While some are hoping that warring parties use the global outbreak of coronavirus as an excuse to stop fighting and rethink things, some analysts are concerned that the instability is going to mean extremist groups will see something to take advantage of.
International relations specialist Bertrand Badie called it a “godsend” for such groups, and predicted “the revenge of the weak over the strong” in the weeks to come. As the virus spreads around, this attitude could spread to more countries.
For extremist groups, the global panic over the pandemic is just a multiplier for terrorist groups. Civilians are less resilient to high-profile attacks if they are already terrified over other issues, and terrorists can more easily provoke desperation in those already desperate.
On the other hand, some groups are taking this as an opportunity for peace. The Philippines ordered a halt to their offensive against Communist rebels, a major fight spanning decades which may be getting a rare break. Elsewhere in Idlib, fighting has been on the decline.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have had their first contact with the government, via Skype, and have ordered their fighters to protect healthcare workers during the crisis as a way to make things better, not worse.
With the Taliban eye on being part of a future government, they have mo0re interest in helping with the crisis. This may hold true for other large insurgencies that are almost certainly not going to disappear, and may take this opportunity to build goodwill.
The US is now dialing back its exercises in Europe. They have also offered help to nations like North Korea and Iran, offering rare signs of positive engagement that could be built upon in the future as peace-building.
Which isn’t to say that the US is disengaging in any major way. Elsewhere in the world, US forces don’t seem to be dialing back involvements in war, but are looking to change how they fight to limit exposure of the troops.
This may represent the US still coming to grips with major global changes, and letting momentum drive overseas engagements. As more opportunities for peace and diplomacy present themselves, however, there is still plenty of time to change tactics.
This may not even be a question of want, but need. As the cost of coping with the pandemic grows, so will the US budget deficit, and America may no longer be able to afford these huge wars. Deficit spending may be a growing struggle, with traditional lenders like China not necessarily having the money to lend.