A welcome surprise: war waning globally (Howard LaFranchi, 10/18/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

After a 20th century that was perhaps mankind’s most violent, all indicators point to a 21st century that will be as bad or worse. Civil wars and new ideological conflicts will multiply. The effectiveness of international forces for peace will wane. And the security of mankind will be the victim caught in the middle. Right?

Wrong, says a report based on a three-year study by a group of international researchers. Contrary to widespread public perception, they find that the world is witnessing fewer wars – and those wars that do occur are killing fewer people. […]

The report finds that the total number of conflicts declined by 40 percent since the cold war ended. The average number of deaths per conflict has also declined dramatically, from 37,000 in 1950 to 600 in 2002. The study found 25 civil conflicts last year – the lowest number since 1976.

Why the vast improvement? The report credits an “explosion of efforts” in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The number of UN “preventive diplomacy” missions and government-based “contact groups” aimed at resolving conflicts has risen sharply in the last decade.

Other specialists note that the number of democracies in the world is growing. And democracies, recent history suggests, do not go to war against each other.

“Yes there are caveats, but generally the growing number of democracies in the world reduces the number of countries to fight,” says Richard Stoll, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston.

Besides mere democratization there are several other associated factors at work: (1) Communism having been delegitimized and its superpower host having crumbled, there is no one to fund proxy wars against our allies; (2) insurgencies and aggressors who don’t hew to liberal democratic norms are de facto illegitimate; and (3) citzenries in the democratized world are aging rapidly and old folks don’t fight.

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