Easterbrook End of War

May 31, 2009

[First published June 1, 2005] In a blog on the relationship between the decline of violence and the increase in the number of democracies, I quoted from John Tierney about the decline in violence, and he referred to Gregg Easterbrook’s article “EXPLAINING 15 YEARS OF DIMINISHING VIOLENCE — The End of War?” in The New Republic Online (link here). Unfortunately, the magazine has joined the growing trend to make full articles available on to subscribers.

Well, Colleague sent me a copy and I am posting it in full here. It’s long, but for those interested in the sharp drop in violence, the possible causes, and the democratic peace as an explanation will be rewarded by reading this in two ways. One is in the variety of explanations, so you are not stuck with my explanation. And then, how finally, when he has to mention the democratic peace, he does so in no more than a paragraph in this long work. Which in the context of the other explanations gives you a different view of what I have been treating as the explanation.


Daily explosions in Iraq, massacres in Sudan, the Koreas staring at each other through artillery barrels, a Hobbesian war of all against all in eastern Congo — combat plagues human society as it has, perhaps, since our distant forebears realized that a tree limb could be used as a club. But here is something you would never guess from watching the news: War has entered a cycle of decline. Combat in Iraq and in a few other places is an exception to a significant global trend that has gone nearly unnoticed — namely that, for about 15 years, there have been steadily fewer armed conflicts worldwide. In fact, it is possible that a person’s chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history.

Five years ago, two academics — Monty Marshall, research director at the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University, and Ted Robert Gurr, a professor of government at the University of Maryland — spent months compiling all available data on the frequency and death toll of twentieth-century combat, expecting to find an ever-worsening ledger of blood and destruction. Instead, they found, after the terrible years of World Wars I and II, a global increase in war from the 1960s through the mid-’80s. But this was followed by a steady, nearly uninterrupted decline beginning in 1991. They also found a steady global rise since the mid-’80s in factors that reduce armed conflict — economic prosperity, free elections, stable central governments, better communication, more “peacemaking institutions,” and increased international engagement. Marshall and Gurr, along with Deepa Khosla, published their results as a 2001 report, Peace and Conflict, for the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland [reports avaiable here]. At the time, I remember reading that report and thinking, “Wow, this is one of the hottest things I have ever held in my hands.” I expected that evidence of a decline in war would trigger a sensation. Instead it received almost no notice.

“After the first report came out, we wanted to brief some United Nations officials, but everyone at the United Nations just laughed at us. They could not believe war was declining, because this went against political expectations,” Marshall says. Of course, 2001 was the year of September 11. But, despite the battles in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere that were ignited by Islamist terrorism and the West’s response, a second edition of Peace and Conflict, published in 2003, showed the total number of wars and armed conflicts continued to decline. A third edition of the study, published last week, shows that, despite the invasion of Iraq and other outbreaks of fighting, the overall decline of war continues. This even as the global population keeps rising, which might be expected to lead to more war, not less.

In his prescient 1989 book, Retreat from Doomsday, Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller, in addition to predicting that the Soviet Union was about to collapse — the Berlin Wall fell just after the book was published — declared that great-nation war had become “obsolete” and might never occur again. [A related article by Mueller is here.] One reason the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Mueller wrote, was that its leaders had structured Soviet society around the eighteenth-century assumption of endless great-power fighting, but great-power war had become archaic, and no society with war as its organizing principle can endure any longer. So far, this theory has been right on the money. It is worth noting that the first emerging great power of the new century, China, though prone to making threatening statements about Taiwan, spends relatively little on its military.

Last year Mueller published a follow-up book, The Remnants of War, which argues that fighting below the level of great-power conflict — small-state wars, civil wars, ethnic combat, and clashes among private armies — is also waning. Retreat from Doomsday and The Remnants of War are brilliantly original and urgent books. Combat is not an inevitable result of international discord and human malevolence, Mueller believes. War, rather, is “merely an idea” — and a really bad idea, like dueling or slavery. This bad idea “has been grafted onto human existence” and can be excised. Yes, the end of war has been predicted before, prominently by H.G. Wells in 1915, and horrible bloodshed followed. But could the predictions be right this time?

First, the numbers. The University of Maryland studies find the number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide peaked in 1991 at 51, which may represent the most wars happening simultaneously at any point in history. Since 1991, the number has fallen steadily. There were 26 armed conflicts in 2000 and 25 in 2002, even after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the U.S. counterattack against Afghanistan. By 2004, Marshall and Gurr’s latest study shows, the number of armed conflicts in the world had declined to 20, even after the invasion of Iraq. All told, there were less than half as many wars in 2004 as there were in 1991.

