With the United States bogged down by economic troubles at home, wriggling to organize its departure from Afghanistan and grappling with a variety of crises in the Middle East, it comes as no surprise that China is using the opportunity to invest considerable time and money into reviving the so-called Silk Road.
The United Nations Security Council took an unprecedented step this summer. Pushed principally by the United Kingdom, the council passed its first resolution addressing what it calls “sexual violence in conflict.” That’s a euphemism for an all-too-common problem in many parts of the world: Using rape as a weapon of wartime intimidation. In the human-rights world, it’s called war rape.
In case anyone needed reminding, the recent global terror alert illustrates that, 15 years after its first attacks on America, Al Qaeda is thriving. The coup in Egypt and the chaotic aftermath of the Arab awakening is only going to add more militants to this army of radicals. Failed revolutions and failing states are like incubators for the jihadists, a sort of Pandora’s Box of hostility and alienation.
Remember when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict made front pages every day and the United States fought wars to secure oil and gas in the Middle East? Back then, the region’s political problems were of primary economic importance to Americans. But now, as the prospect of energy independence dawns, to whom does the Middle East really matter?
While the Middle East has a powerful claim on the world’s attention (or at least Washington’s), the world has no shortage of potentially explosive hotspots. Whether it’s conflicting claims on vital resources, or waterways and borders whose demarcation remains unsettled and contested, the world’s hotspots are simmering. Some are dangerously close to the boiling point; others are heating up gradually.