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?

Internationally, food security is under threat from drought, while agriculture is subject to thin margins and complex global trade. There is also pressure to do more with less to ensure food security for the global population. Because of this, farmers are driven to get the most out of every harvest, even if that short-term focus may have long-term ill effects on the soil and their yield. Farmers in the U.S. are now turning to Ag-Analytics, a leader in AI solutions, to help address these concerns. Sharing Microsoft's goal to help monitor, model and manage Earth's natural resources with cloud and AI, the company brings precision agriculture to fruition in a platform that helps farmers leverage data to make decisions. Read more on Microsoft on the Issues.

Are The US and China on Collision Course in The South China Sea? Senator Chris Coons talks about China's ambitions for a blue water navy and what it means for US security.

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As topsy-turvy as global politics has been over the past several years –Brexit, Trump, the rise of anti-establishment leaders in France, the Philippines, Italy, Pakistan, and Brazil, the surge of the European far right and so on – it's all unfolded during a time when the global economy was actually doing pretty well.

So what happens when the inevitable recession hits? Earlier this week, markets suffered their worst day of the year as investors confronted that question.

Germany's economy, the world's fourth-largest, is shrinking. China's factories are churning at their slowest rate in 17 years. The trade fights between the US and China, the US and Europe, and South Korea and Japan involve countries that together account for half the global economy. And worries about a chaotic British exit from the EU aren't helping either.

Even more worrying than these individual trends, through, is that the zero-sum politics driving all this disruption might also make a global economic swoon harder to get out of.

During the last big economic crisis in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the world's major economies were able to compromise and coordinate their responses to the recession in ways that avoided an even deeper downturn.

In today's more cutthroat political environment, that kind of cooperation is a lot less likely -- particularly if a downturn fuels even more of social and political polarization within countries that has empowered economic nationalists in the first place.

We're not in a recession yet. But buckle up, because when the next downturn hits, politics is going to make it harder to contain the pain.

President Trump pays homage to a 1980s New York legend to explain his trade policy.

A pivotal weekend in Hong Kong – Some 300,000 demonstrators are expected at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday, in the 11th straight week of protests. Chaotic and partly violent demonstrations shut down Hong Kong International Airport this week, and tensions are high. Chinese paramilitary forces are reportedly drilling on the mainland close to the Hong Kong border. Xi Jinping, the president of China, knows a military crackdown would cripple Hong Kong's reputation as a stable financial center and could hurt the Chinese economy more broadly. But he may eventually conclude he has little choice but to snuff this out before other restive regions of China get similar ideas. The tenor of the marches this weekend will offer a clue about which way it's likely to go.

Maduro's crackdown on the military – One reason Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has survived an economic collapse, a popular revolt, assassination attempts, and a failed coup by opposition leader Juan Guaido is that the military brass has stuck with him. For one thing, they are tied to the regime's lucrative illegal businesses and black market schemes. But there's also now a stick to go along with that carrot: The New York Times describes Maduro's "growing reliance on torture" and purges of military officers – including alleged coup-plotter Captain Rafael Acosta, who died after being beaten and electrocuted to in a Venezuelan military hospital. We are watching closely to see if there is a point where Maduro screws up the calibration of carrots vs sticks and finds himself at the business end of a rifle in the Miraflores palace.

Trudeau's woes – In many ways Nicolas Maduro's polar opposite, Canada's prime minister has a lot going for him: dreamy good looks; a decent – if not overwhelming – majority for his Liberal Party in Parliament; and a generally safe, resource-rich country with millions of lakes, friendly people, big skies and (relatively) small problems. But earlier this week, an independent ethics commissioner ruled that the prime minister had breached the country's conflict of interest laws earlier this year when he pressured prosecutors to ease off of a bribery investigation of a major Canadian construction firm, because of fears about job losses. Trudeau has accepted the report's findings, but isn't resigning. We're watching to see how this simmering scandal affects Canada's upcoming national elections in October.

Something your salmon friends will never believe – You are a salmon. You are trying to get upriver so you can mate and die. Also you must avoid bears and bald eagles. Now there is a dam in your way of your favorite river. This is a problem. You pause an— WHAT IS HAPPENING. SUDDENLY YOU ARE BEING SHOT THROUGH A PNEUMATIC TUBE AND… just look at this thing.

What We're Ignoring

Japanese robotic tails Researchers at Japan's Keio University have developed a wearable robotic tail that they say could help elderly people and others with balance problems steady themselves. Look, we know that managing an ageing population is one of Japan's most pressing challenges. We also know that automation is one way that countries with shrinking workforces can better support a growing population of retirees. But giving people tails seems like a less efficient way to address these problems than, say, tweaking immigration policy ever so slightly to bring in more young workers, no?