Is war declining?

by on March 12, 2018 at 12:55 am in Data Source, History, Political Science | Permalink

From Michael Mann:

For over 150 years liberal optimism has dominated theories of war and violence. It has been repeatedly argued that war and violence either are declining or will shortly decline. There have been exceptions, especially in Germany and more generally in the first half of the twentieth century, but there has been a recent revival of such optimism, especially in the work of Azar Gat, John Mueller, Joshua Goldstein, and Steven Pinker who all perceive a long-term decline in war and violence through history, speeding up in the post-1945 period. Critiquing Pinker’s statistics on war fatalities, I show that the overall pattern is not a decline in war, but substantial variation between periods and places. War has not declined and current trends are slightly in the opposite direction. The conventional view is that civil wars in the global South have largely replaced inter-state wars in the North, but this is misleading since there is major involvement in most civil wars by outside powers, including those of the North. There is more support for their view that homicide has declined in the long-term, at least in the North of the world (with the United States lagging somewhat). This is reinforced by technological improvements in long-distance weaponry and the two transformations have shifted war, especially in the North, from being “ferocious” to “callous” in character. This renders war less visible and less central to Northern culture, which has the deceptive appearance of being rather pacific. Viewed from the South the view has been bleaker both in the colonial period and today. Globally war and violence are not declining, but they are being transformed.

The pointer is from the excellent Kevin Lewis.

1 yoav March 12, 2018 at 1:26 am

This is very hard thing to say. if you look at late 19th centuary, it would look like war is declining, especially compared to the napoleonic wars. the american civil war is just a small in the periphiery (like syria now). BUT WW1 is just around the corner, and all this “permanent peace” is nonsense. Just as unexpectedly we can have another war. Though i hope we won’t


2 Ray Lopez March 12, 2018 at 1:38 am

Good points, the “Long Century” of the 19th was replaced by the “Short Century” of the 20th, and on a per capita basis, you could say war has declined. The next world war IMO will be nuclear, starting in Korea.


3 ChrisA March 12, 2018 at 1:51 am

No country will ever start a nuclear exchange for the simple reason that the leaders of that country don’t want to die (or at least in total). You don’t see even the most fanatical of leaders undertaking suicide missions, they leave that to the underlings. The most likely cause of any future nuclear attack will be by terrorists. But such an effort takes a lot of organisation, and the more people involved the less likely a conspiracy is to succeed, so I think the chances will remain low.


4 Ray Lopez March 12, 2018 at 1:55 am

Good point but refuted by a study that concluded if Kim of North Korea thought he would be taken out in a regime change by the USA, he would go out with a bang. Nazi Germany killing their own citizens in the closing days of WWII, on order of Hit ler, is a historical example. Leonidas and the 300’s last stand at Thermopylae is another example, and so on, it’s called in literature ‘the heroic sacrifice’.


5 ChrisA March 12, 2018 at 4:32 am

But even Nazi Germany didn’t use poisonous gas in WW2 for fear of reprisals. And Hitler only killed himself as the fighting was literally at his door. Of course NK leadership have to posture that they will do all sorts of terrible things if their regime is threatened, that is simply standard game theory. The last 300 were foot soldiers defending their homeland so supportive more of my point than yours.

6 Jan March 12, 2018 at 5:26 am

Who knows if that is correct, but it seems about right. So if we believe that, or even put decent odds on it being true, then it simply tells us that we better not go into NK guns blazing. Which is unfortunately what some in the administration were reportedly advocating for over the last year.

7 GoneWithTheWind March 12, 2018 at 10:03 am

There has been a 70 year long impasse as a result of nuclear weapons and a obvious super power that intimidates those nations who would choose war to further their agenda. This will end of course and likely end in an unprecedented human disaster. It really cannot happen any other way. .

8 Jeff R March 12, 2018 at 10:20 am

Or maybe nuclear weapons become obsolete. Defensive systems become so good they take out ICBMs like bugs on a windshield. Sensors get too good at detecting submarines, bombs in cargo containers, etc, so that’s out, too.

