|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Peace In Our Time?
August 31, 2006 – The Guardian Unlimited
You may not have noticed from the newspaper headlines and TV bulletins, but world peace has finally broken out - at least according to a fascinating article in the Christian Science Monitor.
"Last week marked 1,000 consecutive days with no wars between nations anywhere in the world," the article says. "This is the longest episode of inter-state peace in more than half a century."
The last recorded conflict between two states ended in November 2003, when India and Pakistan embarked on a ceasefire.
The article's authors - Charles Kurzman from the University of North Carolina and Neil Englehart from Bowling Green State University - readily acknowledge that other sorts of conflicts still rage around the world, but they are not wars of government against government.
There are also fewer civil wars raging around the world than there were 12 years ago, they add.
At the same time, there has probably never been more talk about "existential" threats - to the US, Israel, the western way of life, etc.
"Our sense of insecurity grows even as the threat level diminishes," the authors say.
The main threats to the United States, according to the president's National Security Strategy, are no longer the most powerful countries in the world.
Instead, they are weak or isolated states such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and non-state groups such as al-Qaida. Terrorism remains a global threat, like the Soviet Union during the cold war - but without the missiles, troops, and billion-dollar budgets. The conflicts we face now do not threaten us with the massive, focused destructive power of another state.
Although Americans are far more likely to die in a traffic accident than a terrorist attack, politicians don't scramble to demonstrate their toughness on auto safety.
The problem with this, the authors argue, is that while real wars decline, metaphorical wars - against drugs, crime, and above all terrorism - are proliferating.
Paradoxically, world peace may lead us to turn these non-wars into real wars. Without serious threats from other states, the US is more likely to use military power to address other goals - a temptation all the stronger when these are labeled as wars, too.
Militarizing the approach to these problems can lead to conflict with other states, and thus into real wars. The war on drugs has led us to get involved in the civil conflict in Colombia. The war on terror led us to the invasion of Iraq and, more recently, to help start a new civil conflict in Somalia, where we are funding warlords who claim to be fighting affiliates of al-Qaida.
Source: The Guardian Unlimited