not talk about Israel and Lebanon. I simply have to write about it now, because staying quiet as I watch the world slowly burn down is draining my energy to engage in politics at all. By pointing out that we already sat out World War Three, I hope to cut into what I see as the absurd self-righteousness on the various sides of this conflict.
We are all paying attention to this conflict, just as we have ignored other conflicts for years now. The reason we are paying attention to this one is not because of the principles in involved, and not because of the body counts all around. It is, instead, because the economic importance of the region and because of the cultural tensions between what can be loosely described as "the West" and what can be loosely described as "the Muslim world." Were it not for those two factors, we would not be paying attention to this story at all, which is why we ignored World War Three. Hell, if those two factors did not exist, in all likelihood the conflict would probably not exist either.
On a more personal level, I remember how one of these ignored conflicts hit home. As I spent June of 1998 studying in Rome, Italy, I found out one week after the fact that there had been a coup in Guinea-Bissau and the country was engaged in a brief civil war. This hit home for me because the woman who I was engaged to at the time was in the Peace Corps in Guinea-Bissau. When I finally received the news, after immediately running to the bathroom and vomiting, I spent the next several hours on the phone trying to figure out what had happened. It eventually turned out that she was okay, but until the conflict ended that autumn, it remained almost impossible to get any news on what was happening in the country. Because the world just did not care.
As I make my first post on the Israel-Lebanon conflict today, I just want to open up by pointing out the double-standard in our attention to foreign conflicts. The different amounts of attention we pay to different conflicts and different genocides demonstrates as clearly as anything else I can think of that few people in this world value all human equally. Once we accept that, I think we can start coming to terms with the causes of the many conflicts we are engaged in today, no matter what high faloutin' principles we claim are at stake. Here are some stories from the weekend on the conflict that I fond interesting:
- Israeli support for action in Lebanon is overwhelming, but there were some peace protests.
- Bill Scher discusses the immediate causes for the conflict.
- Juan Cole argues that the Israeli action had been planned for at least a year.
- The Ministry of Virtue and Vice has no been re-established in Afghanistan. Our great allies in this "regional conflict."