9 john March 12, 2018 at 11:56 am

Study? Didn’t he actually say that would be his response to any such attempts; a preemptive nuclear strike (at least on ROK but more recently the USA).

10 john March 12, 2018 at 11:55 am

Putin just said Russia would respond with their nuclear power to any country using nuclear weapons against one of his allies. The published view seems to be that he was talking about Syria but I cannot think of any reason for that. Who would initiate a nuclear strike on Syria? What if his statement is more about North Korea?

He did not say anything about limiting his support to an initial attack so leaving open the interpretation that even a retaliatory response may result in a similar Russian response.

Russia, and China, gain a lot if North Korea were to strike at US bases in Asia and successfully invade and unify the peninsula under the Kim regime.

If North Korea did engage in a limited strike (Seoul uninhabitable works for Pyongyang for historical reasons; competing capitals for different regimes now and then) thinking the likelihood of a nuclear response from the USA very unlikely as that would risk significant damage in the USA from Russia Kim might see it as a calculated risk — and one that he doesn’t have to face himself as he could be well hidden away from any targeted areas.


11 msgkings March 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm

If NK nukes SK I don’t see Russia having a problem with us wiping out NK.

12 Larry Siegel March 12, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Russia and China have a lot to gain from North Korea, probably the poorest country in the world, conquering and destroying South Korea, one of the richest? I don’t think so. Russia and China seem rational to me, and they both sell a lot of stuff (oil in the case of Russia, manufactured goods in the case of China) to South Korea. Killing one of your best customers is not rational.

13 Indigent March 12, 2018 at 1:32 am

What are the metrics, for those of us without access to the journal?


14 ChrisA March 12, 2018 at 1:46 am

I would believe that a single unchallenged superpower would significantly reduce major wars, but result in lots of smaller rebellion style conflicts, that may reflect the shift the author describes as callous vs ferocious. Chest beating by Russia and China aside, the US is clearly in that space of sole unchallenged superpower at the moment.


15 sine causa March 12, 2018 at 2:53 am

I can only access the abstract. Does the author claim that the number of wars has not declined , or that the casualties from war have not declined or both ?

In “ The Better Angels…” Pinker claims that “ when you scale by population size only one of the 20th century atrocities even make the top ten” [of the number of people killed] ( paperback ed. p 194). Number one is the An Lushan Revolt ( 8th century).


16 Cyrus March 12, 2018 at 6:49 am

Scaling by population size would be expected to sort events affecting small populations to the top even in the absence of any trend. Variance is more significant when the population is smaller.


17 sine causa March 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

I disagree. It’s not arbitrarily small. It’s not 3 people and one gets killed. The An Lushan revolt killed 36M people. People who think war is more common because of the experience of the first half of the 20 th century may well be using the “ availability heuristic”( the easier it is to recall examples of an event, the more probable people think it is).

We have forgotten how bloody the wars of the more distant past were or how effective at mass killing. The Mongols massacred 40 million people.


18 JonFraz March 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

How do we know how many people died in the An Lusan revolt with any confidence? Well, into the modern era casualty figures from both natural disasters and man made horrors were grossly inflated. Occasionally we come across hard evidence that can back up some of the large death tolls (e.g., there’s now good reason to think the Black Death may have killed even more victims than contemporaries claimed), but very often the figures bequeathed us by the past appear exaggerated by at least an order of magnitude.


19 Steve Sailer March 12, 2018 at 3:03 am

Norman Angell’s argument in The Great Illusion in 1911 that in the industrial world, interstate war doesn’t pay has been repeatedly vindicated by events.


20 Wayne H March 12, 2018 at 3:17 am

War has not ended, whomever has the ability to wield the forces and capabilities of the state has the advantage over other states or groups.


21 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 6:41 am

Although that is not the case in the West. Although the potential of the Western state is enormous, the State is largely unable to wield that power. In part, for conventional war, this is because the West has large constituencies that are just this side of treasonous – to the point they will support anyone the West opposes. They are dominant in the media and academia.

