Guns of August: Ongoing Wars Around the World

Guns of August: Ongoing Wars Around the World

The potential for renewed political and ethnic violence in Kashmir may be the most important news today, but there are several other places where war is already raging. In honor of one of the great works of 20th century political and military history, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, here's a quick look at some of the worst, or most intractable, conflicts in the world today.

Yemen – The five-year-old war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and government forces backed by Saudi Arabia (with help from the US) has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Despite recent steps towards peace, this conflict — a major flashpoint in the Iran-Saudi rivalry—threatens to spill beyond Yemen's borders as Houthis step up rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia.


Syria – A conflict that began with protests against Bashir al Assad's government in 2011 has killed about 400,000 people, driven 5.6 million from the country, and made internal refugees of another 6 million. Assad, with support from Russia and Iran, has won the war. But repeated attacks on Idlib Province, the last rebel stronghold, continues to kill civilians, including children. The United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, al Qaeda, and various militia groups have all been directly or indirectly involved in the fighting.

Libya – Since the death of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya has descended into civil war. A UN-recognized Government of National Accord rules in Tripoli. A rival government led by General Khalifa Haftar controls much of the country's east. Each side controls oil fields within its territory, and each has its own central bank. Haftar's bid to capture Tripoli has (so far) failed, but it has killed more than 1,000 people, including more than 100 civilians, since April. The UN estimates that 1.3 million people need urgent humanitarian help.

Ukraine – Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have fought to a stalemate in the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Fighting has killed more than 10,000 people. Moscow has used the conflict to try to pressure Ukraine's government into a rewrite of its constitution that would give regional governors in these provinces—and therefore Moscow—veto power over Ukraine's national foreign and trade policies. Russia's intervention has blocked some moves by Ukraine to move toward the EU and NATO, but has not returned Ukraine to Russia's orbit. Despite a recent ceasefire, sporadic fighting continues.

Democratic Republic of Congo – The victory of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi in presidential elections last year sparked hopes of a path to end a quarter century of violence that has displaced 4.5 million people. But over one hundred armed groups continue to wreak havoc in the eastern part of the country in a conflict fueled by access to the country's lucrative mineral reserves. Meanwhile, the DRC struggles with a year-old Ebola outbreak that has been declared a Global Health Emergency.

Afghanistan – The longest war in US history continues, 18 years after Washington first sent troops to crush the Taliban, who still control much of the country. Hundreds of civilians are still losing their lives every month. Amid fresh peace talks, Washington is currently trying to convince the Taliban to engage directly with the enfeebled Kabul government, something the militants have thus far refused to do. The Trump administration wants out — but can Washington broker something that achieves that objective without giving away too much?

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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