Great Approach, Missed Some Big Ones, Still a Real Value,
August 19, 2000
Zones of Conflict has not yet been surpassed by other published works, mostly because others focus on specific regions. This is still a valuable work, largely because of the process and the framework it provides for thinking about geographically and culturally based sources of conflict. Published in 1986 it missed some big ones: Somalia, Rwandi-Burundi, the Congo, the break-up of Yugoslavia with the Kosovo aftermath. We’ll give them credit for the Gulf flashpoint. What’s the point? No one can predict with any certainty where major humanitarian conflicts will emerge, but if one combines Keegan and Wheatcroft’s approach with environmental and economic and social overlays (such as are offered by several other “States of the World” endeavors), then a useful starting point is available for asking two important questions: what kinds of conflicts will we be dealing with, under what kinds of terrain and cultural conditions; and second, given those realities, what kinds of forces and capabilties should we be developing? Against this model, the U.S. Joint 2020 vision falls woefully short, and the NATO alliance appears equally unprepared for a future that will be characterized by “dirty little wars” well out of NATO’s area but highly relevant to the well-being of the NATO population. One might also make the somewhat puckish point that it does not take a $30 billion dollar a year spy community to create a common-sense strategic document such as this–it can be had for under $20.