The 21st century will be notable as a time when the protocols of nations states and warfare decayed. We are seeing three undeclared proxy wars in the world at the moment.
The distinction is that we have gone from declared wars (1610-1945) to 'Police actions' (1946-2003) to a new era where the object is two wage war while maintaining the plausible deniability that a state is actually waging war.
Number 1: Saudi Arabia vs. Iran. Theaters of conflict: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen. Proxy forces: ISIS (Saudi Arabia) and Al Qaida in the Arabic Peninsula vs. Houthis (Iran), Bashir Assad, and the Iraqi government. Stake: Oil production of Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Other major meddlers: Turkey, USA, Israel.
Number 2: Russia vs. the US. Theater of conflict: Eastern Ukraine. Proxy forces: Ukrainian government (USA) and separatists (Russia). Stake: trade direction of Ukraine, Baltic republics, Moldavia, and Poland.
Number 3: Nigeria vs. Saudi Arabia. Proxy forces: Boko Haram (Saudi Arabia). Stake: stability of Nigerian oil production.
In all of these instances, there is the element of strategic ambiguity. This strategy, originally applied for describing a strategy in nuclear deterrence, now applies in having decentralized irregular asymmetric warfighting forces. An example of this is the ceasefire in the Ukraine, which is anything but. Indeed, I would say that Russia's conduct is the case study in this new era. An era defined by maximizing ambiguity about one's level of military involvement. Likewise, the US is relying on PMCs in the Middle East. Iran uses the Shi'ite militias, Saudi Arabia uses ISIS. In each instance, the logistical center for fundraising and equipping remains intact and with a plausible deniability towards the siphon of aid that is flowing.
What I fear is that this approach will become the norm for much of the 21st century throughout the world until it boils over. Eventually one of these proxy fighters in Pakistan, say, will overcome a base and get a nuke. Or there will be a point where one nation finally loses it's temper with the proxy bases and is goaded into full overt aggression.
But not just that, I fear that the very notions of 'ceasefire' and 'armistice' will become blurred beyond meaning. An assumption of bad faith will become the status quo, because neither Proxy fighter is truly endangered (neither Tehran nor Riyadh shall be over-run), and so there will not be any will to achieve a meaningful accomodation.
What other proxy wars do you perceive as being incipient or actual at the moment?