Low-Intensity Conflicts

Low-Intensity Conflicts

Low-intensity conflicts emerged in the 1980s. In the post-Cold War era, low-intensity conflicts have been on the rise. Most of these conflicts are related to ethnic and religious conflicts in various parts of the world. The underlying causes of ethnic or religious conflicts appear principally to be three.

First, long-term factors or preconditions that generate discontentment over time among ethnic or religious minorities and create an environment leading to political violence.

Second, after independence, national borders inherited from the colonial period were retained in newly independent countries.

Colonial masters drew the boundaries, and after independence, they became sources of tension because common ethnic or linguistic people were divided into several countries.

Third, short-term precipitants that ignite ethnic or religious differences within the tense political environment give rise to conflicts.

Instances of Low-Intensity Conflicts/Civil Wars

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the former communist world of Eastern Europe, particularly in the Balkans, the complex issues of ethnicity, religion, sovereignty, self-determination, and the re-drawing of borders converged and exploded into a vicious and protracted internal war in the early 90s.

During 1992-95 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, armed conflict with Serbs resulted in the deaths of an estimated 150,000 people, and 1.5 million were uprooted from their homes.

In the 80s and 90s, ethnic conflicts surged in African countries: Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Somalia, Liberia, and Angola.

In the 80s, Latin America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were involved in civil wars. Colombia has been witnessing an armed civil war from leftist guerrillas. Civil wars continue in Algeria and Ivory Coast during 2003.

In South Asia, the insurgency continued in Kashmir and the north-eastern states of India. Maoist rebels continue to disrupt normal life in Nepal.

Conflicts in Aceh (Indonesia) subsided in late 2002 when a peace agreement was concluded between the government and the Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh) secessionist guerrilla movement. Mindanao (southern Philippines) has been involved in an armed civil war with the fundamentalist splinter group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels since the 70s.

The 11 September terrorist attacks on the US added another dimension of conflict by non-state elusive actors. There is a great danger of the escalation of such conflicts through the proliferation of both conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction.