Could War Be Going Out of Style?

In an article in current issue of Foreign Policy, American University Professor Joshua Goldstein provides data to support his title,“World peace could be closer than you think:”

the last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace.

Possible reasons for this substantial decline in war fatalities are given in the article. Professor Goldstein’s related, new book, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, has garnered praise from some noteworthy reviewers, adding credibility to his assertion:

 “Winning the War on War does what no other book has attempted, providing a synoptic view, and narrative, of the slow but successful evolution of UN peacekeeping. It takes an unusual and unorthodox approach that works very well indeed.” Paul Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History, Yale University; author of the bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

“Professor Goldstein has written a novel, highly informative, and exceedingly valuable book.” David Hamburg, President Emeritus, Carnegie Corporation of New York; former president, American Association for the Advancement of Science; author of No More Killing Fields.

I hope you’ll enjoy this thought provoking article and book. I also hope that Prof. Goldstein is right about war fatalities being on a continuing downward trend. Aside from the horrendous loss of life, every war entails at least a small risk of spiraling out of control and ending with the use of nuclear weapons.

Martin Hellman

What You Can Do
If you agree that society’s complacency about nuclear weapons is unwarranted, please share this blog post with friends and read the home page of our related web site. At the end, it lists four simple, but effective actions you can take.

About Nuclear Risk

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects your credit card. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic.
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