Thursday, December 22, 2005

Some Good News... for a change...

The Progressive Policy Institute... an arm of the DLC .... is source of a number of factoids that I’ve presented here from time to time. Research that - while generally a bit “liberal” in its underlying goal sets - tends to be very pro- vigorous markets, trade and all sorts of other good things that conservatives ought to like.

Here’s the PPI talking about something that I have long maintained, that the world has been getting safer... or it was. WHich simply puts the lie to doom-crying cynics of both right and left.

==The World Has Become More Peaceful==

The Numbers:

Average annual deaths in wars, 1946-1990: 160,000
Average annual deaths in wars, 1991-2002: 90,000

What They Mean:

Despite the headlines and video, a visitor from earlier decades might find the 21st-century world surprisingly peaceful in this holiday season. The "Human Security Center" at the University of British Columbia, uses grants from five high-minded governments (Britain, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) to survey the world at war. Its report, one of the first systematic attempts to compare the frequency and violence of warfare over the past two centuries, finds surprisingly good news.

* Wars are less frequent; the decade since 1990 has had the fewest international and civil wars since the 1830s.

* Great-power wars are especially rare. No European war has pitted great powers against one another since 1945; none seem conceivable today. While some East Asian flash-points are still live, the Pacific's great powers too have refrained from direct clashes since the Soviet-Chinese border battle in 1969.

Brin note: My generation was "scheduled" to die by the multi-millions in a conventional WWIII. Instead, "all" we had was Vietnam. Traumatic... and it makes one suspicious why someone would want to revisit that experience on America. But small potatoes by comparison. Do we owe it all to the MAD policy of Saint Bomb? Who woulda thunk that such an insane notion would have actually worked?

* Wars are less bloody. Precision weapons make infantry charges and tank battles outdated and reduce civilian casualties. In the 1950s and 1960s, 200,000 people a year were being killed in wars; since 1990 the total has averaged 90,000.

Count backward to illustrate how unusual this is. Between 1000 A.D. and 1945, the longest period of uninterrupted peace among great powers was the 51-year stretch between the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. Europe's present peaceful stretch hit 60 last spring and shows no signs of strain.
I would add that the Clintonian Balkans Intervention went a long way toward completing the job, ending war and blatant tyranny in Europe - even at the “mini” level of the Balkans - for the first time in 4,000 years.

East Asia's calm seems a bit shakier, but is still longer than any comparable period since the second half of the 18th century.

The report suggests several possible (and not mutually exclusive) reasons for this. Some are political; decolonization and the end of the Cold War mean there are fewer nationalistic or ideological reasons to fight, and the spread of democracy may produce less belligerent governments. Another is military -- today's great powers are not only less bellicose but much stronger than they were in the past, with armies, air forces, and navies strong enough to deter any potential aggressor. A third reason is a possible greater respect for international law. Economic issues too may be in play, with trade and cross-border investment strengthening mutual interests and reducing reasons for conflict. According to the report: "The most effective path to prosperity in modern economies is through increasing productivity and international trade, not through seizing land and raw materials. In addition, the existence of an open global trading regime means it is nearly always cheaper to buy res ources from overseas than to use force to acquire them."

Further Reading:

The Human Security Report

PPI's National Security Project:

An exhaustive list of international and civil wars between 1816 and 2002. (Examples: Brazil vs. Naval Royalists, 1894; the Two Sicilies vs. Liberals, 1820-21; Yemen Arab Republic vs. Yahya Family, 1948; Bulgaria vs. Agrarian League, 1923; Nomonhan, 193):

Finally, there’s this hopeful item.

Hopeful in part because Diebold seems to be unraveling before our eyes... but also because the source is the utter-sellout New York Times... maybe finding some guts at last.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating and creepy . . .

SF author Kathryn Cramer looks into the background of one of the security consulting companies that have sprung up to compete for Homeland Security and defense contractor dollars:

Tony Fisk said...

off topic (but still good news), there are some nice items at WC (as ever):
- how to 'go solar' (in the snow!)
- Flattening Business Heirarchies. (heh! Maybe Al Qaedda will get us to be more like them: but *not* in the way they intend ;-)

off topic (and not such good news): The UK government has replied to the FOI request for the Blair/Bush memo, in which it is alleged that Bush proposed bombing Al Jazeera news headquarters.