Marshall and Gurr also have a second ranking, gauging the magnitude of fighting. This section of the report is more subjective. Everyone agrees that the worst moment for human conflict was World War II; but how to rank, say, the current separatist fighting in Indonesia versus, say, the Algerian war of independence is more speculative. Nevertheless, the Peace and Conflict studies name 1991 as the peak post-World War II year for totality of global fighting, giving that year a ranking of 179 on a scale that rates the extent and destructiveness of combat. By 2000, in spite of war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the number had fallen to 97; by 2002 to 81; and, at the end of 2004, it stood at 65. This suggests the extent and intensity of global combat is now less than half what it was 15 years ago.

How can war be in such decline when evening newscasts are filled with images of carnage? One reason fighting seems to be everywhere is that, with the ubiquity of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, we see many more images of conflict than before. As recently as two decades ago, the rebellion in Eritrea occurred with almost no world notice; the tirelessly globe-trotting Robert Kaplan wrote of meeting with Eritrean rebels who told him they hoped that at least spy satellites were trained on their region so that someone, somewhere, would know of their struggle. Today, fighting in Iraq, Sudan, and other places is elaborately reported on, with a wealth of visual details supplied by minicams and even camera-enabled cell phones. News organizations must prominently report fighting, of course. But the fact that we now see so many visuals of combat and conflict creates the impression that these problems are increasing: Actually, it is the reporting of the problems that is increasing, while the problems themselves are in decline. Television, especially, likes to emphasize war because pictures of fighting, soldiers, and military hardware are inherently more compelling to viewers than images of, say, water-purification projects. Reports of violence and destruction are rarely balanced with reports about the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s population not being harmed.

Mueller calculates that about 200 million people were killed in the twentieth century by warfare, other violent conflicts, and government actions associated with war, such as the Holocaust. About twelve billion people lived during that century, meaning that a person of the twentieth century had a 1 to 2 percent chance of dying as the result of international war, ethnic fighting, or government-run genocide. A 1 to 2 percent chance, Mueller notes, is also an American’s lifetime chance of dying in an automobile accident. The risk varies depending on where you live and who you are, of course; Mueller notes that, during the twentieth century, Armenians, Cambodians, Jews, kulaks, and some others had a far higher chance of death by war or government persecution than the global average. Yet, with war now in decline, for the moment men and women worldwide stand in more danger from cars and highways than from war and combat. World Health Organization statistics back this: In 2000, for example, 300,000 people died in combat or for war-related reasons (such as disease or malnutrition caused by war), while 1.2 million worldwide died in traffic accidents. That 300,000 people perished because of war in 2000 is a terrible toll, but it represents just .005 percent of those alive in that year.

This low global risk of death from war probably differs greatly from most of the world’s past. In prehistory, tribal and small-group violence may have been endemic. Steven LeBlanc, a Harvard University archeologist, asserts in his 2003 book about the human past, Constant Battles, that warfare was a steady feature of primordial society. LeBlanc notes that, when the aboriginal societies of New Guinea were first observed by Europeans in the 1930s, one male in four died by violence; traditional New Guinean society was organized around endless tribal combat. Unremitting warfare characterized much of the history of Europe, the Middle East, and other regions; perhaps one-fifth of the German population died during the Thirty Years War, for instance. Now the world is in a period in which less than one ten-thousandth of its population dies from fighting in a year. The sheer number of people who are being harmed by warfare is without precedent.

Next consider a wonderful fact: Global military spending is also in decline. Stated in current dollars, annual global military spending peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been falling since, to slightly over $1 trillion in 2004, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan Washington research organization. Since the global population has risen by one-fifth during this period, military spending might have been expected to rise. Instead, relative to population growth, military spending has declined by a full third. In current dollars, the world spent $260 per capita on arms in 1985 and $167 in 2004.

The striking decline in global military spending has also received no attention from the press, which continues to promote the notion of a world staggering under the weight of instruments of destruction. Only a few nations, most prominently the United States, have increased their defense spending in the last decade. Today, the United States accounts for 44 percent of world military spending; if current trends continue, with many nations reducing defense spending while the United States continues to increase such spending as its military is restructured for new global anti-terrorism and peacekeeping roles, it is not out of the question that, in the future, the United States will spend more on arms and soldiers than the rest of the world combined.

Declining global military spending is exactly what one would expect to find if war itself were in decline. The peak year in global military spending came only shortly before the peak year for wars, 1991. There’s an obvious chicken-or-egg question, whether military spending has fallen because wars are rarer or whether wars are rarer because military spending has fallen. Either way, both trend lines point in the right direction. This is an extremely favorable development, particularly for the world’s poor — the less developing nations squander on arms, the more they can invest in improving daily lives of their citizens.

