As the war in Iraq enters its fourth year, U.S. military operations continue in Afghanistan, and Iran regularly rattles its nuclear saber, the United States runs the risk of overlooking trouble brewing in other parts of the world. With three thorough and thought-provoking essays written by both military and civilian crystal-ball watchers, we take you to some unlikely corners of the planet, where threats are sufficiently real that we should be paying closer attention.
Leading off this fascinating feature section is Marine Corps Colonel Bruce Gandy's warning that our nation's current preoccupation with the flow of illegal immigrants should shift a few latitudes farther south. He takes us back to the early 19th century, when Latin American hero Simon Bolivar's notion of a single Gran Columbia nation uniting Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela took root but was short-lived. Today, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal and threatening opponent of the United States, vows to revive a "Bolivarian Revolution," something this Marine says will make Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's defiance "seem insignificant and childish."
From the African desk at Special Operations Command, Europe, Navy Lieutenant Commander Pat Paterson looks under unstable African rocks where terrorists are either training or hiding. Along with political unrest that has led the United Nations to commit 25% of its total peacekeeping operations since 1948 to the continent, Commander Paterson acknowledges that, "not all of Africa's problems are man-made." Harsh conditions in the southern Sahara Desert, for example, kill one in four children before they are five years old. Such hopelessness breeds terrorists and their sympathizers, he says. What the Navy and Marine Corps have begun is an investment in African allies, relationships they hope will pay high future dividends.
Finally, author and historian Jeff Moore has taken a keen interest in a relatively quiet insurgency that has been plaguing the southern part of Thailand for the past two years. Once independent and mostly Muslim, the provinces just north of the border with Malaysia have been the scene of assassinations, arsons, ambushes, and explosive detonations by Islamic insurgents with ties to al Qaeda. With the prime minister stepping down in early April after two months of violent demonstrations against him, Moore urges the United States to support its erstwhile ally now in the fight to eradicate this insurgency.