Monday, May 22, 2006

Stability Over-Rated

Michael Barone (via Instapundit) writes of the good times we are living in. It is an assessment that seems odd given the media gloom over the economy. But the international scene was more interesting for me.

Of note is this trend:

The Human Security Centre of the University of British Columbia has been keeping track of armed conflicts since World War II. It reports that the number of genocides and violent conflicts dropped rapidly after the end of the Cold War and that in 2005 the number of armed conflicts was down 40 percent from 1992. Wars have also become less deadly: The average number of people killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002 it was just 600. The conflict in Iraq has not significantly changed that picture. American casualties are orders of magnitude lower than in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and precision weapons have enabled us to vastly reduce the civilian death toll.

Given that many now yearn for the joys of stability in the Middle East rather than trying to change the dysfunctional region, it would be good to remember that when the Cold War ended, the loss of that stability was lamented, too. A number of people complained that the stability that America and Soviet Russia imposed kept clients in check and that the end of the Cold War would unleash long-checked anger. Never mind the constant threat of nuclear war that went with it, too.

Perhaps the end of the Cold War did unleash a short surge of anger. But perhaps forced to accept the consequences of acting on that anger rather than counting on their superpower patrons to drag them back from the brink ("Hey! You're damned lucky Washington/Moscow won't let me kick your ass!"), nations have eased off on their own. So now, armed conflict is down. Casualties are down. And all without the "stability" that the Cold War enforced.

So remember this global trend as people extol the virtues of deadening stability in the Middle East. And ignore the nuclear angle with this struggle, too.