Keeping Track of Which Side the U.S. Is on in Global Conflicts

I remember feeling bad for Gary Johnson when he was asked a question about Aleppo during his Presidential campaign, and he was stumped.

To be honest, I didn’t know much about the situation there either, but then I wasn’t running for President.

Well it’s been hard to avoid the news about Aleppo this past week, but even with all the media coverage, I was still a little unsure exactly whose side we were on.

That got me thinking about my lack of knowledge of other conflicts the U.S. is currently involved in around the world.

Fortunately, I came across this great web site, the Global Conflict Tracker, that provides the exact type of information I was looking for.

The Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide, created by the Center for Preventive Action (CPA), to ongoing conflicts around the world of concern to the United States. The map displays nearly thirty conflicts with background information and resources on each conflict.

The CPA seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. The CPA is part of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Studies Program which examines the most significant foreign policy issues facing the United States and the international community today. Fellows cover all of the world’s major geographical regions and analyze critical global challenges such as rising powers in Asia, political change in the Middle East, global health, and energy security and climate change.

And what exactly is the CFR?

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Founded in 1921, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy and has no affiliation with the U.S. government.

CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Rather than advocate, CFR is dedicated to being a resource on foreign policy issues. It does this by conducting research through the work of its Studies Program (of which the CPA is one); publishing the bimonthly magazine Foreign Affairs; maintaining a website that is a source of analysis and context on international issues; and contributing to the foreign policy discussion by convening events.

The reason for sharing this background information is to let you know that I have a good deal of confidence in what I am reading on the Global Conflict Tracker web site, since it is part of the Council on Foreign Relations, which seems like a trustworthy organization.

Anyway, back to the Tracker.

The ongoing conflicts featured on the Global Conflict Tracker were originally identified by our Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS), which asked government officials, foreign policy experts, and academics to assess ongoing and potential conflicts based on their likelihood to occur in a given year and their potential impact on U.S. interests. It classifies global conflicts into one of three categories based on the conflict’s impact on U.S. interests:

  • Critical Conflict: directly threatens the U.S. homeland, is likely to trigger U.S. military involvement or threatens the supply of critical U.S. strategic resources
  • Significant Conflict: affects countries of strategic importance to the United States but does not involve a mutual-defense treaty commitment
  • Limited Conflict: could have severe/widespread humanitarian consequences but in countries of limited strategic importance to the United States

CPA assesses the status of each conflict by monitoring developments in the conflict and reviewing watch lists, conflict assessments, and government reports. An assessment is reached within CPA and in consultation with relevant experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, determining the statuses of each conflict on a monthly basis or as events dictate. The status of each conflict is assessed as

  • Worsening
  • Unchanging
  • Improving

Currently, the site is tracking 28 conflicts, with seven of them classified as critical, 11 as significant, and 10 as Limited.

The seven critical conflicts are:

  • the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • Civil War in Syria
  • Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea
  • Tensions in the East China Sea
  • North Korea Crisis
  • War Against Islamic State in Iraq
  • Civil War in Libya

In terms of the status of the 28 conflicts, 12 are classified as worsening and 16 as unchanging. Unfortunately none of the conflicts was classified as improving.

Of the seven critical conflicts, all of them are considered worsening, except for the Tensions in the East China Sea conflict, which is classified as unchanging.

To me, the site is a godsend. It provides a wealth of information to be more aware of what conflicts around the world are having an impact on the U.S., and what the U.S. role is in each conflict.

So if you were/are as confused about Aleppo as I was, I highly recommend the Global Conflict Tracker. The analysis of the interplay between Russia, Assad, the rebel forces, ISIS, and the U.S. offers a look at how complex foreign relations are these days.

Which makes me realize how important the role of Secretary of State is…


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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