The World is Becoming Safer

Source: Ali Wyne, nonresident fellow, the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and a security fellow with the Truman National Security Project, in The New York Times, September 5

Extract from the op ed article titled “Don’t Conflate Greater Complexity With Greater Danger”

…Largely owing to the carnage that continues to engulf the Middle East, the worldwide rate of wartime deaths increased from 0.3 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 1.4 in 2014; even this latter figure, though, is far lower than the average that prevailed in the Cold War. While the period between the end of World War II and the disintegration of the Soviet Union may have been a “long peace” at the highest level of analysis – policymakers managed to avert a third world war – but it witnessed numerous civil wars and genocides, and the nuclear sword of Damocles came close to dropping on many occasions. The Carnegie Endowment’s Rachel Kleinfeld, author of a forthcoming book that examines how certain countries have overcome extreme violence, contends that recent years represent “a blip in a much longer trajectory” toward greater world peace.

While we are inundated with graphic accounts of the Islamic State’s latest attack, we read surprisingly little about the momentous conclusion of a 52-year-old civil war in Colombia that claimed 220,000 lives and displaced over six million others. Unfortunately, in an era of increasingly powerful and pervasive social media, we hear far more about isolated instances of barbarism than about enduring signs of hope. This asymmetry persuades us not only to overstate present dangers, but also to wax nostalgic for a past whose horrors vastly exceed those that are occurring today.

The psychologist Steven Pinker and the president of Colombia recently noted that “we inhabit a world where five out of six people live in regions largely or entirely free of armed conflict.” That achievement is a powerful testament to human agency: however much it may appear that we are prisoners of forces beyond our control, incapable of grounding ourselves amid ubiquitous upheaval, we can bequeath to posterity a world of greater dignity.


One response to “The World is Becoming Safer

  1. As I have shared on my FB over recent years, The Atlantic, The Economist, Financial Times, and now New York Times has reported in some detail that we living in far more peaceful times. No more war in Colombia, Eritrea, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Nicaragua+++. Tourism has replaced war and tyranny in dozens of nations in the past three decades. War and tyranny dominate only a handful today. Our perceptions are distorted because we have 24/7 cable news that brings every incident to our living room. 24/7 news and social media told the Syrians where to flee, and conditioned many in North America and Europe to accept them. Strains over 1million+ entering Germany are real. But we can rejoice that global stability has brought increased tolerance and generosity (than if this occurred in 1970’s).