The authoritative, London-based, weekly magazine, The Economist, has just issued its annual look into the next year: The World in 2016. It contains an essay written by John Andrews entitled, “More War than Peace.” He notes International Peace Day, September 21, established by the United Nations in 1981, and predicts that this day in the coming year will be anything but peaceful. “…swathes of Syria, Iraq, and Africa will be racked by violence; murderous drug cartels will threaten the stability of Latin America; and “frozen conflicts”, from the Korean peninsula to the Caucasus, will risk thawing into renewed wars.”
He continues by indicating the “(relatively) good news is that the casualties will be trifling compared with the horrors of the past.” He then provides summary statistics for the world wars of the 20th century, followed by statistics showing the drop in war-related deaths in the decades, 1960-2010.
Unfortunately, he indicates, this trend will reverse itself in the future. He predicts an increase in such deaths because of religious, ideological or ethnic insurgencies, and also civil wars.
He thus contradicts Steven Pinker in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, discussed in my earlier essay on the causes of peace. Such quantitative analysis and prediction is certainly interesting but built on a very precarious foundation. Historically, war and peace are very hard to predict. We can hope that world wars are a thing of the past; however, Plato was correct in saying, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” War will remain a recognized, legitimate instrument of international politics to resolve clashes of interests. We must do our best to push it as far as possible to the bottom of the options available to a political actor pursuing its interests. (Please see Part III.)