Small Wars Journal

Underplayed Conflicts of 2014

Underplayed Conflicts of 2014 by Robin Wright, The New Yorker

Russia’s advances on Ukraine and the Islamic State’s sweep across Iraq and Syria grabbed headlines, but soft conflicts, which reflect crumbling societies at war with themselves, can be as troubling, and potentially explosive, as the hard-fought wars. An example is South Africa, a country that has been heralded for creating one of the world’s most democratic constitutions. Conditions for many blacks there have not improved much since apartheid ended, a generation ago. Unemployment is now twenty-five per cent, and has not been below twenty per cent in almost two decades. Unofficially, the number could be much higher…

Four years ago, the Islamic world offered new democratic models, born of the Arab Spring protests. The troublesome trend this year has been the return—by democratic means—of authoritarian rule. One example is Egypt. (Turkey could be another.)

Egypt has long been the political trendsetter in the Middle East. It accounts for a quarter of the Arab world’s three hundred and fifty million people. Its return to authoritarian rule is as ominous as the Arab Spring was hopeful. The problem is not just the string of detentions (more than ten thousand) or death sentences (more than a thousand) during the past year. The war over human rights plays out more broadly as draconian Presidential decrees—in a country still without a parliament—undo the gains from the 2011 uprising. The new regime’s restrictions on public life foreshadow a turbulent future…

Read on.