But in part it is because the rulers of the West simply do not have the courage to use that force. Take crime for instance. It is not that most of the West is incapable of detecting and catching criminals. London, for instance, is covered in cameras. It is that the State is simply not brave enough to impose anything but token sentences. Catch and release. The US is a partial exception.

What this means is that much of the West is now in a state of de facto low level civil war. The US certainly is. But the State, despite its immense potential force, is unable to do a damn thing about it.


22 Troll Me March 12, 2018 at 9:08 am

It is not a crime to openly disagree with government in the West. Nor is it a crime to make use of argumentation originating from non-Western countries, or to cite sources published in non-Western publications, when doing so.

As for whether de facto civil war not involving guns and ammo is at play (e.g., advanced means of psychological warfare), I think that is an extremely legitimate form of questioning. There is a difference between a) frank and vigorous debate intended toward improved quality or quantity of production, or similarly decent argumentation directed toward good faith representation of one’s individual or group interests, and b) using any means possible to worsen the quality of life of those who stand on the other side of the the debate.


23 Steve Sailer March 12, 2018 at 3:21 am

The CIA World Factbook has finally updated its defense spending as a % of GDP stats:

The US is down to 3.3% of GDP, less than half the 6.8% rate in the mid-1980s.

Russia was up to 5.4% in 2016, almost equal with Israel’s 5.6%. Saudi Arabia spends 9.9%.

Pakistan spends 3.6%, India 2.5%.

South Korea is only 2.3%, Iran 2.7%, Estonia 2.2%, China 1.9%, Poland 2.0%, Turkey 1.7%, Ukraine 3.5%, Latvia 1.5%, Finland 1.3%. Georgia, which set off a war with Russia in 2008, is down to 2.2%.

Ethiopia, which used to fight wars with Eritrea, is at 0.7%. North Korea and Eritrea aren’t listed.

I’d say there look like there are some potential places where local governments are thinking seriously about war with their neighbors, but not too many.


24 Larry Siegel March 12, 2018 at 6:17 am

A lot of defense spending by a country could mean that the country is preparing to fight a war, or that it is trying hard to deter one. We don’t know.


25 Troll Me March 12, 2018 at 9:14 am

Given that it’s “defence” and not “offense”, and considering the general increase in militarization of police in the USA which could legitimately be argued as having strictly defensive value for the fact of difficulty to project local or state police in overseas action, this is almost certainly the lowest possible calculation of that number.


26 john March 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Already outdated as China just announced it’s Defense spending for the near future and it’s a lot more than 1.9% of GDP. Would also suspect that it’s way low on both Iran and Turkey too. Russia is probably also going up but part of the increase there is probably the decline in GDP it’s seen.


27 John March 12, 2018 at 5:27 am

Litigation is less messy than war, but it is similar and still destroys wealth.

This isn’t because it transfers wealth from the loser to the winner, but because the rewards for representing the litigants are occupying highly intelligent people. This is instead of them engaging in occupations that create wealth, such as developing cures for diseases or generally improving the lot of humanity.


28 chuck martel March 12, 2018 at 5:46 am

Contrary to popular belief, historically war isn’t the product of a desire for the stuff and land of strangers but a means of directing the anti-social energies of young males away from their own society and toward “the other”. As society has evolved, highly organized sports and contests of other kinds have absorbed the negative energies of post-adolescents and the fighting of war itself has become so technologically complex that the youngsters can’t be used in most of the roles required. Life has also become more dear. The general fatalism that permeated a society where death by disease or accident could strike at any moment has been replaced, through the efforts of the health industry and its government enablers, with an attitude that holds life itself as the most important thing. Today it’s impossible to believe that the US secretary of the treasury would engage in a fatal duel with the vice president. The general population, pretty much weaned from a belief in the hereafter, no longer plans for an eternity in heaven. They do, however, endorse the use of advanced technology to blow the foreign enemy to smithereens as long as they do not have to personally attend to the chore or clean up the mess afterwards.