What is causing war to decline? The most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war, which has both lowered international tensions and withdrawn U.S. and Soviet support from proxy armies in the developing world. Fighting in poor nations is sustained by outside supplies of arms. To be sure, there remain significant stocks of small arms in the developing world — particularly millions of assault rifles. But, with international arms shipments waning and heavy weapons, such as artillery, becoming harder to obtain in many developing nations, factions in developing-world conflicts are more likely to sue for peace. For example, the long, violent conflict in Angola was sustained by a weird mix of Soviet, American, Cuban, and South African arms shipments to a potpourri of factions. When all these nations stopped supplying arms to the Angolan combatants, the leaders of the factions grudgingly came to the conference table.

During the cold war, Marshall notes, it was common for Westerners to say there was peace because no fighting affected the West. Actually, global conflict rose steadily during the cold war, but could be observed only in the developing world. After the cold war ended, many in the West wrung their hands about a supposed outbreak of “disorder” and ethnic hostilities. Actually, both problems went into decline following the cold war, but only then began to be noticed in the West, with confrontation with the Soviet empire no longer an issue.

Another reason for less war is the rise of peacekeeping. The world spends more every year on peacekeeping, and peacekeeping is turning out to be an excellent investment. Many thousands of U.N., nato, American, and other soldiers and peacekeeping units now walk the streets in troubled parts of the world, at a cost of at least $3 billion annually. Peacekeeping has not been without its problems; peacekeepers have been accused of paying very young girls for sex in Bosnia and Africa, and nato bears collective shame for refusing support to the Dutch peacekeeping unit that might have prevented the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. But, overall, peacekeeping is working. Dollar for dollar, it is far more effective at preventing fighting than purchasing complex weapons systems. A recent study from the notoriously gloomy rand Corporation found that most U.N. peacekeeping efforts have been successful.

Peacekeeping is just one way in which the United Nations has made a significant contribution to the decline of war. American commentators love to disparage the organization in that big cereal-box building on the East River, and, of course, the United Nations has manifold faults. Yet we should not lose track of the fact that the global security system envisioned by the U.N. charter appears to be taking effect. Great-power military tensions are at the lowest level in centuries; wealthy nations are increasingly pressured by international diplomacy not to encourage war by client states; and much of the world respects U.N. guidance. Related to this, the rise in “international engagement,” or the involvement of the world community in local disputes, increasingly mitigates against war.

The spread of democracy has made another significant contribution to the decline of war. In 1975, only one-third of the world’s nations held true multiparty elections; today two-thirds do, and the proportion continues to rise. In the last two decades, some 80 countries have joined the democratic column, while hardly any moved in the opposite direction. Increasingly, developing-world leaders observe the simple fact that the free nations are the strongest and richest ones, and this creates a powerful argument for the expansion of freedom. Theorists at least as far back as Immanuel Kant have posited that democratic societies would be much less likely to make war than other kinds of states. So far, this has proved true: Democracy-against-democracy fighting has been extremely rare. Prosperity and democracy tend to be mutually reinforcing. Now prosperity is rising in most of the world, amplifying the trend toward freedom. As ever-more nations become democracies, ever-less war can be expected, which is exactly what is being observed.

For the great-power nations, the arrival of nuclear deterrence is an obvious factor in the decline of war. The atomic bomb debuted in 1945, and the last great-power fighting, between the United States and China, concluded not long after, in 1953. From 1871 to 1914, Europe enjoyed nearly half a century without war; the current 52-year great-power peace is the longest period without great-power war since the modern state system emerged. Of course, it is possible that nuclear deterrence will backfire and lead to a conflagration beyond imagination in its horrors. But, even at the height of the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union never seriously contemplated a nuclear exchange. If it didn’t happen then, it seems unlikely for the future.

In turn, lack of war among great nations sets an example for the developing world. When the leading nations routinely attacked neighbors or rivals, governments of emerging states dreamed of the day when they, too, could issue orders to armies of conquest. Now that the leading nations rarely use military force — and instead emphasize economic competition — developing countries imitate that model. This makes the global economy more turbulent, but reduces war.

In The Remnants of War, Mueller argues that most fighting in the world today happens because many developing nations lack “capable government” that can contain ethnic conflict or prevent terrorist groups, militias, and criminal gangs from operating. Through around 1500, he reminds us, Europe, too, lacked capable government: Criminal gangs and private armies roamed the countryside. As European governments became competent, and as police and courts grew more respected, legitimate government gradually vanquished thug elements from most of European life. Mueller thinks this same progression of events is beginning in much of the developing world. Government and civil institutions in India, for example, are becoming more professional and less corrupt — one reason why that highly populous nation is not falling apart, as so many predicted it would. Interstate war is in substantial decline; if civil wars, ethnic strife, and private army fighting also go into decline, war may be ungrafted from the human experience.

