The following analysis is reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti, Moscow.
A future of small brutal wars
© RIA Novosti
By Ilya Kramnik
January 9, 2011
It is said that the world has been war-free since World War II. That is only partially true. There have been no all-out wars between great powers since 1945 only because, in a nuclear world, annihilation would inevitably ensue.
Some say wars have become more humane. Again, this is only partially true. After the horrors of WWII, the great powers have done their utmost to prevent any repetition of the atrocities committed against POWs and civilians in German and Japanese occupied territories. Moreover, planning, preparing, initiating, or waging a war of aggression have all been declared crimes.
Unfortunately, only great powers respect this rule and have learned to negotiate compromises more energetically and effectively.
Many small wars instead of one big war
The world is not limited to great powers and their closest allies. Unwilling to test their luck in a nuclear war, the leading countries never miss a chance to test their opponents in localized wars and have provoked many a small regional conflict. They use these conflicts to strengthen or protect their positions in key regions. As more colonial countries gained independence (only to end in neo-colonial dependence), the great powers are now more likely to engage in combat while not actually waging war.
These small, brutal wars are hellish for everyone caught up in them, because numerous “national liberation” fronts and armies and other “liberation” movements as a rule disregard all rules of war and norms of behavior.
Worse still, European and U.S. troops themselves commit crimes against humanity in wars they wage far away from prying eyes back home. Some do become public. Take the My Lai massacre in 1968, which saw a U.S. Army unit exterminate unarmed people in a South Vietnamese village, all the victims were civilians and a majority of them were women, children (including babies) and the elderly. But many more such crimes remain hidden.
And lastly, mercenaries have reappeared on the stage en masse. Although denounced by international law, mercenaries are routinely hired by Private Military Companies (also known as contractors or PMCs), which have become a fact of war in the modern world.
PMCs do not provide troops for inter-state wars, as mercenaries are not deemed combatants and hence would be considered common criminals if caught armed on the battlefield. Under the laws of war, they may be shot on the spot. PMCs hire mercenaries for conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the adversary is not a state but the armed groups that cannot be defined formally as a warring side.
The wars in the former Yugoslavia (Croatia 1991-1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995, Kosovo and Metohija 1998-1999, and southern Serbia and western Macedonia 2000-2001) were the first large-scale operations to involve mercenaries. PMCs play a variety of roles, from offering officer-training support for local armies to providing security guards as well as logistics and mine-clearing specialists.
Private wars: An alarming prospect
PMCs earned their fame in Iraq, where tens of thousands of mercenaries fought in military operations and guarded transport convoys in militant-controlled areas. This is also their role in Afghanistan.
How these PMCs behave in the theatre of conflict is, to a great extent, a consequence of their undefined status. Their recruits could be seen as either respectable security guards or armed criminals, and while some mercenary units comply with generally accepted rules, others let themselves go, and there have been instances of the indiscriminate killing of civilians by PMC personnel.
Despite these excesses, PMCs are on the rise. Great powers are very wary of high body counts and long drawn out, expensive military conflicts because of the adverse response they increasingly elicit from society. Hence, to an extent, PMCs controlled by the security services or defense departments have replaced the “liberation” fronts and movements of the 1960s and the 1980s. But only to an extent, those “liberation” fronts have vanished from the scene.
Hellish localized wars not only continue to take place, but have become almost uncontrollable, and PMCs will be used ever more frequently because doing so allows the larger players to interfere in a conflict without becoming directly involved.
Moreover, commercial structures also use PMCs. We may soon see commercial wars waged by large companies through PMCs, for example over the right to mineral deposits.
Ilya Kramnik is RIA Novosti’s military commentator. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
Wahhabi Group Launches Conversion Campaign In Bosnia
By Dzenana Karabegovic
April 2, 2010
SARAJEVO – During the past week, an international Wahhabi organization has launched a campaign in Bosnia-Herzegovina calling on non-Muslims to convert to Islam.
The organization, which calls itself “Poziv u Raj” (Invitation To Heaven), has been putting up slick billboards and posters and distributing leaflets in Sarajevo, Bihac, Sanski Most, Maglaj, Zenica, Travnik, Tuzla, and Tesanj.
The group also has been organizing public lectures in Bosnian cities and towns by a Greek man and a German man who recently converted to Islam.
Those recent converts have repeated the group’s call for non-Muslims to convert to Islam. They have also been criticizing traditionally liberal Bosnian Muslims, claiming that many Bosniaks are not practicing true Islam.
At one recent lecture, Greek convert Efstatioss Tsionis, claimed that 60 percent of Bosniaks do not pray, 70 percent of the women do not “cover themselves,” and 90 percent of Bosniaks drink alcohol.
The campaign raised concerns among non-Muslims in the overwhelmingly Muslim town of Maglaj when leaflets urging conversion to Islam were placed at the Roman Catholic church.
Local Catholics in Maglaj have complained about the leaflets to Mayor Mehmed, scheduling a meeting with Mustabasic and with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church to discuss the issue.
Members of the Wahhabi group have also personally handed leaflets to three Roman Catholic nuns in Maglaj. Such incidents have caused widespread indignation among ethnic Croats in the town – some of whom say they feel intimidated by the group’s strict Islamic rhetoric.
A parish priest, Jakov Filipovic, tells RFE/RL’s Balkan Service that the incidents have raised the awareness of Bosnian officials about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in parts of the country.
“Maybe it is good that the media have spoken out in the sense that we are not fooling ourselves,” Filipovic says. “Some people say such things are not happening here. But this will draw attention to what is really going on here. This should be resolved by [public officials] who are responsible so that such things do not happen again.”
A local Serbian Orthodox priest, Dalibor Djekic, says that he found one of the Wahhabi leaflets posted on the door of his church. “This is an ugly message to me as a representative of my people and to my people,” he says. “I am aware that ordinary [Bosniaks], who have lived together for centuries with Serbs and Orthodox believers in these parts of the country, are not behind this. Even they – my acquaintances and neighbors who heard about this – are appalled.”
Mustabasic, the town’s mayor, says that he knew nothing about the leaflets or the rallies.
RFE/RL has confirmed that one Islamic Community imam, Mustafa Efendi Spahic, hosted a lecture in Sanski Most during the past week by the Wahhabi group.
But Ekrem Tucakovic, a spokesman for the Islamic Community of Bosnia, denied there is any link between his organization and the Wahhabi campaign – saying the Islamic Community learned of the lecture from local newspaper reports.
“We don’t know what kind of lecture it was, who participated, or whether that imam took part in any capacity,” Tucakovic says.
It remains unclear who is funding the organization’s campaign in Bosnia or paying for the expensively printed leaflets and posters. Staff at the Wahhabi group’s offices in Tuzla have refused to comment to RFE/RL about the campaign.
A professor at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo, Enes Ljevakovic, considers the group to be amateurish and marginal. “I don’t think this is a serious threat,” Ljevakovic says. “We are talking about marginal groups. Can it eventually be something more? Nothing can be ruled out. Anything can happen.”
The Wahhabi movement, a conservative school of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia some 200 years ago, has been growing in strength in Bosnia since the end of the 1992-95 war.
Hundreds of Islamic fighters who are adherents to the Wahhabi tradition, and who fought alongside Bosnian Muslim forces during the war, remained in the country – with many marrying local women and establishing Islamic organizations.
In February, Bosnian police raided a Wahhabi community at the village of Gornja Maoca in northern Bosnia – arresting several leaders there amid concerns that militant members of community were becoming a security threat.