Peace on the March

Timothy Noah, writing
for Slate
, claims ‘just about every geopolitical
argument put forth since 9/11 has taken as its starting point that
the world has become a more violent place.’ Indeed, open the
newspaper to any page, and you’ll be flooded with images of violent
conflict. The upsurge in violence, however, is ‘utter hooey,’ says
Noah. Citing

The Human Security Report 2005
, Noah outlines a massive
decrease in violent conflict between 1992 and 2003, including an 80
percent decrease in conflicts with more than 1,000 deaths and a 40
percent decrease in the number of conflicts overall.

Why the decrease, though? Andrew Mack — director of the
University of British Columbia’s Human Security Center, the center
that produced the report — offered an explanation in a
Washington Post op-ed Noah cites. His answer: ‘the end
of the Cold War.’ The Cold War, Mack claims, occupied the United
Nations to the extent that they were unable to deal with violent
conflict when it did arise. After the Iron Curtain fell, however,
the UN was ‘[f]reed from the paralyzing stasis of Cold War
geopolitics’ and able to focus on efforts ‘to stop ongoing wars and
prevent new ones.’

Another theory that could explain this global decrease in
violence comes from a different corner altogether. In an article in
the

January/February issue of Foreign Affairs
, Robert M.
Sapolsky, a professor at Stanford University, reviews decades of
research into the social culture of primates. Sapolsky debunks the
idea that primates are inherently violent, showing instead that
they are more a product of the situation around them. Once-violent
monkeys placed in an egalitarian group will modify their behavior,
meaning that whatever primates — and by extension, humans — have
learned can be unlearned. Simply because we have been riddled with
violent conflict since earliest history does not mean that it must
continue. If primates can form what Sapolsky calls a ‘baboon
utopia,’ what’s stopping us from doing the same?

Go there >>
The Peace
Epidemic

Go there too >>

A Natural History of Peace

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