Is it possible to believe that war is declining, owing to the spread of enlightenment? This seems the riskiest claim. Human nature has let us down many times before. Some have argued that militarism as a philosophy was destroyed in World War II, when the states that were utterly dedicated to martial organization and violent conquest were not only beaten but reduced to rubble by free nations that initially wanted no part of the fight. World War II did represent the triumph of freedom over militarism. But memories are short: It is unrealistic to suppose that no nation will ever be seduced by militarism again.

Yet the last half-century has seen an increase in great nations acting in an enlightened manner toward one another. Prior to this period, the losing sides in wars were usually punished; consider the Versailles Treaty, whose punitive terms helped set in motion the Nazi takeover of Germany. After World War II, the victors did not punish Germany and Japan, which made reasonably smooth returns to prosperity and acceptance by the family of nations. Following the end of the cold war, the losers — the former Soviet Union and China — have seen their national conditions improve, if fitfully; their reentry into the family of nations has gone reasonably well and has been encouraged, if not actively aided, by their former adversaries. Not punishing the vanquished should diminish the odds of future war, since there are no generations who suffer from the victor’s terms, become bitter, and want vengeance.

Antiwar sentiment is only about a century old in Western culture, and Mueller thinks its rise has not been given sufficient due. As recently as the Civil War in the United States and World War I in Europe, it was common to view war as inevitable and to be fatalistic about the power of government to order men to march to their deaths. A spooky number of thinkers even adulated war as a desirable condition. Kant, who loved democracy, nevertheless wrote that war is “sublime” and that “prolonged peace favors the predominance of a mere commercial spirit, and with it a debasing self-interest, cowardice and effeminacy.” Alexis De Tocqueville said that war “enlarges the mind of a people.” Igor Stravinsky called war “necessary for human progress.” In 1895, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. told the graduating class of Harvard that one of the highest expressions of honor was “the faith … which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty.”

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a counter-view arose — that war is usually absurd. One of the bestselling books of late-nineteenth-century Europe, Lay Down Your Arms!, was an antiwar novel. Organized draft resistance in the United Kingdom during World War I was a new force in European politics. England slept during the ’30s in part because public antiwar sentiment was intense. By the time the U.S. government abolished the draft at the end of the Vietnam War, there was strong feeling in the United States that families would no longer tolerate being compelled to give up their children for war. Today, that feeling has spread even to Russia, such a short time ago a totalitarian, militaristic state. As average family size has decreased across the Western world, families have invested more in each child; this should discourage militarism. Family size has started to decrease in the developing world, too, so the same dynamic may take effect in poor nations.

There is even a chance that the ascent of economics to its pinnacle position in modern life reduces war. Nations interconnected by trade may be less willing to fight each other: If China and the United States ever fought, both nations might see their economies collapse. It is true that, in the decades leading up to World War I, some thought rising trade would prevent war. But today’s circumstances are very different from those of the Fin de siècle [turn of the century]. Before World War I, great powers still maintained the grand illusion that there could be war without general devastation; World Wars I and II were started by governments that thought they could come out ahead by fighting. Today, no major government appears to believe that war is the best path to nationalistic or monetary profit; trade seems much more promising.

The late economist Julian Simon proposed that, in a knowledge-based economy, people and their brainpower are more important than physical resources, and thus the lives of a country’s citizens are worth more than any object that might be seized in war. Simon’s was a highly optimistic view — he assumed governments are grounded in reason — and yet there is a chance this vision will be realized. Already, most Western nations have achieved a condition in which citizens’ lives possess greater economic value than any place or thing an army might gain by combat. As knowledge-based economics spreads throughout the world, physical resources may mean steadily less, while life means steadily more. That’s, well, enlightenment.

In his 1993 book, A History of Warfare, the military historian John Keegan recognized the early signs that combat and armed conflict had entered a cycle of decline. War “may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents,” Keegan wrote. Now there are 15 years of positive developments supporting the idea. Fifteen years is not all that long. Many things could still go badly wrong; there could be ghastly surprises in store. But, for the moment, the trends have never been more auspicious: Swords really are being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The world ought to take notice.


Visualizing democide


More on the Democratic Peace and Sharp Decline in Violence

May 11, 2009


click me^–>

[First published October 17, 2005] A study has just been published by the Human Security Center, War and Peace In The 21St Century (pdf here). I recommend reading it for the comprehensiveness of its data and analysis.

