Conflict Has Receded Around the World. Why Doesn’t the Result Resemble Peace?

Conflict Has Receded Around the World. Why Doesn’t the Result Resemble Peace?
Police stand guard inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal following an explosion near Times Square in New York, Dec. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Andres Kudacki).

The aftermath of Monday’s terrorist attack in New York was a case of both good news and bad news. That the city essentially shrugged off an attempted suicide bombing in the subway that only seriously injured the bomber himself demonstrated a salutary resilience and sangfroid, as defeating terrorism requires in part a refusal to be terrorized. That the attack was so rudimentary and amateurish is a testament to the broad success of American and European approaches to counterterrorism that make more sophisticated attacks prohibitively difficult to mount.

But the fact that such attacks don’t generate much surprise anymore—whether in New York, London, Paris or elsewhere—is also a sign of how thoroughly the latent threat of low-level violence has insinuated itself into everyday life in the West, and even more so in zones of conflict and instability in other parts of the world.

At a time when the world seems buffeted by upheaval and conflict, it’s worth reminding ourselves that despite the appearance of widespread mayhem, we are actually witnessing a period in which warfare has decreased to historically low levels. Whether judging by the number of state-on-state and intra-state conflicts, or by the cost in terms of human casualties, the post-Cold War period compares favorably to any other in recent history.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review