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Julian
Not much, it seems, as almost everyone would agree.

The United Nations Human Security Report released in the last 24 hours finds that all forms of international armed conflict have decreased in both frequency and severity (as measured by casualty numbers) in the last 20 years.

All except one - terrorism. No surprise there, but even with the increase in terrorism*, fewer people around the world are dying unnecessarily. flowers.gif

First off, I will assume that everyone thinks this is a very good thing indeed. (Please explain why you disagree if you want to challenge this assumption!)

This has only just come into the news here, so I could only find one online reference that gives any detail on The Australian's website.

As you can see, the top five in the bloodthirsty stakes are Australia (5th - 7 wars), Russia/USSR (4th - 9 wars), and the USA is 3rd, with 16 wars.

The cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France are rather more warlike than America, with 19 wars in the past 60 years.

And way out in front are the peace-loving and unassertive British, with 21 international armed conflicts under our belts since 1946. (You can't imagine how proud that doesn't make me.)

The UN report (according to The Australian at least) attributes the decline to more active and timely UN peacekeeping, and the newspaper predicts this will put US noses out of joint for not putting the drop down to outspending the USSR to the point of bankruptcy - oops! - of course, what I meant to say was "winning the Cold War".

Especially given the prominence of the UK and France in the table of international pugnacity, I'd say that the postwar decline in European Imperialism was even more important than the Cold War, but that's probably just the Aussies trying to forget that they used to be a provincial outpost of London wink.gif (**runs for cover from the tins of Foster being launched at his head**)

Do you share my cautious optimism at the apparent decline of large-scale international conflict?

To what factors do you attribute the shift away from country-vs-country conflicts towards internal conflicts, insurrections and terrorism?

What can our leaders (and us) do to continue this downward trend and extend it into smaller-scale and more anarchic conflicts, including terrorism?


* I really do not want to go into the report claim's about the eight-fold increase in terrorism, and how that undermines US claims that the "War on Terror" is being won. Feel free to start another thread on this though - I think it could easily be a worthwhile topic.
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Amlord
Do you share my cautious optimism at the apparent decline of large-scale international conflict?

Large scale wars may be a thing of the past. As Albert Einstein once said: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." The next widespread war will put the death tolls of all past wars to shame.

I think most clear-thinking nations realize this, especially a war against the interests of the United States. Were we as barbaric as some make us out, then World War 3 would have already begun. Instead, we (as in the US) have shifted from large scale turf wars to small scale "containment" missions, which have many few casualties.

According to USAID, at the turn of the 20th century, the ratio of military deaths to civilian deaths was 9 to 1. By the close of the 20th century, that ratio had reversed, with 9 civilians dying for every military person.

Ethnic divisions were the cause of most deaths in the 1990s, which is perhaps more troubling than encouraging. Ethnic conflicts would tend to be more deadly than other forms of warfare, since they are driven by hatred rather than greed.

All in all, it's a mixed bag.

To what factors do you attribute the shift away from country-vs-country conflicts towards internal conflicts, insurrections and terrorism?

The US acts as a peace keeper, both with its military and with its diplomatic efforts. Other countries do likewise, using the carrot-and-stick approach. This limits outright conflict between nations. However, these tensions still exist and so internal conflicts and especially terrorism grows. You can't really stop terrorism, since it is one of the few tactics available to those who try to resist those with overwhelming force.

What can our leaders (and us) do to continue this downward trend and extend it into smaller-scale and more anarchic conflicts, including terrorism?

Conflict is inevitable. We have been lucky, really. Eventually, another large scale conflict will break out. I do think the paradigm has shifted about large scale conflicts and their ability to be used to acheive strategic ends. However, I do believe that eventually some megalomaniac will cause another wide-scale conflict.

I do think that the paradigm shift has greatly reduced the likelihood of armed conflcit between states. However, in most cases, conflicts today are very one-sided which limits casualties for the side with the upper hand, but not necessarily so for the other side.
Sleeper
I have a bit of a problem with the way you spun your data from the article Julian.

The way you worded your statements you are implying those countries were the aggressors.. The article clearly states "involved in"... This is evident when you make mention of France... How many of those times was France attacked and had no choice but to defend itself... Just because a country was involed in a war does not mean it to be barbaric, does it?


