Jim Dunnigan’s StrategyPage has an interesting essay today:

The War on Terror has had an unintended, and welcome, side effect; world peace. Since September 11, 2001, and the aggressive American operations against terrorist organizations, several long time wars have ended, or moved sharply in that direction. Many of these wars get little attention in American media, but have killed hundreds of thousands of people over the last decade. These include conflicts in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chad, Congo, Kashmir, Israel, Kurdistan, Philippines, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan. Some of these conflicts diminished because they had been going on for a while and, as is usually the case with wars, eventually the participants are worn down and make peace. But in all these sudden outbreaks of peace there was another factor; an American crackdown on terrorist activities around the world. The rebels in most of these wars depended on money raised outside their country to keep the fighting going, and on gun runners able to get weapons in. American anti-terrorism operations, energized by the shock of the September 11, 2001 attacks, now included cooperation from many nations, especially in Europe, that had tolerated, on their territory, fund raising, recruiting and public relations efforts by various rebel groups. No more. Most of these rebel organizations had already been declared “terrorist groups” (which they were, as most rebellions use terror, the American Revolution included). Once the U.S. and other nations began to crack down on the fund raising and other activities, it became difficult to keep many wars going.

But there was more going on than shutting down fund raising. There was now enormous pressure on gun runners, smugglers and suppliers of forged documents and irregular travel services. The same illegal “service industries” that al Qaeda depended on were also used by dozens of revolutionary groups. All were now being pressured by police world wide, and many were shut down. Now it was harder to run illegal weapons into Africa, South America and South Asia. The East European governments that had looked the other way for so long (in return getting a piece of the action), began enforcing laws against gun running and illegal logistics.

And then there were those countries that actually encouraged and supported (for a variety of reasons), or just tolerated, rebel groups in neighboring nations. The U.S. was leaning on that sort of activity as well. So Libya stopped supporting various African rebel groups. Other African countries that were acting like Libya also shut down their support for rebels across their borders. This also made it more difficult for rebel groups to keep themselves going.

All of a sudden, rebels in many conflicts around the world discovered that negotiation offered better prospects than did continued fighting. And so it came to pass that in the wake of September 11, 2001, peace broke out in many odd parts of the world. And hardly anyone noticed.

While there is a certain bit of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning here, the connections seem at least plausible to me. To the extent that the US-led war on terrorism has had these beneficial side effects, they were largely–but not entirely–unintended. It has always been a central argument of the post-9/11 Bush Administration GWOT strategy that there was a real connection between the disparate terrorist networks and state actors that helped them, whether intentionally or through simple non-action.

(Hat tip: Dean Esmay)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.