Tag Archives: Conflict

Conflict is an essential element, probably the most important one, in creating societies where exploitation is important.  It is easy to see in the past: one group or nation conquered another and put those conquered in a subsidiary status, taking their land, taxing them and placing them in an inferior position through various means. (See the exploitation sections in Understanding exploitation, especially  conflict theory, some economic historians, and primitive accumulation in the exploitation in Marxism section.)  These patterns frequently continue into the present, in (usually) weakened, but still present form.  Conflict can also arise when people who are oppressed fight for their freedom.  Conflict is  a significant part of the modern world.  Conflict, even narrowly defined, is an important activity. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates world military expenditure at $1739 billion in 2017, or 2.2 percent of global gross domestic product (SIPRI 2018).  It does use resources that can be devoted to productive activity   It has created significant harm to those caught up in conflict.

Global Peace Index 2019

Vision of Humanity

The average level of global peacefulness improved very slightly in 2019, for the first time in five years, on the 2019 GPI. [However,] the average level of global peacefulness has deteriorated by 3.78 per cent since 2008. Over that period, 81 countries deteriorated in peacefulness, while 81 improved.

The global economic impact of violence improved for the first time since 2012, decreasing by 3.3 per cent or $475 billion from 2017 to 2018. The improvement in the global economic impact of violence is largely due to the decrease in the impact of Armed Conflict particularly in Iraq, Colombia and Ukraine, where the impact of Armed Conflict decreased by 29 per cent to $672 billion in 2017. The global economic impact of violence was $14.1 trillion PPP [ a measure of GDP which takes account of differences in the purchasing power of various currencies; see Wikipedia] in 2018, equivalent to 11.2 per cent of global GDP or $1,853 per person. Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic incurred the largest economic cost of violence in 2018 as a percentage of their GDP, equivalent to 67, 47 and 42 per cent of GDP, respectively. In the ten countries most affected by violence, the average economic cost was equivalent to 35 per cent of GDP, compared to 3.3 per cent in the ten least affected.

The gap between the least and most peaceful countries continues to grow. Since 2008, the 25 least peaceful countries declined on average by 11 per cent, while the 25 most peaceful countries improved by 1.8 per cent on average. Conflict in the Middle East has been the key driver of the global deterioration in peacefulness. The indicator with the most widespread deterioration globally was the terrorism impact indicator. Just over 63 per cent of countries recorded increased levels of terrorist activity. However, the number of deaths from terrorism has been falling globally since 2014.

An estimated 971 million people live in areas with high or very high climate change exposure [where climate change issues such as water scarcity can increase the probability of conflict], . Of this number, 400 million (41 per cent) reside in countries with already low levels of peacefulness.

Access the full report.

Global Peace Index released

Global peacefulness improves but the world is less peaceful than a decade ago.
The world is slightly more peaceful than a year ago Laren Favre U.S. News and World Report June 13, 2019
The U.S. drops to No. 128 out of 163 countries studied due to increased violence, political instability and a weakening view of its leadership.

The Sahel in flames

The Sahel in flames. Violence rips through West Africa causing crises in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso The New Humanitarian May 31, 2019

Photo: Barsalogho camp in Burkina Faso Credit: Philip Kleinfeld/The New Humanitarian

Five takeaways on the growing violence and its civilian toll:

Jihadist groups are manipulating inter-communal conflicts. They are exploiting the region’s ethnic fault lines to stir violence that can be far deadlier than anything the militants are doing directly themselves. In central Mali, the level of violence may now qualify as ethnic cleansing.

Governments have helped local militias thrive. Central governments have allowed and in some cases encouraged the proliferation of communal militia groups – decisions that are now coming home to roost as intercommunal conflicts rise.

Civilians look to jihadists for support the state doesn’t provide. Jihadist groups often understand the social grievances of local communities. A recent study by the peacebuilding charity International Alert attributes the rise in violent extremism in the Sahel to weak states rather than religious ideology.

Civilians are becoming casualties of security forces. These forces add to the insecurity by killing civilians during counter-terrorism operations. In Burkina Faso, military forces are killing three times more civilians than jihadists.

