Good news everyone! World War 3 has been delayed indefinitely! Though hype over the third installment of the “Great War” trilogy has been bouncing around the rumor mill since the finality of part 2, its hopes of materializing are looking less likely than that third Ghostbusters we keep hearing about!
I feel compelled to address the issue of WWIII anxiety because of recent media reaction to world events. With civil unrest in the Ukraine and that wacky ol’ Putin throwing around fascist dictator clichés like it’s the Fatty Arbuckle-era, the News has been more than happy to dig up that classic attention grabbing standby of impending global warfare, or World War III (if you’re nasty).
Now, let me be clear, human rights violations are nothing to be taken lightly or joked about, and we should be concerned about tyrannical political leaders, especially ones with access to nuclear weapons. However, my job, as your good-news-rational-optimist is too counter the doom and gloom exploitation of mainstream news media, with boring old statistically supported facts. And when it comes to warfare, you may be in for a shock. Despite what T.V., politicians, well intentioned activist groups, heavy metal songs, and our own pessimistic brains keep telling us war is, by and large, becoming a thing of the past; an embarrassing relic of a more primitive time.
I know what you’re thinking: “A thing of the past?! Mike, the U.S. has been at war for over a decade, we have foreign dictators doing nuclear tests, and what about the freakin’ terrorists?! Not to mention the ruthless, child-exploiting war lords of developing nations!”
These are all good points hypothetical reader, war does indeed still exist, but because of the pro-peace agenda of more and more of modern humanity, it exists in record-low numbers, and those numbers just won’t stop declining.
Despite the devastation of the two World Wars, the 20th century saw less than 1% of its population die from war related causes. This steady decline over the centuries, from the pre-state days where approximately 15% of people met violent ends, had led some historians to refer to our era as “The Long Peace”.
“The Long Peace” has reached such levels since the end of WWII, and even more so since the decline of communist/capitalist squabbling in the 90s, that we can say with confidence, that in today’s world, far less people die violently than ever before.
As tragic as the loss of 2179 American soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 is, that figure is, thankfully, far less than in previous wars. About 20 times that many U.S. soldiers didn’t come home from Vietnam, and if we go back to the civil war and focus only on the battle of Gettysburg, we get about 45,000 deaths, only ten thousand fewer U.S. deaths than Vietnam, in a single three-day battle.
So how and why is this Long Peace happening?
No one knows for sure, but a huge factor is undoubtedly the gradual global trend away from dictatorships/monarchies and towards democracy. You see, true democracies just don’t fight with each other. It’s a concept called the Democratic Peace Theory. As democracy spreads throughout the world it turns centuries-old enemies into pals. Could you even imagine two nations like England and France waging war on each other these days? Because they did for centuries, until democracy got involved.
One generation ago my parent’s generation asked the world to “give peace a chance.” Well, their bold idea was successful in almost every measurable way, and yet the media-at-large, while always happy to shove the ugliest events they can find straight down the public’s throat, has consistently failed to report what historian Steven Pinker has called “what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history.” Despite what we are almost programed to think, war is a dyeing phenomenon and the future is looking bright for the human race.
Shove it, mainstream News media.