29 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 6:45 am

Contrary to popular belief, historically war isn’t the product of a desire for the stuff and land of strangers but a means of directing the anti-social energies of young males away from their own society and toward “the other”.

Evidence? It is more likely that civilizations are like low level drug gangs. The young men who are full of anti-social energy want war in order to kill some people and hence acquire status, money and the admiration of women.


30 clockwork_prior March 12, 2018 at 6:59 am

‘The young men who are full of anti-social energy want war’

Yet, almost bizarrely in terms of centuries of European history, the people responsible for war happening were generally old men who seemingly cared little about how many people died.

Young people no more start wars than they end them, if history is used as a guide.


31 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 7:30 am

You know, some times it is a bit of a struggle to be polite. The truth is that is not bizarre because it is not true. The people theoretically in charge tend to be older but that has nothing to do with the demand for war. Regimes run by young people tend invariably to be more warlike than those run by the old. The Popes have quietly sat in Vatican for centuries not demanding war. While the Nazis, and pretty much everyone in the Soviet Communist Party except Stalin, were young.

Young people like war. Old people do not. This is not a surprise if you think one of the main purposes of war is to loot old people and take their daughters.


32 clockwork_prior March 12, 2018 at 8:30 am

‘The people theoretically in charge tend to be older but that has nothing to do with the demand for war.’

You do know that the American Founders, with their keen grasp of European history, would disagree with you, starting with that fact that all European monarchies maintained standing armies. And in states like Prussia or France or Spain, no one in power cared about what the peasants wanted.

‘Regimes run by young people tend invariably to be more warlike than those run by the old’

Makes you wonder if you know anything about Old Fritz –

Or that guy named Napoleon, who did not seem to lose his taste for imperial conquest –

‘This is not a surprise if you think one of the main purposes of war is to loot old people and take their daughters.’

You seem fascinated by that whole rapine thing, but again, that does not describe the last 5 centuries or so of European warfare. In part because the soldiers did not care who they looted from in the least, and had little interest in taking foreigners back to their villages. It most certainly does not describe 20th Century warfare in Europe by any rational measure.

33 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 8:45 am

You do know that the American Founders, with their keen grasp of European history, would disagree with you, starting with that fact that all European monarchies maintained standing armies. And in states like Prussia or France or Spain, no one in power cared about what the peasants wanted.

Ahh, so reliable. Naturally you respond with an irrelevant stream of consciousness. What else would you do? How old was the average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence? 44. George Washington’s age in 1776. But Hamilton was 20.

Makes you wonder if you know anything about Old Fritz –

Well that proves something about you. You could hardly have picked a worse example. Freddie comes to power in 1740 at the prime age of 28. And immediately starts a war by seizing Silesia from Austria. Which in turn led to the Seven Years War. But as he grew older and wiser he realized what a disaster he had caused and was lucky to have survived. Thereafter, despite living to 74 he only fought two small scale wars – dividing Poland and keeping Austria out of Bavaria.

Or that guy named Napoleon, who did not seem to lose his taste for imperial conquest –

Why pick the 100 Days? The period where he was hoping the Allies would leave him alone and only fought because they would not? Napoleon became First Consul at the age of 30. After begging to be sent to every war he could find.

You seem fascinated by that whole rapine thing, but again, that does not describe the last 5 centuries or so of European warfare. In part because the soldiers did not care who they looted from in the least, and had little interest in taking foreigners back to their villages. It most certainly does not describe 20th Century warfare in Europe by any rational measure.

Again. Soviet soldiers in Europe.

34 clockwork_prior March 12, 2018 at 8:57 am

‘Naturally you respond with an irrelevant stream of consciousness.’

Or an extremely basic historical summary, which you seem unaware of. Particularly in terms of absolutism. Which the American founders opposed, of course, one prime reason being the waste of war that European monarchies had been engaged in for centuries.

‘Which in turn led to the Seven Years War.’

16 years later, but apparently that time span is covered by ‘led to.’ And Old Fritz fought that war until he was 51, by the way.