Mrs. Pigpen
GAH! Jules, that article! sour.gif Sorry, but I must protest just a bit:
QUOTE
The countries above Australia are all UN Security Council permanent members -- Britain (21 wars), France (19), US (16) and Russia-USSR (9).
This would indicate that the USSR was a (comparatively) peaceful place though not tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, but millions upon millions died in the forced labor gulag. The nation that brewed so many germs in the ‘Stans for decades that we are obliged to send them massive aid to clean it up today. Stalin had actual execution quotas for his own citizens during this "peaceful" time. Of course Iraq just glows, too. Only a couple of wars in the past few decades...though one of those wars lasted about a decade, utilized chemical weapons and took a million lives. Oh, but those awful Brits and French! Such is the problem with eliminating context, and duration for that matter...

QUOTE
But the report is likely to attract criticism from the US for attributing the decline of war not to the final US victory in the Cold War but to a post-1992 upsurge in UN preventative diplomacy and peacekeeping missions.

Why the upsurge in peacekeeping activity? Gee...that would be the end of the cold war (and what ended that? Hm…I’d say that had a wee bit to do with US involvement). During the cold war no one bothered with silly diversion expenditures like UN peacekeeping missions. For the most part, they sat at home, waiting. The military draft was still in force in much of Europe a that time.

QUOTE
Professor Mack, who was director of the strategic planning unit in the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1998 to 2001, cites several examples, including a sixfold increase in UN efforts to prevent wars from starting, a fourfold increase in UN peacemaking missions to end unresolved conflicts and an elevenfold increase in the number of states made subject to UN sanctions.

I might agree with this, if there is anyone in the room who could list exactly what wars the UN has prevented from starting. In what hot spot is the UN currently promoting peace and tranquility, which would otherwise be overwhelmingly violent? Let’s list all of the UN historical and/or currently sanctioned states. There aren’t many. Afghanistan, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia. How many of those countries escaped violence as this article would indicate? Add to that the insult that many of those required peacekeeping forces were provided by the governments that are counted in the above war tally. What a monumentus leap of logic to suggest that the UN sending in the forces is "promoting peace" while simultaneously maintaining that the nations from which those forces came are "promoting war" for providing them. wacko.gif

Okay, Whew! Had to say that. I'll answer the questions now. :

Do you share my cautious optimism at the apparent decline of large-scale international conflict?

I am not certain that this is entirely cause for optimism as asymmetrical warfare (like terrorism) is increasing. I believe that the there is likely to be an upsurge in violence under the new dynamic, rather than the opposite. We are also seeing an upsurge in internal violence (link at the bottom of my post).

But on that note, I do think that large-scale conflicts are on the decline. The reason is the cost to gains equation. There aren’t many spoils of large-scale war, which was the case in the past. A country has little to gain by invading another (the Iraq was cost hundreds of Billions, for instance) after which the invading government is held responsible for reconstruction costs and stability. Most victories are phyrric (sp?). South Korea, for example, cannot afford a war with the north. It would bankrupt them (and us for that matter). They cannot absorb the North's economy. On the other hand, technological trends make it possible for smaller groups to attain military effectiveness. Asymetrical warfare is likely to continue in the future, with smaller groups (and radical fringes) blackmailing larger ones, and radical groups aren't necessarily dissuaded by the threat of mass retaliation as would be the case for most stable governments. This is a potentially destabilizing situation and could make for a more dangerous world. The “cold war “was actually a very peaceful time by historical standards. Our (US) troops have been deployed more times since the end of the cold war than they ever were during that several-decades-long period. Historically that is the megapolitical pattern for decline.

To what factors do you attribute the shift away from country-vs-country conflicts towards internal conflicts, insurrections and terrorism?

Power is devolving (the number of governments in the world has tripled since World War II), and smaller groups are able to gain military effectiveness. This pattern has been played out historically. The stirrup led to feudalism. Gunpowder led to the ascension of the European empire and the birth of the USA. Nuclear weapons led to the cold war and superpowers. Now, small (in some cases radical) factions are gaining momentum and if the pattern continues the larger the government, the more vulnerable they are. It's the cycle of centuries. Sorry to be a downer, just being logical as I see it. Maybe I'm wrong.

