Decline of Armed Conflicts
October 18, 2005 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Decline of armed conflicts primarily due to UN peace efforts: study Good news, however you attribute it. (more inside)
posted by dreamsign (14 comments total)
Published by Oxford Press, this is a multinational report from the Human Security Centre. (not to be confused with the U.N. Commission on Human Security, whose first report was in May of 2003) The report can be found here.
posted by dreamsign at 9:23 AM on October 18, 2005

It's time for the US to get out of Iraq and for the UN to move in.
posted by caddis at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2005

Who said we were looking to reduce armed conflicts?
posted by 2sheets at 9:56 AM on October 18, 2005

This is good news, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to say, as the first paragraph of the article does, that "armed conflicts have declined by 40 per cent since the end of the Cold War primarily because the United Nations was finally able to launch peacekeeping and conflict-prevention operations around the world". How did they arrive at the conclusion that the UN is the primary cause for this? The UN has done a lot, to be sure, but I think it's wrong to say that it's the primary reason for the decline in armed conflicts.
From the article: "Andrew Mack, a professor at the University of British Columbia who directed the study, said the end of the Cold War eliminated tensions between capitalism and communism, cut off U.S. and Russian funding for proxy wars, and most importantly liberated the United Nations." Professor Mack has this backwards, in that the most important thing about the new era is the end of the US-Russia rivalry, which resulted in funding and support, not to mention direct and indirect causation of, wars prior to the 90s. The report pretty much lays this out, pointing out the decline of battle-deaths per conflict per year in the postWWII era, the peace between the major powers during that time, with wars mainly being fought in and by poor nations, and the dramatic rise of civil wars following WWII until 1992. All this is easily explained by the crumbling of the old colonial empires and the Cold War maneuvering. That's not to say the UN hasn't done anything, just that this report gives it way, way too much credit.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:09 AM on October 18, 2005

The UN is ok at mediating the wealth and power of larger countries to help sort out fights among smaller poorer ones. It's not useful at all for moderating behavior related to the larger ones own self-interest. So yes, historically we just happen to be in a phase where, Iraq aside, the larger countries aren't fighting each other militarily anyway.
posted by scheptech at 10:39 AM on October 18, 2005

Conventional conflict is down because conventional conflict against the U.S. is suicide.

Non-conventional conflict--which stands a chance against a superpower--is up.

See, John Robb, "Journal: Human Security Systems," 18 October 2005.
posted by jefgodesky at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2005

caddis -- the UN did move in and was bombed out. Those bombings will continue if the UN goes back in. How do you expect them to maintain security if the US leaves?

The unfortunate consequence of America's mismanaged occupation is that the state of affairs in Iraq has degenerated to the point that traditional UN peacekeeping cannot be applied yet. The UN does not do counterinsurgency ... it comes in after both sides have negotiated a peace or a ceasefire, and it sticks around to make sure that both sides abide by that agreement.

Granted, there might be significant portions of the insurgency that are driven simply by anti-occupation sentiment, and if the US were to leave, these groups might celebrate and go home. But there are also factions who reject any foreign interference whatsoever. These are guys who make a habit of bombing Red Cross offices and targeting other NGOs. It's Pollyana-ish to believe that their hostility will abate if the US leaves now.

wrt to the topic at hand, my $.02 is on the belief that war as an instrument of national expansion no longer works. The global economy has largely supplanted armies and plunder as a method for enriching your nation. Wars today are mostly fought as a result of nations falling apart or on the whim of petty tyrants who aren't clever enough to build a working economy.
posted by bl1nk at 10:55 AM on October 18, 2005

Armed conflicts have declined by 40 per cent since the end of a type of war best characterized by the practice of staging smaller wars in other peoples' countries in order to dick around with your opponent, says a new study.
posted by queen zixi at 11:16 AM on October 18, 2005

Finally...something that isn't Bush's fault!
posted by you just lost the game at 11:17 AM on October 18, 2005

Notwithstanding the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995...

Oh, well thank god they're actively ignoring those, because I was thinking that maybe those little instances of carnage had slipped their minds. Having just watched 'Shake Hands with the Devil' recently, and watching the UN basically ignore the free-for-all that killed 800,000 people in 100 days, I'd say they're doing a bang-up job at maintaining global peace, and having meetings and press conferences. Well. Mostly. Except for those glaring inconsistencies.

agh. rant rant rant. 'Shake Hands...' was fucking hard to watch, and left me with the desire to take all those suits and stick 'em in the middle of an armed conflict. *Just for kicks*, you know. grrr.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:34 PM on October 18, 2005

War (of all sorts) has been steadily, though slowly, declining for a long time. Everyone at any point in history thinks current wars are terrible, but they were almost always more terrible before then, including now. At least that's what I got out of A History of Warfare.
posted by scottreynen at 2:15 PM on October 18, 2005

Zack_Replica: notwithstanding
posted by fleacircus at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2005

It was the whole 'notwithstanding' thing that rubs me the wrong way. 'Inspite of the fact that the UN has cocked up more than a couple of situations in a huge way, they're still lovely...' I suppose they could've just not brought up their failings, but that would've been dishonest. In this case it seems to me the AP's focusing on the good bits, which are commendable. I just don't think that the bad bits are looked at closely as they could be. Perhaps it's just not supposed to be the focus of this piece.
posted by Zack_Replica at 6:00 PM on October 18, 2005

Zack, I know what you mean. Given the director of the study was Annan's strategic planner for three years, he's a little self-invested in the outcome.

I have long been a UN skeptic -- there are things they do well, and things they do less well, and things they cock up completely. Peacekeeping is one thing they have been doing slightly better at. But they also have a long record of disappointments. I don't begrudge them their missteps -- this is hard stuff, and they rarely have sufficient resources to meet their lofty ambitions. Too often, though, they've coasted on the appearance of effort, rather than modulating policy to match their resources. The Security Council, to be sure, has had little interest in problem management at the level it should, and is too often a tool of superpowers.

It's clear to me that a reduction in conflict is primarily due to 1) the end of the Cold War and its proxy wars and 2) broader recognition of interdependence. 2a) might be long-term spread of democratic institutions, which tends to anchor a country's leadership. Few of those wars were in anybody's real interest. I'd put UN and non-UN peacekeeping efforts around 3), which isn't to devalue them but to refrain from over-valuing them.
posted by dhartung at 9:20 PM on October 18, 2005

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