‘Why pick the 100 Days? ‘

Because Napoleon, even older than when he lost his empire, returned to waging war.

‘Soviet soldiers in Europe.’

Raped – they did not bring any of those daughters back home. Of course, maybe you had a different idea when writing ‘and take their daughters’ than the sort of practice common in the Roman Empire.

35 Troll Me March 12, 2018 at 9:27 am

Interesting. And in a variety of ways I agree.

But the old men probably could have found some means of settling down the youth instead of taking advantage of conditions to make use of them in war.

36 Linvega March 12, 2018 at 7:10 am

If anything, it’s the opposite. The anti-social energies of young males is a direct result of the fact that this is/was a way for them to acquire stuff and land.

It’s just as nonsensical as arguing that male animals like the gorillas don’t REALLY compete for female harems, they actually need just a way to vent their ‘anti-social energy’. Yes, sure, in a way that’s right. But it just kicks the can down the road a little bit further to the question ‘why do males in so many species tend to have anti-social energy to begin with?’. And the answer to that question is ‘because it lets them acquire females’.

In any case though, it’s even more weird for humans. In a lot of wars, the population that was actually doing the war HATED it. It was the nobility that liked to use war as a means to an end, and they weren’t necessarily young nor did they necessarily engage in it, so they didn’t really vent anything.

The average young male on the other hand usually tended more towards bar brawls or at worst banditry, not outright war.


37 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 7:38 am

The idea that young men hate war is a myth invented in the post-WW1 disillusionment. Pushed mainly by the Left. Which encouraged many veterans to complain.

At the time the soldiers manifestly thought otherwise. In fact veterans of WW1 enjoyed it so much that in most countries they immediate set about re-creating the violence of the war at home – the Stormtroopers, the Soviet commissars, the Black and Tans and so on. Even most of those who wrote complaints about the war were usually writing very different things in 1919.

What most veterans try to say, stepping carefully so no one accuses them of being psychopaths, is that they enjoyed the thrill of war a great deal and they miss it once they are out. But society demands they pose as victims.


38 Linvega March 12, 2018 at 8:17 am

I wrote population, not specifically young men at that point though. And on that point, the evidence for populations disliking wars is pretty insurmountable I’d say. In pretty much every time from ancient to medieval, the number 1 complaint you read from the ‘normal population’ is usually about safety, be it from banditry or war or both.

But yes, looking at young men specifically, they tend to like violence, yes. I never claimed anything even close to ‘all young men hate war’, quite the opposite actually. Otherwise, my main point, that this drive towards violence is a result of better outcomes for them, wouldn’t make sense to begin with.

On the other hand, that’s hardly the only drive. Even young men have a survival instinct. So turning around the statement into ‘all young men like war’ is just as nonsensical.

Lastly, I’d also argue that the shift is hardly all ‘myth invented by the left’. The changes stemming from ever more efficient guns, artillery, chemical warfare and nuclear warfare triggered the fears of people far more, while the violent urges don’t really get satisfied anymore. Even for young men, randomly getting killed by a (sniper) shot , or being hit by artillery, or slowly suffocating, or having your land devastated by nuclear bombs, all without reasonable chances to defend yourself from them, doesn’t sound very enticing.


39 clockwork_prior March 12, 2018 at 8:37 am

You forgot to point out how common draft dodging was – like in the Union during the Civil War (though that was an unusually brutal war by many previous standards, being essentially the first industrial war in human history). Or how many young men left their European birth nation to avoid the burdens of conscription. Here is a good example of that, by the way – ‘A historian has discovered a royal decree issued to Donald Trump’s grandfather ordering him to leave Germany and never come back.

Friedrich Trump, a German, was issued with the document in February 1905, and ordered to leave the kingdom of Bavaria within eight weeks as punishment for having failed to do mandatory military service and failing to give authorities notice of his departure to the US when he first emigrated in 1885.

Roland Paul, a historian from Rhineland-Palatinate who found the document in local archives, told the tabloid Bild: “Friedrich Trump emigrated from Germany to the USA in 1885. However, he failed to de-register from his homeland and had not carried out his military service, which is why the authorities rejected his attempt at repatriation.”

The decree orders the “American citizen and pensioner Friedrich Trump” to leave the area “at the very latest on 1 May … or else expect to be deported”’

40 TMC March 12, 2018 at 4:39 pm

THAT’s why today is better than 100 yrs ago. We have forwarding addresses.

41 Miguel Madeira March 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

War is large-scale organized violence; young males like violence, but usually don’t like “large-scale organized” things.

“Rambo”, ” James Braddock”, or the typical Commando/SAS/Special Forces actions (or, in the other side of aisle, Che Guevara or typical terrorism/guerrilla), yes. Regular army and conventional warfare, no.

Probably the reason because pacifism becomes popular in the 20th century is because, with the new technologies (like artillery, machine guns, etc.), war lost much of its individual heroic character, leaving only big masses of men in march (or perhaps not even in march but stuck in an immobile front). Note that if we look for the literature about the “horrors” of the WWI, the main “horror” is the boredom and the filth of the trenches, not the war itself ( “War, which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel and squalid.”. – Churchill)


42 Matthew` March 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm

“The general population, pretty much weaned from a belief in the hereafter, no longer plans for an eternity in heaven.”

You’ll need some citations in support of this statement. The most recent Pew survey shows that 72% of Americans believe in heaven. And the numbers, while lower, are still in excess of 50% in eastern europe, although western europe does fit your view:


43 chuck martel March 12, 2018 at 6:05 pm

It might be relatively painless to express a belief in heaven (which also implies a belief in hell) but the proof of this belief, as shown by the fellowship of Christians in the US, isn’t very impressive when you consider that there are no major traffic jams at 9 am on Sunday mornings. Actually, the morning schedule of Sunday church services seems to indicate a more serious worship of NFL football than Christianity.


44 Jonfraz March 13, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Re: The general population, pretty much weaned from a belief in the hereafter, no longer plans for an eternity in heaven.

Belief is an afterlife is still pretty common, even among people who seldom darken a church door. However that afterlife is a lot more distant for most people, no longer something looming just out of sight.


45 rayward March 12, 2018 at 6:51 am

What seems to have changed is the motivation for war. In the 19th and 20th centuries, war seemed motivated primarily by economics, including our own civil war and the first and second world wars (as well as lesser wars like the Philippine American War which had “only” 1 million casualties). Wars today seem motivated less by economics and more by religious and ethnic differences. I fear that wars motivated primarily by religious and ethnic differences have a greater risk of the ultimate solution (nuclear weapons) because the loser is likely to face certain death. Consider Iran. The conflict between Iran and its neighbors is a sectarian conflict, Shiite Muslims (Iran) against Sunni Muslims (led mainly by Saudi Arabia). For Iran, the threat may be existential: Shiite Muslims worldwide make up less than 15% of Muslims, Sunni Muslims more than 85%. For their crime of heresy, Iranians may face the choice of death or renunciation of their faith, neither very appealing and one that may induce Iran to resort to the ultimate solution. If that strikes one as irrational and therefore unlikely, consider Syria: Assad, a Shiite (Alawite) Muslim in a country in which about 85% of the Muslim population is Sunni, will fight the Sunni Muslim insurgents until the insurgents either defeat Assad or surrender because Assad knows that if he surrenders he and the rest of the Shiite Muslims in Syria face certain death. Assad has shown that he will gas the insurgents, so when backed into the proverbial corner, would he hesitate to use nuclear weapons if he had them? While one motivated by economics can be reasoned with, one motivated by religious and ethnic differences cannot.


46 Evans_KY March 12, 2018 at 8:22 am

What constitutes war is continually in flux. No longer is the battlefield a location. Formations and pageantry are relics. Instead we employ drones, hackers, and soft power in a passive aggressive battle with Islam, communism, and socialism. Lipstick on a pig.

The more poignant question, is aggression declining? Biology and evolution are instructive tools. We are, after all, merely tribes of the same species with a directive to protect our own. As population increases and climate change alters our resources, aggression and war are inevitable.

I apologize for the pessimism. Michael Gerson has put me in an introspective mood, My tribe has become self-destructive and I am enraged. War is at hand.


47 So Much For Subtlety March 12, 2018 at 8:32 am

If the choice is Trump or Hillary – someone who is morally dubious but is fine with Christians being Christians or someone who intends to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to perform abortions on their kitchen tables – then any sensible person of Faith would choose the lesser evil and vote Trump.

That the Atlantic has found a squish who is appalled because Christians are not squishy enough is hardly a surprise.


48 clockwork_prior March 12, 2018 at 8:45 am

I’m sure this is the sort of product you would buy a child to celebrate Easter, being such a dedicated follower of Jesus – ‘Set of 12 Toy Army Men Soldiers Plastic Easter Eggs’


49 Dick the Butcher March 12, 2018 at 9:03 am

It depends on your definition of the word “Christian.” My definition prohibits voting (when there is a choice) for the corrupt and incompetent hate-monger.

You and Gerson wrote that stuff as if it were a bad thing. There’s your problem.


50 msgkings March 12, 2018 at 2:09 pm

This is one reason some people give a lot of grief to Christians. You all get to make your own definitions?


51 Transnational Pants Machine March 12, 2018 at 8:41 am

Three years ago — or any time before 2017 Jan 20 really — it would have been very politically correct to point out that war and homicide are very obviously down, and have been going down for some time.

But these days it’s necessary for certain types to obfuscate (no! the wars are just moving around! and the USA is lagging in homicide decline!!!) because this is who they are, and this is what they do.

I’m sure they’ll go back to being chipper once Oprah gets elected.


52 Frederic Bush March 12, 2018 at 9:21 am

Ungated article here:

How do you get away with citing an anonymous blog post in an academic article?

I am not convinced, partly because of Anonymous(2011), but primarily because Pinker is looking at per capita numbers and Mann seems to be mostly quibbling about individual anecdotes and absolute numbers.


53 Zaua March 12, 2018 at 9:44 am

Even viewed from the perspective of the global South, I find the conclusion that the world is getting more peaceful hard to escape. Syria is tragic, but there is no war going on today remotely comparable to the civil wars in China from 1850-1950 where millions died, or even to the civil wars in Korea and Vietnam, or that accompanied the partition of India. Latin America is also completely at peace for the first time in its history, and many major wars in Africa have wound up in the last 20 years.


54 The Anti-Gnostic March 12, 2018 at 10:17 am

It’s hard to see any truly existential threats out there beyond fanatics like ISIS or Boko Haram moving into your neighborhood. I really don’t see such groups persisting as young men age out and rising global living standards keep people pacified. I can foresee at some point the widespread international will in wiping out such insurgencies as soon as they spring up; both these groups would be exterminated in a month with the necessary will and international coordination. This suggests we’ve reached the End of History, but maybe the Romans thought they’d reached the end of history too. We’ll see.


55 chuck martel March 12, 2018 at 5:57 pm

So history is the record of war and violence and when they end history will as well?


56 The Anti-Gnostic March 13, 2018 at 9:38 am

I see what you did there; history won’t end but History will. I’m using the phrase in Fukuyama’s sense. If fusion ever comes on line we’ll probably come as near as we practically can to abolishing scarcity.


57 China Cat March 13, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Something must end scarcity, a trans-scarcity world has already taken root in the mind of man.

58 John Thacker March 12, 2018 at 10:28 am

There is more support for their view that homicide has declined in the long-term, at least in the North of the world (with the United States lagging somewhat)

United States lagging not, it seems, in the sense of the rate of decline being slower, but in the sense of starting with an unusually high base. (E.g., the US rate of homicide, and gun homicide specifically, declined from 1992 to 2000 as much as it declined in Australia over the same time period, despite Australia making a major gun policy shift towards banning and the US, if anything, loosening gun carry laws. However, the US rate was and is significantly above other countries at similar income levels and more similar to the other Western Hemisphere countries that experienced slavery (with a profound difference between the states of the US that did and did not have chattel slavery.)