What can our leaders (and us) do to continue this downward trend and extend it into smaller-scale and more anarchic conflicts, including terrorism?

Not much. Husband up our resources and play smart, and accept the new paradigm and take measures to prevent and undermine it.

Edited to add: I just started reading the recent Human development report. Take a look at figure 5.1 and the astronomical number of internal conflicts. The time period between the late 1940s to 1975 looks serene by comparison to what happened after. The world today is a violent place, though the conflicts are mainly internal.
BaphometsAdvocate
QUOTE(Julian @ Oct 17 2005, 01:52 PM)
Not much, it seems, as almost everyone would agree.

I totally disagree. War is a great way to kill your enemies, lay waste to their cities and make their women cry lamentations.

Also it can really get an economy going.

Besides every 21 years (or so history would avow) humans have a need to "cull the herd".

What's war good for? Peace. Peace has always been followed by war. War has always been followed by peace. Clearly War is good.

Besides, without war the P-38 would have never been built and you're not going blaspheme the P-38 are you?
Ultimatejoe
Lets try and steer clear of sarcastic responses. They are not constructive.
moif
Do you share my cautious optimism at the apparent decline of large-scale international conflict?

Not really. The human race has reached a point in its history where mass communication makes it more difficult to get away with waging war, but not impossible. At the same time, the pressure of population density is rising fast and with it the problems of limitied resources. I've heard the CIA have predicted national wars being fought over clean water in the next two decades and to me this indicates that the human race is not any more peaceful than it ever was, its just our nations have reached a point where war is no viable.

We can soon see a return to that point however once thousands of Africans each day begin to pour into Europe looking for a decent life.

Unrealistic? Any one who has seen the images from Spains out post in Africa, or paid attention to the debate about Islam in Europe will know this is a growing problem.

Once upon a time, all it took to fight a war was two groups of belligerent people, a war could be fought between two villages or two tribes. The war might last many years with battles being staged after each harvest season and raiding the rest of the year. War is not an institution. It is not governed by laws or conventions. The modern interpretation of war, as a sort of legal construct is entirely misleading.

The USA for example has not fought a legal war since 1945. Instead it has 'conducted combat operations'.

Against these perceptions, what is a war? At what point does conflict escalate into warfare? When a paper is signed? When a king is involved?
I think its all bogus. We are seeing a time of vast conflict where the world is at odds between various cultures and this time of 'peace' is a time a fear and doubt.


To what factors do you attribute the shift away from country-vs-country conflicts towards internal conflicts, insurrections and terrorism?

Lack of resources, mass migration and the conflict of unyielding cultures.


What can our leaders (and us) do to continue this downward trend and extend it into smaller-scale and more anarchic conflicts, including terrorism?

Level the playing field so poor countires can start to compete witht he rich countries.

Stop Selling Weapons!
Julian
QUOTE(Sleeper @ Oct 17 2005, 09:15 PM)
I have a bit of a problem with the way you spun your data from the article Julian. 

The way you worded your statements you are implying those countries were the aggressors.. The article clearly states "involved in"... This is evident when you make mention of France... How many of those times was France attacked and had no choice but to defend itself... J
*



How many times was France attacked by foreign aggresors? As far as I am aware, since 1946, France has only been attacked by Algerian separatists, as part of the Algerian struggle for independence. Which - if being attacked really did give her "no choice" but to defend herself - would justify exactly one of her 19 international conflicts.

QUOTE
Just because a country was involed in a war does not mean it to be barbaric, does it?

So, you don't agree that war is generally a barbaric state of affairs that should be avoided where possible? And that the measured decline in war since 1946, and the casualties caused by it, is a generally good thing? Would you prefer we had more wars?

Amlord
I tend to agree with your analysis that the current dip in formalised wars between nations* may not be permanent, particularly in the light of water rights. But it's only inevitable if we don't do something to sort out water supplies sooner rather than later. Just as an example, the Western nations that generally bankroll the UN and the other transnational bodies that end up cleaning the mess caused by a major conflict over water rights in, say, the Middle East in 20 years' time could club together now and install (free of charge to the locals?) lots of solar-powered desalinisation plants and the necessary distribution networks.

