- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The year following the September 11 attacks saw the number of major conflicts in the world decline, but the threat of rogue nations developing weapons of mass destruction may make new wars more deadly, a conservative think tank reported yesterday.
In addition, the war in Afghanistan, "which acts like a cancer in the region," spilled over into weak states nearby and threatened to destabilize even the strongest, the National Defense Council Foundation said.
The think tank counted 53 conflicts this year, down from 59 in 2001. The Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa remain the most war-prone regions, accounting for half of all conflicts.
Looming over the conflicts is the threat of "invisible" weapons of mass destruction the secret development of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons by rogue states like Iraq and North Korea, the report said. As a result, it said, wars with those states, such as a U.S. attack on Iraq, could be more deadly than anticipated.
Iraq is considered the site of the most dangerous conflict because development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons "is almost a foregone conclusion," the report said.
"You have to be very thoughtful how you escalate, when and where you escalate," said the report's author, F. Andy Messing Jr., executive director of the Alexandria think tank and a former Army Special Forces officer.
Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, chairs the think tank, whose advisers include other prominent Republican lawmakers.
The foundation, which annually surveys about 190 nations, defines conflict as "the level of political, social, economic and military disruption caused" by upheaval in given countries.
It added 10 countries this year to its list of conflict zones, including Jordan, Kuwait, North Korea and Venezuela. It removed 16 nations from the list, including the United States, Malaysia, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia.
Milton Copulas, foundation president, said wars will be fueled by the drive for resources, such as energy and water.
"As the world's population grows, the economy grows and the need for resources increase. Competition over them is going to increase correspondingly," he said.
The report said the "stupidest conflict" occurred in Nigeria, where a newspaper reporter wrote that Islam's founding prophet Muhammad would have approved of the Miss World pageant scheduled for that African nation and might have even married a contestant. The story sparked Muslim rioting that killed more than 200 people and forced the pageant to relocate to London.
"It could have been sloughed off as just a tactless comment, and that would have been the end of it," Mr. Messing said. "Everybody took the comment seriously and acted like it was the end of the world."

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