Peace Breaks Out, and Nobody Notices

The world is an increasingly dangerous place, so we have to use extraordinary means in extraordinary times, right? Wrong, according to a recent report:

The Human Security Report, an independent study funded by five countries and published by Oxford University Press, draws on a wide range of little publicized scholarly data, plus specially commissioned research to present a portrait of global security that is sharply at odds with conventional wisdom. The report reveals that after five decades of inexorable increase, the number of armed conflicts started to fall worldwide in the early 1990s. The decline has continued.

By 2003, there were 40 percent fewer conflicts than in 1992. The deadliest conflicts — those with 1,000 or more battle-deaths — fell by some 80 percent. The number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians also dropped by 80 percent, while core human rights abuses have declined in five out of six regions of the developing world since the mid-1990s. International terrorism is the only type of political violence that has increased. Although the death toll has jumped sharply over the past three years, terrorists kill only a fraction of the number who die in wars.

Peace on Earth? Increasingly, Yes. By Andrew Mack, Washington Post, Wednesday, December 28, 2005; Page A21

We wouldn’t know this by what’s generally reported in the media, whose motto remains, if it bleeds, it leads. So what happened?

The Cold War ended, and the U.S. and USSR stopped funding proxy wars in various countries, plus the United Nations suddenly became more active in peacekeeping, peacemaking, and other activity, especially diplomatic. Many places that were formerly sites of proxy wars, such as Namibia, El Salvador, and Mozambique, are now peaceful. Some places that were in dispute for other reasons, such as East Timor (abandoned by Portugal and forcibly annexed by Indonesia, but now free) and former Yugoslavia, are now peaceful. Libya hasn’t even invaded Chad lately. The report is available on paper and online.

Sure, there’s Sudan, a continuing mess in Somalia, and Congo seems to keep getting worse, plus Rwanda didn’t go well at all, not to mention Palestine is still a mess, and Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Nonetheless, the total amounts of warfare, battle deaths, genocides, and even human rights abuses are distinctly down. Yes, international terrorism is on the rise. But terrorists kill far fewer people than the former wars did. Remember, terrorism is about terror. If we don’t overreact, it doesn’t win.

According to the report, most people think governments should pay attention to economic and social issues, followed distantly by war and crime, with terrorism coming in fifth.

And what about global warming?