(SMH) Peter Hartcher: Wars wane: is the world really falling into peace?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There has been a pronounced decline in the number of wars and the deadliness of war in the world. One expert, John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State University, writes: "We may be reaching a point where war - in both its international and civil varieties - ceases, or nearly ceases to exist, a remarkable development that has attracted little notice."

Harvard professor of psychology Steven Pinker says that it "may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history". He writes in The Better Angels of Our Nature: "We may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence."

So what is the evidence so far? Let's start with recent history, where the data is clearest....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General

6 Comments
Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. sophy0075 wrote:

This is really just an excellent piece showing how to lie with statistics, obviously composed by a secular humanist philosophy of “every day in every way people are getting better and better.” Bah! If one grouped together the past 100 years, one could show that war was <i>increasing<> because one would be including the deadliness of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and all of the other battles, skirmishes, vendettas, “police actions,” and attempts at genocide (think Rwanda, for starters). There are too many to list, and if I tried, ten Titus19 readers would write in “you forgot _____” and they’d be right.

January 31, 11:24 am | [comment link]
2. JustOneVoice wrote:

Here is a TED presentation that talks about the statistic of Death by Violence (including war, murder, etc.).

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

It has some of the same issues mentioned by #1, but it is still interesting.

January 31, 2:43 pm | [comment link]
3. driver8 wrote:

Here’s an interesting response to Pinker’s claims about violence in the Middle Ages:

http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2011/11/steven-pinkers-medieval-murder-rates.html

January 31, 5:47 pm | [comment link]
4. driver8 wrote:

David Bentley Hart’s review of Pinker’s book:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/12/the-precious-steven-pinker

January 31, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
5. MichaelA wrote:

It is ironic that Peter Hartcher writes of war lessening, when the armed forces of his own country are involved in far more military operations than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. But then, Hartcher is a dill.

The frequency of wars fluctuates. Its easy enough for anyone living in one of the less stressful times to say ‘Look, mankind is learning not to fight wars’. If you combine that with some blindspots about what is really happening in the world, it can seem like a compelling argument. Unfortunately, years like 1914 and 1939 roll around every so often and disabuse us of our fantasies.

January 31, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:

5, I was just going to say that.  The run up to WWI was pretty quiet until 1914.  By the way we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the War to End All Wars.

February 1, 7:54 am | [comment link]
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