59 The Anti-Gnostic March 12, 2018 at 10:57 am

The factor is demographic, as practically every country in human history practiced chattel slavery at some point. Blacks and Hispanics commit homicide at higher rates than whites. It’s also true that American whites are more violent than European whites.


60 Art Deco March 12, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Blacks and Hispanics commit homicide at higher rates than whites.

The suicide rate of the black population is about 1/2 that of the general population.


61 The Anti-Gnostic March 13, 2018 at 9:41 am

And the homicide rate of the black population is over 4x that of the white population. Thanks for sharing.


62 Art Deco March 12, 2018 at 10:50 am

His argument is contrived and false.


63 The Anti-Gnostic March 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

Which part? The Global North countries all seem to have agreed that war with each other just isn’t worth it. For all the rhetoric out there among a certain breed of the punditry, war among US, Russia and China is simply not likely. Are you really going to get young men to sign up and go fight the Rooskies or the Chinamen? Germany and France seem at peace for the foreseeable future. The Austro-Hungarian Empire has been successfully divvied up. Who’s left?


64 Walter Sobchak March 12, 2018 at 12:24 pm

What the fuck are you talking about? The chinaman is not the issue here, Dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.


65 JWatts March 12, 2018 at 7:42 pm

” chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”

LOL, Swoosh.


66 Blaise March 12, 2018 at 11:23 am

Good trolling to not reference Taleb’s paper on war.


67 Adrian Ratnapala March 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm

The claim that foreign civil wars are now less visible to the global “North” is a bit odd.


68 Harry March 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Improvements in medical technology makes it difficult to compare war fatalities over time. Better to compare death plus injuries.


69 UE March 12, 2018 at 4:08 pm

It does not seem anyone commenting here has read the paper or knows much about the study of war. Essentially, this paper is strong on claims and short on evidence. The evidence consists of selectively cited statistics, there are no figures plotting trends or anything. I am all for criticizing Pinker and co, but this is not very convincing.


70 Mark Bahner March 13, 2018 at 5:20 pm

I’ve studied war for many years. I was trying to answer the question: “War (good God y’all), what is it good for?”

My research pointed to the answer, “Absolutely nothing.”

Now I’m working on the question, “Who wants to die?”


71 jorod March 12, 2018 at 10:30 pm

The wars are in the cities. Government is manufacturing poor, ignorant and violent people with its welfare policies.


72 Jonfraz March 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm

But even our crime rates are no where near as high as they were a generation ago.


73 RafaelR March 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm

War happens when both sides in a potential conflict think there is a gain in doing it. That only occurs when the outcome is not known: if one side knows for sure they are going to be no gains from doing it they don’t do it. Hence, war is more likely when we have multiple great powers with similar war making potential and geographically close enough so that gains can be acquired. A classic example is Germany and France.

With the development of nuclear weapons the gains from warfare have been drastically reduced while the costs have increased enormously. Hence why serious warfare has ceased since 1945. Today military conflict is usually small scale operations involving mainly a small and poorly constituted government and rebels trying to take it down (Syria) or a large country invading a small and poorly constituted country like Iraq war (it wasn’t an actual war since the US army never had high intensity engagements for substantial periods of time as their total ammunition expenditure was about 1-2% of their stocks). Modern conflict is never between well established polities. The last such conflict was WW2. Hence we have been in a period of peace since 1945 mainly because of atomic bombs and because the US, the USSR/Russia and more recently China kept the world’s geopolitical balance of power stable: these 3 great powers are in a very stable equilibrium since it is virtually impossible for one of them to actually invade and defeat another in war.


74 chuck martel March 13, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Hence why serious warfare has ceased since 1945.

It’s serious if you have family members under tombstones like many residents of Viet Nam, Cambodia, Serbia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Biafra, Lebanon, Iraq, etc., etc.


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