The reports conclusions are:

Over the past dozen years, the global security climate has changed in dramatic, positive, but largely unheralded ways. Civil wars, genocides and international crises have all declined sharply. International wars, now only a small minority of all conflicts, have been in steady decline for a much longer period, as have military coups and the average number of people killed per conflict per year. The wars that dominated the headlines of the 1990s were real—and brutal—enough. But the global media have largely ignored the 100-odd conflicts that have quietly ended since 1988. During this period, more wars stopped than started. The extent of the change in global security following the end of the Cold War has been remarkable:

°The number of armed conflicts around the world has declined by more than 40% since the early 1990s. [See the igure below from the report]

°Between 1991 (the high point for the post–World War II period) and 2004, 28 armed struggles for self-determination started or restarted, while 43 were contained or ended. There were just 25 armed secessionist conflicts under way in 2004, the lowest number since 1976.

°Notwithstanding the horrors of Rwanda, Srebrenica and elsewhere, the number of genocides and politicides plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001.

°International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001.

°The dollar value of major international arms transfers fell by 33% between 1990 and 2003 (Figure 1.10). Global military expenditure and troop numbers declined sharply in the 1990s as well.

°The number of refugees dropped by some 45% between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end.

°Five out of six regions in the developing world saw a net decrease in core human rights abuses between 1994 and 2003.

The positive changes noted above date from the end of the Cold War. Other changes can be traced back to the 1950s:

°The average number of battle-deaths per conflict per year—the best measure of the deadliness of warfare— has been falling dramatically but unevenly since the 1950s. In 1950, for example, the average armed conflict killed 38,000 people; in 2002 the figure was 600, a 98% decline.

°The period since the end of World War II is the longest interval of uninterrupted peace between the major powers in hundreds of years.

°The number of actual and attempted military coups has been declining for more than 40 years. In 1963 there were 25 coups and attempted coups around the world, the highest number in the post–World War II period. In 2004 there were only 10 coup attempts—a 60% decline. All of them failed.

How do they explain this great decrease in warfare and its severity?

A dramatic increase in the number of democracies. In 1946, there were 20 democracies in the world; in 2005, there were 88.10 Many scholars argue that this trend has reduced the likelihood of international war because democratic states almost never fight each other.

An increase in economic interdependence . Greater global economic interdependence has increased the costs of cross-border aggression while reducing its benefits.

A decline in the economic utility of war . The most effective path to prosperity in modern economies is through increasing productivity and international trade, not through seizing land and raw materials. In addition, the existence of an open global trading regime means it is nearly always cheaper to buy resources from overseas than to use force to acquire them.

Growth in international institutions . The greatly increased involvement by governments in international institutions can help reduce the incidence of conflict. Such institutions play an important direct role in building global norms that encourage the peaceful settlement of disputes. They can also benefit security indirectly by helping promote democratisation and interdependence.

There you have it. The first empirical anslysis to note the sharp decrease in violence other than my own, and to attribute it to the democractic peace. My only disagreement is that I would consider the democracies achieving a critical mass to be the major cause, and the others to be minor. The other causes existed before the decrease in violence, and it is only that growth in democracies that is the factor that significantly changed — that along with the end of the Cold War, which be it recalled, was predicted at the time to lead to a leap in violence, since the Soviet Union (having disappeared) and U.S. were no longer concerned to cap any violence that might draw them into a major war with each other.


Link of Day

“Final Report of the Commission on Human Security” A UN Report different from the above

The report proposes a new security framework that centers directly and specifically on people. Human security focuses on shielding people from critical and pervasive threats and empowering them to take charge of their lives. It demands creating genuine opportunities for people to live in safety and dignity and earn their livelihood.

RJR: Note this policy conclusion: “Clarifying the need for a global human identity while respecting the freedom of individuals to have diverse identities and affiliations.”


Links I Must Share

“Book Learning:

A controversial new work says French school textbooks are just plain anti-American.

RJR: Is there any doubt?

“Rice: No presidential ambitions”

RJR: This is politicospeech for, “I’ll run if people show enough interest.”

“TRUE ACADEMIC FREEDOM HAS A NEW ALLY”

The cultural left has a new tool for enforcing political conformity in schools of education. It is called dispositions theory, and it was set forth five years ago by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Future teachers should be judged by their “knowledge, skills, and dispositions.”

RJR: By dispositions, or what in my academic experience was called “political sensitivety,” which was used to evaluate faculty and graduate student applicants, means bowing before the left’s holy icons. Five degrees is no good. It has to be a full forty-five degrees.

“United Nations uselessness”

The chief of mission for Sudan in Washington, Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed, assures the world in a Sept. 28 Op-Ed in The Washington Times that since “Every reliable report coming our of Darfur indicates that the situation has stabilized and the mortality rate has returned to pre-war levels,” at last there is “the beginning of a new era in Sudan.” Despite this exercise in public relations, the facts on the ground in Darfur are savagely different.

RJR: This is the UN, you know. It could not be otherwise.