That way, we'd spend lots and lots of cash now, for sure, and get approximately zero gratitude, but we'd save ourselves even more cash, not to mention damage to our own interest in the region (and quite possibly large numbers of vlies if the conflict spirals out to include us) when the water stress in the region does escalate into major war at some point in the next 30 or so years.

Of course, none of this will happen until AFTER such a war, assuming there's anyone left to either pay for the plants or drink the water who doesn't make a Geiger counter sound like white noise, but that's not because of any actual physical incapacity - just lack of foresight and political will.

The current dip in major conflicts arose because of multiple long-term strategic deployments of resources, in things like the Marshall Plan and the stationing of major forces in Europe (allowing Europe to reorganise itself along peaceful lines after centuries of war), the same in Japan; the largely enlightened and mostly peaceful breakup of the British Empire (if not in absolute terms, certainly when compared to the breakup of every preceding dominant Empire in world history).

Where are the multiple long-term strategic plays in today's international politics? (Something akin to the 30-year timescale I mentioned in the context of water stress, rather than the kind of timescale we're being told will apply in Iraq, where Bush & Blair are afraid to tell us our forces might be there for more than three or four years in total.)

Mrs P

I wasn't that keen on this particular article either, but it was the first one I could get hold of that referred to this year's report, rather than an old one. I certainly take your point on Soviet and Chinese massacres of huge numbers of their own populations, but since the remit of this particular report is international conflict, and since the Gulags and Cultural Revolutions are (for the moment in China at least) things of the past, I still see some small cause for optimism in this report.

It's not a big cause just yet - more the tiny little twinkle of Hope in the bottom corner of Pandora's Box that's left after all the big ugly monsters and miseries have escaped to rampage around the world. (Soul of a poet, I know mrsparkle.gif )

Terrorism is the biggest problem faced by the world today, for sure. But in it's lethality (estimates of total global terrorist casualties since 1946 are in the hundreds of thousands - equivalent to a single battle in many wars throughout history) and focus terrorism is not the biggest problem the world has EVER faced by any stretch of the imagination.

*for dummies, and to nobody in particular, that's where international comes from - "inter-nation-al" - geddit?
Mrs. Pigpen
QUOTE(Julian @ Oct 18 2005, 05:21 AM)
Terrorism is the biggest problem faced by the world today, for sure. But in it's lethality (estimates of total global terrorist casualties since 1946 are in the hundreds of thousands - equivalent to a single battle in many wars throughout history) and focus terrorism is not the biggest problem the world has EVER faced by any stretch of the imagination.
*



To me this is like saying global warming isn't a large problem because only a few people have died from heat stroke. All it would take is one sabotaged water supply to poison a large city. I appreciate the ray of hope in your thread, but when I see that large spike for internal conflicts worldwide it is a sign to me that things will spill out. When juxtaposed next to the image of a few large stable countries targeting each other with cosmic death rays from space, the image seems better. BUT, the odds of those death rays being used is much lower in that scenario than if every gang member had a slightly smaller cosmic death ray. Such destructive weapons in the hands of many vastly increases the chance that they will be used. At any rate, the way to combat that problem isn't large-scale warfare.

Edited to add: I know I'm being a downer, obviously I have SOME hope or I wouldn't have kids. smile.gif
j10pilot
First of all, I am kinda curious as to how did the U.K. end up with more wars than the U.S.. Call me ignorant, but other than the brief fight with Egypt over the Suez and Falkland Island, I don't know of any wars where the U.K. took part that the U.S. didn't. Did the U.K. fight wars in its African colonies like France did?

Anyway, on to the questions.

QUOTE(Julian @ Oct 18 2005, 01:52 AM)
Do you share my cautious optimism at the apparent decline of large-scale international conflict?


Yes. Wars are just too costly nowadays, soft power is the way to go, my man, soft power.


To what factors do you attribute the shift away from country-vs-country conflicts towards internal conflicts, insurrections and terrorism?

Again, war is just too costly. Plus, nation states are becoming more inter-dependent through trade, if you can get what you want through flexing your economic muscle, then it won't be necessary to go with the military option.


What can our leaders (and us) do to continue this downward trend and extend it into smaller-scale and more anarchic conflicts, including terrorism?

Be a little more considerate, learn about other people and culture, try to see things from different perspective, and have faith in humankind. smile.gif
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