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A coalition airstrike photographed in Kobani Syria on November 17th 2014.

2014 – year of the airstrike.

I’m going to make a boast about a record that was set in 2014. I could be proven wrong, as I haven’t turned over every possible stone in checking my facts, but I think it is correct: There have been more nations involved in dropping ordnance from warplanes in 2014 than in any single year in the century-long history of aerial warfare – including any year during WW2. While the volume of ordnance doesn’t equal that of the World War 2, or Vietnam eras, the large number of sovereign nations resorting to this method of violence in the same year is no doubt striking.   The following is a list of nations that have carried out airstrikes in 2014. I believe I have found them all. The nations involved that are less obvious will have embedded links that report how and when their actions occurred:       The United States; France, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, Yemen, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, and Cameroon.   The list comes to an amazing 29 countries. A few may not belong on it though, as not all of the five Arab nations that took part when the U.S. first launched strikes in September against ISIS and other groups in Syria are believed to have actually struck targets. The UAE is one of them though, and is known to have carried out airstrikes in Libya against extremists there. Jordan is another of the five, and had one of its pilots captured by ISIS while on a combat mission earlier this month. Whatever the precise count, ISIS is still the main reason for such an impressive list. In 2014, the Daesh Cutthroats (ISIS) have possibly been bombed by an incredible 17 countries. I guess when a large terrorist army runs around with tanks and missiles, and acts like the Manson Family, people tend to take notice.   It doesn’t tell the entire story though.   The United States has bombed six countries this year: Afghanistan; Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Syria. Israel hit three, if you count Gaza as a country along with Syria and Lebanon.  Egypt has bombed militant camps in its own Sinai region, and took part in strikes on militants in neighboring Libya along with planes from the UAE. Kenya has bombed al-Shabab camps more than once in Somalia. In the most surprising event, Nigerian Boko Haram terrorists launched their most ferocious cross-border raid into neighboring Cameroon yet, and just yesterday, Cameroon responded with its first airstrikes against the raiders in its own territory.   All escalating violence cannot be measured by airstrikes alone though. The rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel technically didn’t use aircraft, and the Russians are careful not to use planes when they utilize barrages to support pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. The rebels themselves have managed to shoot down some of the Ukrainian planes with missiles, along with a Malaysian passenger jet flying over in July (298 killed). Venezuela shooting down a couple of suspected Mexican drug planes I suppose isn’t too alarming. I didn’t even put Mexico on the list after one of its helicopters fired on U.S. border patrol agents on American soil. No one was harmed, and Mexico apologized. Maybe we can just chalk that one up to another protest against law-enforcement. We all make mistakes, but some would have us believe that the world is becoming less violent.   With all that mentioned, there is no denying the main catalyst behind all the air power being used by governments recently: The undeniable  rise in the number of Islamic militants. We’re talking not just of terrorist attacks of increasing frequency and brutality, but of armed groups seizing territory, and engaging the forces sent to stop them, and attempting to hold the ground taken. This is notable not just in Syria and Iraq, but in Libya, Yemen and Nigeria as well.  It was a serious problem in Mali until the French intervened in 2013, and led a drive to throw out the Islamic extremists who had seized much of the country. Even now, the problem isn’t completely resolved, as France carried out an airstrike in March of this year to kill a terrorist leader in Mali.   These days, if someone argues that the threat of Islamic extremism is being blown out of proportion, my counter is not to point to the large number of terrorist attacks as many would, but the heavy measures so many governments are taking to combat it. Is the entire world Islamophobic? If there is a single measurement that proves that an issue can longer be contained by law-enforcement; or prosecuting terrorists, it is the airstrike.  Bombing is an act of desperation being used today to restore law and order, when law and order itself cannot do the job. The greatest danger from these actions is not how many bombs are falling, but for how long, and how comfortable governments get using them before the extremists understand they must give up on their twisted ambitions.

Ray Buckridge, NEWSVINE

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