War/peace docudramas
On WWI, Stalin, Holocaust,
China, Cambodia, and others


On The Sharp Drop in Global Violence, Again

April 21, 2009

[First published December 28, 2005] As I’ve pointed out a number of times, the growth in democracies, which now number 122, has reached a tipping point, where their contribution to a global democratic peace has caused a sharp decrease in the extent of global violence. This drop is pointed out by Andrew Mack, the director of the Human Security Center at the University of British Columbia, in a Washington Post article, “Peace on Earth? Increasingly, Yes.”. He says:

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.

This change is extraordinary, and he wonders why it has been given so little attention in the media. His answer is that the media is addicted to reporting global violence. I agree, and in my terms, no violence is no news.

However, the most interesting aspect of Mack’s article is how he accounts for this decline. It is

The end of the Cold War, which had driven at least a third of all conflicts since World War II, appears to have been the single most critical factor.

In the late 1980s, Washington and Moscow stopped fueling “proxy wars” in the developing world, and the United Nations was liberated to play the global security role its founders intended. Freed from the paralyzing stasis of Cold War geopolitics, the Security Council initiated an unprecedented, though sometimes inchoate, explosion of international activism designed to stop ongoing wars and prevent new ones.

He seems unaware of the predictions at the end of the Cold War that conflicts and violence that the Soviets and U.S. kept a lid on so they would not escalate to involve them would now break out. But, lets say that this prediction was wrong, and lets suppose that the end of the Cold War meant less global violence.

As to the UN being also responsible for the drop in violence, this is an understandable claim from Mack, who was director of the Strategic Planning Unit in the executive office of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan between 1998 and 2001. I think he is flatly wrong, and even the UN’s own internal study, “Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations,” says it failed. In any case, Mack gives no credit to the growth of democracies — not a whiff.

Strange, since in personal communication he does recognize this growth also as a cause, and so does his Center’s report, ” War and Peace In The 21st Century,” that I discussed and presented in my blog, “More: The Democratic Peace Causes a Sharp Decline In Violence.” I suspect that among those who have dealt personally with the complexities of international relations and violence, it seems too simplistic, and even too idealistic, to ascribe the drop in violence to . . . democracy. With all its diverse variables and conditions, nations and cultures, and leaders and dictators, the political world seems more complex than that.


SEE The Democratic Peace At Work

March 26, 2009

[First published March 8, 2005] While the left and their surprising allies, libertarians, pooh-pooh the democratic peace, the evidence for its promotion of a more peaceful world is overwhelming. See for yourself in the following two plots of armed conflict and the growth of democracies 1946-2004 (from The Center For Systematic Research here):


As the number of democracies increase over the 58 years, they reach a tipping point in 1992 where armed conflict then steeply decline.

I predicted that a decline would occur with this growth of democracies in my 1979 book on War, Power, Peace (link here). For additional evidence of this decline and a related Q and A, see my democratic peace clock (link here) and my blog “Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines” (link here) chastising commentators for missing this.

Yes, yes, I know, correlation does not prove causation. But, if there is a solid theory, consistent replications, and complimentary evidence, then it is no longer a working hypothesis, but fact.

I present the facts, you decide.


Link of Note

”Can the Whole World Become Democratic? (4/17/03) By Larry Diamond

Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also professor of political science and sociology (by courtesy) at Stanford University and coordinator of the Democracy Program of the new Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford’s Institute for International Studies.

“Can any state become democratic? Can the whole world become democratic? This lecture argues that the answers to both questions are yes, and that neither culture nor history nor poverty are insurmountable obstacles. Indeed, for much of the world that remains trapped in poverty, a growing body of evidence and policy analysis suggests that democratic, accountable, transparent governance is a fundamental condition for sustainable development. There are no preconditions for democracy, other than a willingness on the part of a nation’s elite to attempt to govern by democratic means. But that, in itself, will require strong pressure from below, in civil society, and from outside, in the international community, to generate the political will for democratic reform. And sustaining democracy in the context of unfavorable cultural, social, and economic conditions requires institutions to foster effective, accountable governance as well as robust international engagement and support. Democracy can emerge anywhere, but it can only take root if it brings about, however gradually, a more prosperous, just, and decent society.”


Why Are We fighting In Iraq?

January 29, 2009

[First published November 2, 2005] The foreign policy of the United States, the War on Terror, and the War in Iraq is predicated on the democratic peace. President bush has expressed this explicitly in describing his Forward Strategy of Freedom. Secretary Rumsfeld has mentioned it, and Secretary Rice has accepted it as background to her speeches on democracy. Because of the democratic peace, even President Clinton made promoting democracy one of the pillars of his foreign policy.