Unsurprisingly, the request has been rejected (it's apparently prejudicial to state relations. A cynic might interpret that as: 'George wouldn't approve.' Especially after the Downing Street memos, which clearly state the US intentions to invade Iraq *pre* 9/11)

Mohammed at Al Jazeera notes the interesting wording:
'I can confirm that the Cabinet Office holds information which is relevant to your request'

He interprets that as proof, but without the wording of the original request, I couldn't possibly comment.

Oh,well! Since I'm about 19 hours closer to the stocking rush than most of you folks, I'll bid you seasons greetings now.

The war's over! Merry Christmas!

jomama said...

Economic issues too may be in play, with trade and cross-border investment strengthening mutual interests and reducing reasons for conflict.

I expect that's the prime reason.

Another seems to be the nation state's ability to keep their own people 'down on the farm', so to speak, and not banging on its door for whatever reason. Trading will keep 'em busy...for a while.

Anonymous said...

Interesting holiday nuggest, courtesy bOING-bOING:

Soviet-era New Year's cards. The holiday had many of the trappings of Christmas, with presents under a decorated tree and a guy in a red suit (Grandfather Frost):

I especially like this one:


Anonymous said...

Happy holidays all!

Scary tidbit: over at safehaven

Basically, the Fed is hiding a key economic indicator (M3) for the first time since it was founded in 1913. The Fed also created $192 billion over the past 6 weeks, which is equivalent to a 16.7% inflation rate. Lots of Fed Presidents are resigning. Iran is selling their oil in Euros, not dollars.

Can anyone confirm for this poor engineer that this is really scary monetary policy?

Anonymous said...

That is extremely scary monetary policy for the US.

Ceasing to publish the M3 is just an increase in secrecy - of itself a bad idea, but might be meaningless.

Raising inflation rates to 16.7% isn't good. Reasons should be obvious. (I suspect it amounts to a stealth 16.7% tax).

The really dangerous point (for the US) does, however, appear to be Iran's changing to Euro-denominated oil. It is believed that one of the main reasons for the recent strength of the dollar on the international currency markets is that with the rise in oil prices, people need to buy more dollars than ever in order to buy oil. Therefore people are buying them even when the balance of trade is risible and other indicators are bad to horrible. With Iranian oil switching to Euros (and others probably following), that gives people a lot less reason to buy dollars - meaning that the dollar is in quite serious danger, especially if other oil producing nations follow suit.

Anonymous said...

The statistics on fewer killed in war is not necessarily because of more accurate weapons but because in the 1990 on there have been dozens of nonviolent conflicts in place of “Hot” wars. For Example Russia, Philippines, Ukraine and Bolivia. For example in one report I saw in the last century the world averaged ten civilians killed for each solder killed. In Iraq since 1991 over one million have died as the result of our invasions and economic sanctions, mostly from disease and malnutrition. Aproxemently 100,000 have been directly killed by the US military in the wars. So as far as Iraq goes it lived up to the ten to one ratio.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor nitpick:
" 51-year stretch between the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the Austro-Prussian war of 1866"

Umm ... Crimean War ring any bells? France, Britain, Turkey vs Russia? OK< so none of them were exactly practicing all-out warfare at the time, but still

Anonymous said...

I'm not too concerned about the change in interest rates - I did some poking around their site, and they appear to be one of those "OMGBUYGOLDNOW!!!111oneoneone" sites, that believes money not backed by precious metals is completely unstable and unsuitable for financial usage. Of course, using gold as a basis for financial transactions has many of the same inherent issues that using printed money does - that it is only valued so long as the people are willing to accept that it has value.

Anonymous said...

@ thane walkup,

Yeah, I should have put a caveat in my post - everyone needs to struggle with seeing reality and not their perception of it, and to the gold fiends the answer is always "buy gold." That is why I wanted to get some smart, independent opinions here.

But notice that was not an interest rate, that was an increase in inflation - basic economics - if you print more money, the money is worth less per unit, even if it is only backed by our imagination. Couple that with oil selling in Euros and then everyone will see that, if its not naked, the Emperor Dollar is at least not fully dressed.

Anyway, an interesting piece to the puzzle of the present...