In the past 50 years, the most frequent settings for violent conflict have not been wars between sovereign states, but rather internal strife tied to cultural, tribal, religious or other ethnic animosities. There is much debate about whether outside countries should intervene in these types of conflicts. What is a current such conflict and describe whether and how outside intervention has been a factor?
Unfortunately, there are many non-state conflicts currently raging around the world, so choosing one on which to focus is a difficult task. Because the criteria include "current" conflicts only, one could reasonably focus his or her search on the continent of Africa. Ethnic, religious, tribal and other types of conflict abound in every region of Africa, from the decades-old struggle by the Polisario Front for independence for the Western Sahara region held by Morocco, to the ongoing internal strife in post-revolutionary Libya, to the efforts of the Nigerian Government to defeat fundamentalist Islamic guerrillas with the Boco Haram front, Uganda's war against the Lord's Resistance Army, and the civil strife that has ruined Zimbabwe over the past 20 years. And that represents an abbreviated list.
The most compelling current conflict, however, is the one that has raged in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) in central Africa. This resource-rich country -- formerly Zaire -- is one of the largest in Africa, with over 70 million people. Sadly, its eastern provinces, bordering Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, has seen endless and incomprehensibly brutal fighting since about 1998. While accurate numbers are hard to come by, reliable estimates conclude that over one million people have died in the fighting, primarily over ethnic tensions and over control of the natural resources that should have made it one of the most prosperous regions in the world.
Debates within the United States over when and how to intervene in foreign conflicts for humanitarian purposes are a staple of political discourse here. The tragic outcome of multinational efforts led by the United States to prevent mass starvation in Somalia, an effort that climaxed with the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle and the U.S. withdrawal from that strife-torn nation, combined with exhaustion from the efforts at stemming conflict in the Balkans and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left most Americans extremely hesitant to engage in another such enterprise. Consequently, while all acknowledge the enormous scale of fighting and sexual assault that has occurred in the DRC, few countries have the stomach to confront it.
The United Nations maintains a "peacekeeping" force of about 20,000 multinational troops in the DRC, but, as is usually the case with U.N. peacekeeping missions, the military force is too small and weak to impose its will on warring factions, and there is no consensus among major U.N. members regarding that military unit's mission. Consequently, international intervention has failed to stop the fighting. Furthermore, nongovernmental humanitarian organizations serving in the DRC don't want the U.N. force to intervene any more than it has, fearing that such an intervention will only exacerbate the situation.
This, then, is an example of a current conflict involving outside intervention during which over a million people have died and tens of thousands of women have been raped.