Ethnic Conflict and Genocide


            This article is about an issue that our world has been faced with for many years: ethnic conflict and genocide. The purpose of this article is to introduce us to the reasons that might lead to a conflict, mention a current ethnic conflict and offer specific details about it.

            As the authors of the book Introduction to Political Psychology mention, there are many theories that explain the various reasons that lead to conflict. The first theory is social identity theory that occurs when several ethnic groups that live in the same geographic location compete one another in terms of “power, influence and autonomy in a political system” (Cottam, Dietz-Uhler, Mastors & Preston, 2010) Usually the subordinate groups seek to change their social status by engaging in direct competition with the dominant group, which feels threatened by this challenge and commits acts of intense violence. The second explanation is evolutionary psychology that helps us understand the degree of violence that can erupt among groups. Throughout evolution competition became an essential tool of survival as people had to compete with one another for resources in order to live. As the author mentions, not to compete was the perfect recipe for extinction of the group (Cottam, Dietz-Uhler, Mastors & Preston, 2010, p. 202).

            Moreover, the article offers concrete examples of major ethnic conflicts and genocides that occurred in the past. Examples of these conflicts include the ethnic clashes in Nigeria, Bosnia, Guatemala, Kenya and Iraq. Looking critically at these conflicts, it becomes obvious that they all have certain similarities that underline their motives that can be explained by social identity theory. More specifically, many groups in these countries felt tired of domination, social marginalization, and lack of socioeconomic power and desired to fight for
greater participation and power within their country. This led the dominant groups to feel
insecure and threatened, so they committed acts of horrific violence against the subordinate groups in their attempts to eliminate their communities. The tactics were brutal, as villages were attacked, thousands of people were tortured, raped and killed, and soldiers even engaged in acts of cannibalism to terrorize the civilians (Cottam, Dietz-Uhler, Mastors & Preston, 2010, p. 214).

            Ethnic conflicts and genocides are evidently are not over yet. In the contemporary world, there are several examples of ethnic conflict that have led to the horrific deaths of thousands of people, and one of the most prominent is the war in Afghanistan. Lying between Iran and Pakistan, Afghanistan is a country where from 1979-1989 the Soviet Union joined the Marxist government of Afghanistan to put down an Islamist revolution. However, in 1989 the Soviet Union was forced out of the country and three years later the communist government of the country fell too. Then, Mullah Mohammed Omar led a new armed group called the Taliban (Operation enduring freedom, p. 1) Soon, the Taliban obtained tremendous power in Afghanistan and imposed strict rules on the country. This resulted in great conflicts between
the Taliban and anti-Taliban groups, which led Osama bin Laden’s group called Al-Qaeda to join the Taliban to fight off any kind of opposition.

            In September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists decided to showcase their power and attacked the World Trade Center, and Pentagon. In response, former President George W. Bush gave the Taliban two options: hand over the terrorists responsible for these acts or face the consequences of their refusal to do so. When the Taliban declined to surrender their ally, American began their air strikes less than a month after 9/11. America along with the United Kingdom, the Afghan United Front and Australia started a war in Afghanistan called “Operation Enduring Freedom.” It aimed to remove the Taliban from power, find Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, and destroy Al-Qaeda (Hamblin , 2012, p.1)

            In an omen of the upcoming bloody years, fighters from the Pashtun ethnic group came from neighboring Pakistan to help the Taliban win the war (Lubin, p.1). The Taliban tried to fight against the threat of the United States, so they built strong fighting forces that would enable them to respond to the attacks and put down the new government that was installed with Hamid Karzai as its President. The Taliban’s tremendous strength and ruthless fighting against American forces led many people to believe that this war would be unwinnable. In addition to that, the fact that Taliban were able to hide in remote caves and mountains made fighting even more difficult. However, in 2009 President Barack Obama unveiled his new strategy to rapidly deploy 30,000 additional troops, break the Taliban’s momentum and turn the war around ("Obama unveils afghanistan," 2009). In May 2011 when the US Navy SEAL Team 6 assassinated Osama bin Laden, President Obama said that he would accelerate the returning of American troops to their homes.

            As I try to critically examine the issue, I feel confused about the fact that if the main reason was to find Osama bin Laden and now this person is dead, then why does the war still continue? Will it ever stop or are we, as a nation, stuck in front of a dead end? Will the deployed soldiers ever return home or will the keep fighting at an endless war? And at last but not least, who is the real terrorist? If America is fighting terrorism, why does it go to other countries and kill people? Do people in Afghanistan perceive that as a kind of terrorism too? I believe that I do not have a clear answer for this question. As I am trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and come up with answer, I found online the speech of a war veteran called Mike Prysner who said, “Our real enemies are not those living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable, the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable, the banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our
enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us” ("the real terrorist," 2010, p. 1).

            This speech touches my heart. It is the single most powerful reminder of the denial that characterizes our world. In an emergency situation most of us take the role of the bystander, become paralyzed and do not respond at all or look at other people to see how to respond. This paralysis is a result of an unwillingness or fear to see a reality that is “horrifically painful”. People are led to denial because they believe in a just world where bad things only happen to bad people (Cottam, Dietz-Uhler, Mastors & Preston, 2010, p. 230). Not everyone is like that though. There are always people, like Mike Prysner, who have a strong sense of personal responsibility, empathize with others and examine the issue from their perspective too. These people look at the issue through a more humanitarian perspective and seek to find solutions that would benefit everyone.

            In my life I try to empathize with both sides and examine the issue through a more critical lens. I try to filter the speeches and promises of politicians and see what is really hidden behind all these. I was expecting and hoping that offering ways to end the war, the loss of many innocent lives, the continuous fear and anxiety of people who are waiting for the deployed soldiers to come back safe would be a big topic in the U.S. presidential campaign. The truth behind the war was silenced and many, deceived by the masterful use of stereotypes, rhetorical devices, and diplomatic solutions offered by political figures, were led to believe that this fight is acceptable. Politicians are witnessing the war but do not use their power to put an end to the humiliation and unfair loss of peoples’ lives. Overall, it is time to remember and universally apply the principles of our nation: "All men are created equal."

Works cited page

Cottam, M. I., Dietz-Uhler, B., Mastors, E., & Preston, T. (2010). Introduction to political psychology. Psychology Press.3

Hamblin , H. (2012, September 11). Timeline of events since 9/11. The Rocky Mountain Collegian, Retrieved from

Lubin, A. Afghanistan war overview. Saluting American Valor. Retrieved from

Obama unveils afghanistan strategy - live blog. (2009, December 01). The Guardian. Retrieved from Barack Obama unveiled his new strategy to rapidly deploy 30,000 additional troops&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Operation enduring freedom. Retrieved from Enduring Freedom- context.pdf

(2010). "the real terrorist was me" speech by war veteran. World News Daily, Retrieved from http://www.informationclearing...

(2011). The war in afghanistan. News-Basics, Retrieved from