Michael KreponThe Dogs of War

Fellow ACW readers, can you recall a time when the world seemed more inflamed and disordered? Governed spaces are shrinking. Wild men lay waste. The dogs of war have been unleashed and peaceful settlements seem more distant than ever. “World Wars” and “splendid little wars” are historical phenomena. The twenty-first century has given us a profusion of messy wars with indeterminate endings. The biggest of the lot, in Afghanistan and Iraq, are likely to produce unending sorrows, setting a template that has spread widely.

Another Israeli offensive in Gaza has resulted in more than 550 killed so far – reportedly 75 per cent of them noncombatants — along with 25 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians. Sunnis are slaughtering Shia, and vice versa, across the Fertile Crescent. Iraq is a cauldron, Syria a slaughterhouse. A new Caliphate led by Osama bin Laden’s faithful has expelled Christians from Mosul and is at the gates of Baghdad. Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea. His thuggish surrogates in eastern Ukraine have been trained in the black arts of operating air defense batteries that can shoot down passenger jets. Deranged leaders of Boko Haram in Nigeria have seized young girls from schools, holding them for ransom. Iran’s religious supremo has publicly declared a future requirement for centrifuges capable of producing 190,000 separative work units. Once-promising negotiations for an Iranian nuclear deal now look cloudy. If a deal can still be struck, many on Capitol Hill will gear up to foil it.

Not all the news in bad. There has not been a flash point in the East or South China Sea over Beijing’s quest for energy security. Pakistan’s armed forces are engaged in a campaign to reclaim national authority along the Afghan border. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are in decent shape. Pakistan and India are getting along passably well.

But here’s the rub: The good news is perishable. The bad news will be with us for a long time.


  1. Jeremy Kotkin (History)

    This kind of sounds a little like the old ‘the world now is more complex/dangerous/complicated than ever’ argument. Isn’t that argument, and the one above, only perspective because of things like the 24/hr news cycle and global social media that can show us the daily horrors from all corners of the globe? That, coupled with a uniquely American burden of caring about all those things when they don’t really impact our vital national interests. Iraq? Don’t care. Boko Haram? Don’t care. Sunni-Shia Schism? Also don’t really care. There are things we need to care about but many many more we don’t. In that light the world has always been messy and full of bad news but it’s up to us to rack and stack what really matters.

  2. Ataune (History)

    I don’t know if your intention is just to lament over the current sad reality in the world or to induce us to think about an emerging pattern. On my side I see one “happening” -to avoid using the word trend- if I allow myself to connect your description with the events of the last quarter of century.

    At the beginning, one of our most influential philosopher, bright and messianic, declared that we are at the end of history and that the liberal order has won the battle and from now on we will only see regional skirmishes that need to be managed “on the sidelines”. A well known radical and hyped-up political circle took the consequences of this prophecy and started to greatly radicalize, and maybe re-invent, part of the US agenda of re-shaping the greater middle-east by thwarting Iran’s growing power and influence. Helped in this by the disastrous event of September 11 and a weak president, they made America engage in two major, and futile, wars with all the wasted lives and resources et the time and the internal and external problems we are witnessing now. But, one reality, still pervasive, remains from this policy and the ashes of a burning middle-east:

    compared to her immediate surrounding, and one would say even a greater region including the buffer zones in Europe, Iran is a sea of tranquility, and the US is looking now for a negotiated accommodation with this regional power not confrontation. Still on her terms certainly, but a negotiated one.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      Agreed. The poster’s point is unclear. It takes a whole lot more bad news than what we’ve got (or a poor memory of prior days) to make this the worst day ever.

      Disagreed. Iran is a sea of repression, like many other countries in the neighborhood. The 2009 election was far from tranquil.

      Agreed. A good deal with Iran on the nuclear issue would be in everyone’s interest.

  3. Fred Miller (History)

    “The twenty-first century has given us a profusion of messy wars with indeterminate endings.”
    Really? Or was it the other way around? We ship the weapons of war to a hundred dictatorships and kleptocracies. We’ve been doing so for decades.

    If you plant crabgrass in your neighbor’s yard, don’t be surprised if it starts to show up in your own.

  4. Bradley Laing (History)

    Russia builds the rocket engines that deliver U.S. military satellites into space under the current contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force.

    The outgoing commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command said Tuesday the shoot down by pro-Russian separatists of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that killed 298 people will not result in the end of this agreement. He told reporters at a Pentagon roundtable that sales of the Russian rocket engines would continue.

    Gen. William Shelton, head of Space Command, said this even though Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin threatened in May to cut off sales of the RD-180 engines following the announcement of sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S


  5. Bradley Laing (History)


    At the febrile height of the Cold War, to a backdrop of New York’s overcrowded metropolis, teams of FBI agents frantically scurried around Manhattan searching for a secret nuclear weapon planted by the Soviet Union.
    It was the summer of 1951 and the United States was in the throes of Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist purges, which induced a paranoid, twitching state upon its citizens who saw Soviet sympathizers everywhere.
    Acting off a shady tip, J.Edgar Hoover’s G-Men spent one year desperately searching for the rumored atom bomb, the story of which has only just emerged following a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2704405/Did-USSR-plant-nuclear-weapon-New-York-City-1950-New-FBI-files-reveal-frantic-search-bomb-ruse-Russians.html#ixzz38Rnl8o2B
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  6. RAJ47 (History)
  7. Bradley Laing (History)


    China announces successful midcourse missile interception test
    Chu Chien-ling and Staff Reporter 2014-07-27 08:53 (GMT+8)

  8. Bradley Laing (History)
  9. Bradley Laing (History)


    Van Kirk was the navigator aboard the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 people. Van Kirk was 24 years old at the time.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      The link above is a bit one-sided: Van Kirk said he had no second thoughts about his part in the historic event. “You have to understand the Japan we fought was significantly different from the Japan in later years,” he said.

      Some other links report him as saying: “The whole World War II experience shows that wars don’t settle anything. And atomic weapons don’t settle anything,” he said. “I personally think there shouldn’t be any atomic bombs in the world — I’d like to see them all abolished.” “But if anyone has one,” he added, “I want to have one more than my enemy.”

  10. Bradley Laing (History)


    A new agreement critical to Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system, was signed the other day by British and US officials.

    Whitehall was silent. We had to rely on the White House, and a message from Barack Obama to the US Congress, to tell us that the 1958 UK-US Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) had been updated.

    A new amendment to the treaty will last for 10 years. Obama told Congress it will “permit the transfer between the United States and the United Kingdom of classified information concerning atomic weapons; nuclear technology and controlled nuclear information; material and equipment for the development of defense plans; training of personnel; evaluation of potential enemy capability; development of delivery systems; and the research, development, and design of military reactors.”

    Also, from British American Security Information Council: