World peace is on the rise according to international relations scholar Joshua Goldstein. In his new book, “Winning the War on War,” Goldstein attempts to show that fewer wars are starting and more are ending.
On this premise, it’s easy to conclude, as Goldstein does, that armed conflict worldwide is in decline. Goldstein alleges that no national armies are fighting one another, and all of today’s wars are civil wars, which tend to be smaller. Because of this, he asserts that the number of war-related deaths globally speaking, both military and civilian, has dramatically declined over time.
Goldstein uses the history of United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Rwanda and West Africa, and the purportedly increasing success rate of such efforts to make his point. But to make such a claim seems counterintuitive as the United States further entrenches itself in wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. There’s also the NATO-backed fight in Libya against semi-ousted leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, among other bloody civil wars, like those taking place in Somalia, the Congo, and various parts of East Asia.
But Goldstein says the opposite is true. Armed conflict has declined worldwide, and the United States’ wars are coming to an end. As we approach the ten-year mark of the Afghanistan war, is the “tide of war receding” as President Obama stated after Osama bin Laden’s killing? Can we separate the United States foreign wars from war-related violence in other parts of the world? Are we headed towards a more peaceful world? Do news headlines reflect the reality of war and peace in our society?
Joshua S. Goldstein, Professor Emeritus, School of International Service, American University, author of Winning the War on War