Displacement, food insecurity, and other humanitarian crises are escalating, but resources to respond are lacking. Some 5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, and the new violence is “compounding” already existing needs and “threatening civilians’ lives and livelihoods”, a UN official said.

The first large protest in London against the Saudi bombing of Yemen, equipped and supported by the United Kingdom and the United States. March 7, 2018 Credit: Alisdare Hickson

73 percent of the world’s dictatorships receive United States military assistance

US provides military assistance to 73 percent of world’s dictatorships Rich Whitney Truthout September 23, 2017

Photo: The first large protest in London against the Saudi bombing of Yemen, equipped and supported by the United Kingdom and the United States. March 7, 2018 Credit: Alisdare Hickson

Conflict 2019

Looking at the model of conflict developed by Hershleifer and others (see the section “Conflict theory” in Understanding exploitation) , we see that conflict is modeled as a rational activity where each side can produce goods for consumption or for conflict, and the costs and benefits of each strategy are considered by each side and the best alternative adopted. Thus conflict here is rational, though certainly overall output of consumption goods is reduced. Nonetheless it appears that this is not the model for much of real life conflict. It appears that there are two (or more) groups that engage in conflict, while there is (usually a much larger) group that suffers from the conflict. The two groups can be elites of two countries, or rebels and the government, yet there are many that are caught up in the struggle, and their suffering seems to dwarf any gain of the contending sides.

What did the United States get for $2 trillion in Afghanistan? Sarah Almukhtar and Rod Nordland New York Times December 9, 2019

The secret history of the war in Afghanistan: At war with the truth–U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress in Afghanistan. They were not, confidential documents show, and they knew it. Craig Whitlock Washington Post December 9, 2019

Massacred at home, in misery abroad, 730,000 Rohingya are mired in hopelessness Hannah Beech New York Times August 22, 2019

The two-year Rohingya crisis in three timelapse satellite GIFs Irwin Loy The New Humanitarian August 22, 2019

Number of people fleeing conflict Is highest since World War II, U.N. says Nick Cumming-Bruce New York Times June 19, 2019

The exceptionally American historical amnesia behind Pompeo’s claim of ‘40 years of unprovoked Iranian aggression’ Brett Wilkins Common Dreams June 20, 2019
” From a CIA coup and supporting the Shah’s brutality to enabling chemical attacks, shooting down a civilian airliner and training terrorists,‘aggression’ between the US and Iran is overwhelmingly one-sided.”

The UN has failed civilians Tharanga Yakupitiyage Inter Press Service May 24, 2019
“According to the UN, more than 22,800 civilians were killed or injured in 2018 alone across just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. All five permanent Security Council members are parties to many of these conflicts, and are thus responsible for the failure to protect civilians.”

The US is spending $1.25 trillion annually on war William D. Hartung and Mandy Smithberger Truthout May 7, 2019

Do we need a global convention of common principles for building peace? Thalif Deen Inter Press Service May 17, 2019
Susan Wilding of CIVICUS, the global alliance of civil society organizations, said that what is missing is a clear focus on human rights. “How can we expect to prevent conflict if we do not first focus on the prevention of human rights abuses…If we do not start to see the link between human rights, civic space and the humanitarian, development and peace agenda, we will surely fail in our endeavors to reach any of the goals.”

Niger, part 1: At the centre of a brewing militant storm Giacomo Zandonini and Francesco Bellina The New Humanitarian March 28, 2019

Preaching world peace by day, peddling lethal weapons by night Thalif Deen Inter Press Service March 11, 2019

Trump administration steps up air war in Somalia Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage New York Times March 10, 2019

What happened to 4 starving Yemeni children since The Washington Post visited their village in December Sudarsan Raghavan and Ali Al Mujahed Washington Post February 27, 2019

Photographing the Yazidis in Iraq as they struggle to rebuild their lives Photographs by Emilienne Malfatto Text by Sara Aridi New York Times January 22, 2019

The problem with memorializing our war dead without honest accounting of history C.J. Chivers New York Times February 22, 2019

Coup attempt in Gabon is thwarted, government says Dionne Searcey New York Times January 7, 2019

For further discussion, see Understanding exploitation, especially the sections “Conflict theory” and “Power and exploitation.”