The democratic peace is now the best empirically established theory and most widely held among students of international relations. The theory, which goes back to the Philosopher Immanuel Kant in his Perpetual Peace (1795), is that:

The republican constitution . . . gives a favorable prospect for the desired consequence, i.e., perpetual peace. The reason is this: if the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of war. . . . But, on the other hand, in a constitution which is not republican, and under which the subjects are not citizens, a declaration of war is the easiest thing in the world to decide upon, because war does not require of the ruler, who is the proprietor and not a member of the state, the least sacrifice of the pleasures of his table, the chase, his country houses, his court functions, and the like. He may, therefore, resolve on war as on a pleasure party for the most trivial reasons, and with perfect indifference leave the justification which decency requires to the diplomatic corps who are ever ready to provide it.

Indeed, we now know from research done over the last three decades that this is true. The table below shows that since 1816, there have been no wars between democracies, although 371 bilateral wars when one or both sides were nondemocracies.

A second table below shows that there have been only three cases of violence ending in deaths between democracies over the 190 years since 1816. Two of these involved Peru and Ecuador in 1981 and 1984 (26 to 100 killed in the first, and 1 to 25 in the second case of violence). In 1981 Peru was only marginally democratic, as was Ecuador, but less so. This was also true of Peru and Ecuador in 1984. The only other case of violence over these near two centuries was marginally democratic Ecuador (initiator) vs. the U.S. in 1954 in which 1-25 were killed. Only three cases, and none since 1984 despite there being 117 democracies today.

There is much more to the democratic peace then the avoidance of war or international violence. Democracies have been involved in many wars, some they launched themselves (Afghanistan and Iraq being the most recent example). However, by an order of magnitude or more, democracies fight the least severe wars in killed compared to authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.

Moreover, in general, democratic nations are the most internally peaceful — they have the least violence in number killed in rebellions, civil wars, civil unrest, anti-government riots, violent strikes, and coups.

Also, and perhaps most important, modern democracies seldom murder their own citizens. Democide (genocide and mass murder) is an evil of militarism (as in Burma), monarchism (Russia’s Peter the Great), theocratism (Iran), fascism (Hitler), and communism. Over the whole 20th Century during which governments murdered about 174,000,000 people, only 149,000 deaths were due to barely democratic regimes — nearly 100,000 to the far left Spanish Republican government during its 1936-39 civil war, 10,000 to Peru’s (1980-87) fight with communist guerrillas, 25,000 to India, 4,000 to Colombia, 2,000 to the U.S.A. (largely because of lynching in the early years of the century), and lesser numbers to a smattering of democracies. Among these democracies committing democide, none were liberal democracies at the time (when American domestic democide occurred women could not vote and minorities were systematically and legally segregated, harassed, and denied the vote in many states), and one might argue that some were not democracies at all. No democratically free people, liberal democracies of which there are about 88 today, have murdered their own.

How do we understand this nonviolence, peaceful nature of democracy? Kant had part of the answer. Democratic people usually oppose war. But not always. There are two other factors. One is that with democratic institutions comes a democratic culture of negotiation, compromise, and tolerance. And two, there is a civil society of independent and interlocking institutions and groups –churches, businesses, schools, and social, political, and recreation groups — that not only stitch and bond democratic society together, but also cross pressure interests so that the stakes in a conflict are never too high, and the conflicts themselves are isolated. Such a democratic culture and society also encompasses democratic nations, enfolding them in a dynamic democratic field of cross national governmental and nongovernmental organizations, multinational businesses, trade, cultural and educational exchanges, which are similarly bond the nations together and cross pressure interest that might favor violence. Moreover, the basic norm of negotiating and tolerating differences is shared among democracies, which is one reason democracies cannot well negotiate with dictatorship, to whom it is only war by other means.

So, why are we fighting in Iraq and fostering democratic freedom there and elsewhere? The answer is to promote an end to war, and democide, and to minimize internal political violence. In other words, it is to foster global human security. Surely, this is worth fighting for.


Willful Blindness?

January 27, 2009

[First published July 12, 2005] In spite of being repetitive, I’m gong to keep writing about this as long as the press and academics keep misunderstanding or ignoring the reason for the recent decline in violence. In “Researchers see lowest levels of war in the world since ’50s,” (no free link), published in the National Weekly Edition of the Washington Times, David R. Sands points to the 2005 edition of the Marshall-Gurr “Peace and Conflict Survey, which shows a sharp drop in violence while the number of democracies has rocketed. But these and other academics, and Sands do not connect the dots. For the statistical analyses of this, see my Democratic Peace clock.

I addition to this, the Marshall-Gurr survey points to a study by Victor Asal and Amy Pate that shows that the governments practicing political discrimination against their ethnic groups has almost been cut in half while those trying to remedy past discrimination has quintupled.

