“One friend from Northern Ireland said on facebook that a relative had told him that the key to understanding any conflict was to work out who are the ‘Protestants’ and who are the ‘Catholics'”, Chris Bertram once recounted on Crooked Timber. This opinion is now four times removed from the reader, a sufficient distance that we needn’t take it too literally. But, couched in this distance, I kind of think it’s useful to admit that a lot of global conflicts are actually very similar at heart. With that in mind, let me tell you of a current geopolitical conflict.
The main actors are a nation state versus a primarily military, but also political organization claiming to represent an oppressed territory. The nation state is run by a political coalition that has some unsavoury members, but does have democratic legitimacy. This legitimacy is denied by the military organization on account of voting not being available to the populace of the region in question. In its view, the nation state are thus illegitimate occupiers of the territory. More than that, the military organization insists the current nation state is in fact entirely illegitimate and needs to be overthrown. A lot of the anti-nation state rhetoric compares the nation state to fascists, which is very strongly offensive to the nation state, as its people bore some of the heaviest casualties at the hands of fascists in World War II.
The military organization claims that it has democratic legitimacy in the region, whereas others dispute this, since voting took place in a heavily militarized environment and amid intimidation. It operates, among other places, from within densely populated urban areas. The nation state attacks the urban areas with artillery fire, which leads to destruction of civilian infrastructure and high loss of civilian life. This last has caused Human Rights Watch to accuse the nation state of war crimes. The nation state, meanwhile, maintains that the civilian casualties are the other side’s fault: operating from within these densely populated areas, the military organization is effectively using civilians as human shields, it claims.The reputed total casualties have recently surpassed 1,000 people.
The military organization is backed up by an oil-rich neighbour, which supplies it with arms, money and help in the informational war. Although this oil-rich country has a news channel put out for American audiences that are often viewed to get differing perspectives, outsiders accuse the press of the neighbours of overt propaganda. Another common accusation of the neighbours is that they are abusing a situation of a suffering populace to score cheap geopolitical victories. The oil rich neighbour also happens to be yearning for higher status worldwide. Part of that neighbours play for status consists of hosting a soccer world cup in the near future, received amid FIFA voting that was obviously mired in corruption. The nation state, meanwhile, is strongly supported by the United States of America. Within the USA, there is debate as to whether this support is in its geopolitical interest.
The military organization is widely accused of terrorism, and the nation state refuses to negotiate with it directly on the pretext that it does not negotiate with terrorists. Everything about the conflict is terrible, and there is no sign of an imminent end.