Opinion

The Great Debate

from John Lloyd:

Are we at war? And why can’t we be sure anymore?

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron poses for group photograph taken with G8 leaders at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen

The question -- “Are we at war?” -- seems absurd. Surely, we would know it if we were. But maybe we’re in a new era -- and wars are creeping up on us.

In the decade after the collapse of communism, the United States and its allies seemed invulnerable to challenges, from military to technological to economic. All changed in the 2000s, the dawning of the third millennium: an Age of Disruption. Russia, under a president smarting publicly at the loss of the Soviet empire, has now delivered an answer to decline: aggressive claims on lost territories.

China, admired for its free-market-driven growth since the 1980s, is feared for the strategic expansion that now accompanies it. This happens in its own region: a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands remains tense. It is also at work far beyond -- in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America -- where it seeks energy and natural resources.

China is doing what other fast-growing powers -- notably, Germany before both world wars -- have done: expand the military to be consonant with the booming economy. The explanation to the world is the need for defense. The rest of the world sees it as a possible prelude to aggression.

A Shi'ite volunteer who has joined the Iraqi army to fight the ISIL looks on during a parade in KanaanThe European Union, seen by its enthusiasts as bound to dominate the 21st century (as the United States the 20th) now wallows in interlocking cul-de-sacs, with a still-fragile currency and an increasingly disaffected Britain straining against what it sees as the EU’s inability to deal with the disaffection among Europeans.

Tracking the Nigerian kidnappers

nigeria -- candlelight vigil

Abubakar Shekau, the purported leader of Boko Haram, ignited international outrage when he announced that he would sell more than 200 of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls “in the market.” Nations around the globe offered help to Nigeria.

Getting back the more than 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from school a month ago will require a deep understanding of the environment the extremist group that took them operates in.

Thanks to some new tools, and the spread of some older technologies, crucial data can be gleaned to show where the kidnappers, Boko Haram, may be holed up. Everything from cell phone usage to weapons acoustics to satellite imagery can help build a more complete picture of the group and its activities.  Possibly even a map.

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