Farewell to world peace?
The Georgian conflict ended 1,716 days of no war between nations. But trends favor peace.
Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Bowling Green, Ohio
When Russian troops attacked Georgia this month, rolling tanks into Tskhinvali and bombing Gori, it was not just a tragedy for the Caucasus. It also marked the demise of more than four years of no war between nations, the longest period in modern history.Skip to next paragraph
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With the news so full of violence, you may not have noticed that the world was at peace. But ever since India and Pakistan signed a cease-fire in November 2003, there have been no wars between governments. That's 1,716 straight days of world peace. Russia's invasion ended the streak on Aug. 8.
The previous record had been just over 600 days, from the end of the second Taiwan Straits crisis in 1958 to border skirmishes between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1960. Since then, there had been as many as nine interstate conflicts at a time, according to the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, which counts conflicts with 25 or more battle-related deaths. But none of these involved national armies fighting one another.
The war over South Ossetia reminds us of the awesome destructive power of modern states – hundreds of people reportedly killed in a single day, soldiers fighting their way through cities and countryside devastating communities in their path, jets dropping bombs on apartment buildings. Since World War II, interstate wars have averaged four times more fatalities than other civil conflicts.
The residents of South Ossetia suffered the most in the recent conflict, having endured two incursions in the same week. First, Georgian troops attacked to reassert control over a region that declared its independence in the early 1990s. Then Russian troops invaded to oust the Georgians.
During the past four years of interstate peace, there have been plenty of one-government conflicts: the Sudanese government massacring rebels and civilians in Darfur, the Iraqi government and its allies clashing with insurgents and militias, the Afghan government and its allies fighting the Taliban, the Congolese government and its United Nations allies taking on warlords in its eastern provinces, and Israel battling Hamas and Hezbollah, among others.