brushfire wars on the periphery of empire

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Reepicheep

Member
Dutch
From Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now:

'Two world wars, the systematic slaughter of innocents on an unprecedented scale, the proliferation of unimaginably destructive weapons, brushfire wars on the periphery of empire—all these events involved, in various degrees, the application of scientific research to advanced technology.'(Not the opinion of the writer.)

What exactly does 'brushfire wars on the periphery of empire' mean?
 
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