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.
The implications of the International Court of Justice verdict legitimizing Kosovo’s secession from Serbia
The decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to “legitimize” Kosovo’s secession from Serbia establishes a precedent with wide ranging implications. The fact that the court’s ruling is being described in government and diplomatic circles as “vague” is what opens it up to varied interpretation — giving, on the one hand, hope to ethnic minorities seeking independent states, while, on the other hand, prompting calls from governments that the court’s decision “is unique to Kosovo” and sets no precedent other than what is stipulated in that case.
The Republic of Kosovo is, for all practical purposes, the world’s first “NATO state” — occupied as it was under the pretext of protecting the Kosovars from the Serbs, the country will likely forever remain a NATO territory. The claim put forth by the propagandists is that perpetual NATO occupation of Kosovo is necessary to protect the people from future Serb aggression. The real reason, however, is that Kosovo’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim and a continuous NATO presence is needed to prevent the emergence of an Islamic Republic in the middle of Europe.
The ICJ’s decision to legitimize Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia should come as no surprise. Decisions proclaimed by so-called “impartial” international bodies, such as the ICJ and UN, tend to favor Western interests. The problem with the court’s ruling is its “vagueness” — causing, for example, Germany’s foreign minister to quickly proclaim that the verdict “does not apply to the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus or any other country”, uttered almost simultaneously against the praises heaped upon the “precedent setting decision” by such groups as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The question that remains unanswered is this: “Is a territory within a sovereign state entitled to unilaterally declare its independence simply because the population within that territory is ethnically distinct from the country’s majority?”
The answer to this question can be found in a little-known book written by Turkmenistan’s late president, Saparmyrat Niyazov. The book, Ruhnama (or Book of the Soul), consists of two volumes of Niyazov’s personal philosophy and spiritual ramblings about good citizens and good governance. He addressed the general topic of ethnic sovereignty as follows:
One feels sorrow for the peoples of the world who have not yet achieved nationhood; and one feels twice that sorrow for those who leave the path of the nation and consider this great idea, the nation, to be merely the detritus of history. [Ruh. I:146, English edition, Ashgabat 2005.]
Whereas Niyazov fully supported the United Nations as a means of resolving disputes “among” nations and providing various programs “for” nations — he clearly rejected the idea of abolishing nations in preference to a “world government” often championed by UN visionaries. Furthermore, since he writes in Ruhnama of his goal to “abolish tribalism” among the Turkmens as a means of enhancing equality among citizens, we can conclude that “tribal units” are not eligible for independence apart from a larger ethnic parent group. However, based on Niyazov’s philosophy it would appear that “distinctive ethnic groups” such as Tatars, Kurds, Chechens, Palestinians, etc. would be entitled to independent states in the world community simply because they don’t have them yet.
Which brings us to Kosovo and its majority population of “ethnic Albanians”.
The International Court of Justice has opened the proverbial ‘can of worms’ in legitimizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) while failing to establish firm criteria that can be applied to other ethnic groups contemplating similar secession coupled with international legitimacy. Whereas the ICJ has failed to supply a generalized criteria I will defer to Niyazov.
There is nothing in either volume of Ruhnama that even remotely implies that a geographic region within a sovereign state (i.e. Kosovo within Serbia) is entitled to independence merely because the majority population of that region is ethnically distinct from the state’s overall majority population when the ethnic group already has an independent state. As such, the Kosovar Albanians — who are ethnically Albanian and have an independent state (Albania) — would not have a legitimate claim to an independent state unless obtained through the good graces of the Serbian government.
In light of the vagueness of the ICJ’s ruling, it has opened its doors for every imaginable ethnic group and tribal entity to waste the court’s time in these matters until such time as case law is firmly established.
© Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date: March 2, 2008
Turkmenbashy placed great importance on Turkmenistan’s independence. In Ruhnama the “5th Golden Age of the National Turkmen spirit” began on 27 October 1991 – the day of Turkmenistan’s independence.
In fact Allah the Almighty decreed an interesting fate for our nation. The Turkmen spirit rises at the beginning of each millennium. This was the same for the beginning of the third millennium. Allah the Almighty granted the return of historical creative inspiration to the Turkmen. This is the age of maturity for the Turkmen spirit.The spiritual figure for this age is none other than Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy the Great. (But you probably saw that coming, huh?) In accordance with the above excerpt it would appear that the beginning of the 5th Golden Age, coupled with Turkmenistan’s day of Independence AND Turkmenbashy’s ascension to the role of spiritual leader — was the will of Allah based on what is written in Ruhnama. Since these “Ages” can last for hundreds of years (long after the death of the spiritual figure) then presumably Turkmenbashy continues in this capacity even after his death in December 2006. It was his intention that Ruhnama be the means for guiding the nation into the future.
Ruhnama, Book I, p. 287
(English hardcover edition. Bold emphasis appears in original text.)
Returning to the subject of “independence” and considering that Ruhnama, although written primarily for the Turkmens also has global implications, this naturally raises the question: Does Turkmenbashy believe that ALL ethnic groups are entitled to independent homelands?
One feels sorrow for the peoples of the world who have not yet achieved nationhood; and one feels twice that sorrow for those who leave the path of the nation and consider this great idea, the nation, to be merely the detritus of history.OK, I admit that I had to look up the word “detritus”. According to the Free Online Dictionary the word has several meanings, including medical terminology, but the definition most closely fitting the above context is:
ibid., p. 146
“2. a. Disintegrated or eroded matter: the detritus of past civilizations.What Turkmenbashy is saying is that one’s sorrow is doubled for those who believe that the concept of “nation” is an archaic ideology when compared to a “one world” government in which all people are citizens regardless of ethnicity, history, customs, etc.
Whereas Turkmenbashy fully supported the United Nations as a means of resolving disputes “among” nations and providing various programs “for” nations — he clearly rejected the idea of abolishing nations in preference to one-worldliness.
Furthermore, since Turkmenbashy writes in Ruhnama of his goal to “abolish tribalism” in Turkmenistan as a means of enhancing equality among citizens, we can conclude that tribal units are not eligible for independence apart from a larger ethnic parent group, such as Turkmens. However, based on Turkmenbashy’s words it would appear that groups such as Tatars, Kurds, Chechens, etc. would be entitled to independent states in the world community.
Ruhnama – Home