It seems almost willful blindness to miss the role of democracy in all this, especially when one considers how others try to explain the decrease in violence. The most often cited reason is the end of the Cold War, which also ended the U.S. and Soviets indirectly fighting the Cold War through the Third World. I find this an amusing reach, since the most prevalent explanation for conflicts after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was that it took the lid off conflicts that the U.S. and soviets kept a lid on so that they didn’t escalate into direct violence between them. The expectation at that time among students of war and violence was that violence and war would increase in the 90s.

Another explanation is that the European Union and the U.N. have played a significant role in the decline of violence. I don’t see it. If anything, the E.U. and U.N. failed miserably in preventing the Bosnian and Kosovo violence, and then there is the U.N. and Rwanda, Sudan, and Burma. By its own reckoning, its peacekeeping efforts have been a failure.

Then there is the claim that war is an international institution that is becoming discredited and obsolete and is dying out like dueling and slavery did.

Since the huge increase in the number or democracies (about 120 today) is recognized, how can they not see the connection and completely ignore the voluminous democratic peace literature that makes the connection (bibliography here). I’m almost willing to say its willful blindness, since the Marshall-Gurr survey provides empirical support for President Bush’s claim that promoting freedom will promote peace. To my knowledge, no commentator or academic (I’m retired) has made the connection between the sharp decline in war/violence, the soaring number of democracies, and Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom.

Strange.


Link of Note

“Laying to Rest the Autocratic Peace (2004) By Karen K. Peterson
Presented at “Journeys in world Politics,” University of Iowa

Professor Peterson is a political scientist at Vanderbilt University.

,Abstract
This research focuses on militarized interstate conflict between pairs of nondemocratic states. It is based in part on a categorical indicator of regime type that is more comprehensive than the dichotomous indicator currently used in most research. My measure distinguishes among the different types of democratic and non-democratic regimes found in the international system between 1816 and 2001. I then use my new measure in conjunction with the existing Correlates of War Militarized Interstate Dispute data to analyze the conflict propensity of different types of regimes.

As part of a larger project, I present findings below related to the conflict behavior of pairs of non-democratic states. Regardless of how I conceive of the idea of regime similarity, I find no evidence of an autocratic peace at either the initiation or escalation phases of militarized interstate conflict, suggesting that the notion of an autocratic peace that functions in a manner similar to the democratic peace lacks empirical support.

Her conclusion makes it clearer, “. . . there is something unique about joint democracy that reduces the likelihood of conflict initiation and escalation and that non-democratic regimes do not possess this quality.”
Democratic Peace
Books/articles/statistics


Is The U.S. The Most Violent Of All?

January 18, 2009

[First published February 3, 2006] I’ve had the most respected academics in peace research tell me flatly that the United States is the most violent nation in the world. And after I’ve given lectures and speeches on the democratic peace, some questioners have said or implied the same thing. This myth has been widely believed among peace researchers and is a matter of religious faith on the left.

In response, I would point out the bloody wars in Africa and Asia not involving the U.S., including the Iraq-Iran war which cost about a million lives. Then, I would note the worst domestic democides, including that of Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on, and compare the top annual domestic democide rates (the percent of the population murdered per year of the regime) to that for the U.S. (I always had a special page in my notes with the figures):

U.S. = .000016
USSR = .42
Communist China = .12 (if 1959-1962 famine treated as nondemocidal)
Hitler’s Germany = .09
Pol Pot’s Cambodia 8.16

And, I would add, here are the average overall domestic democide rates (average percent of the population murdered) for types of regimes.

Democracies = .043, of which the U.S. = .001
Authoritarian regimes = 1.1
Totalitarian regimes = 3.9, of which communist = 5.2

Particularly note how small the annual rate is for the U.S. even compared to the average for democracies.

But, the leftist mind assumes that there has to be something bloody wrong with the U.S. (in addition to its raging imperialism, blood sucking capitalism, and ardent support for right wing dictators), and so they fall back on the civil murder rate. They say, “No one is secure in America, since Americans murder each other at a rate greater than any other nation, and that’s why it is the most violent nation in the world.”

Well, this can be easily checked on the Internet, such as through The International Crime Victim Survey and here. From the latter source, I reproduce its rank ordered list of murder’s per nation per capita.

Note that the U.S. is not only 24th, but that its murder rate is tiny compared to the top four nations. It is 6.9% of Colombia’s, 8.6% of South Africa’s, 13.2% of Jamaica’s, and 21.2 % of Venezuela’s.

The next time a so called “anti-war” activist, self-righteous “peace researcher,” or blathering leftist declares that the U.S. is the most violent nation in the world, kindly tell them that their ignorance is only exceeded by their ideological blindness.


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