Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Golden Era of Peace By Deb Bucknam 8/2007

Author's Note:  I wrote this in 2007 after analyzing the statistics from the Center for Systemic Peace.   It is relevant today as the article demonstrates the claim that American intervention causes more war and destruction is a myth.  In fact, American intervention over the last 65 years has generally resulted in a more peaceful world, and when America turns its back on people suffering from aggression, death and suffering increases.   Even Vietnam is an example.  When Democrats cut off military funding to South Vietnam in 1975,  a relatively stable country collapsed,  and the killing fields began.  President Obama and those who really want world peace would do well to study what has actually happened since the end of World War II.    

Americans entered the 21st century with an unprecedented attack on innocent civilians in their homeland.   As a result Americans have concluded that the 20th century war curse has extended to this century. 

            The fight against terrorism that began on September 11, 2001 has also spawned a retro-protest movement, one that seems familiar to us mature Baby Boomers.  Increasingly boorish bumper stickers, letters to the editor, street protests and political speeches declare America as the warmonger and warn of devastation if the United States continues fighting our enemy in foreign lands. 
Peace is well worth striving for.  But as with any difficult goal involving complex human behaviors, peace cannot be achieved without first conducting rigorous analysis to determine what peace really means; then engaging in patient difficult work to create those conditions that will result in true peace for humankind.    Bumper stickers will not achieve world peace.

            The first step in the analysis is defining the concept of world peace.  Today’s peace activists define peace as the absence of American military action on foreign soil.  Thus, according to that definition, peace is achieved when American armed forces are not engaged in military operations outside the United States.

            This definition of peace is xenophobic. If we wish to achieve world peace, we must define peace for the entire world, not just those few areas of the world where the United States is engaged in military operations.

            In order to define peace, we must first define war.  The Center for Systemic Peace has the most workable definition of war: it tracks deaths as a result of political violence.  The Center includes in its definition of deaths from political violence civil wars, ethnic conflicts, independence movements, government crackdowns on dissidents, and international wars.  The Center includes conflicts with as few as 200 deaths. 

            The Center for Systemic Peace has tracked the number of deaths from political violence since 1945.  Its statistics show that we are living in an era of matchless peace.  The statistics also provide clues as to the causes of war and the causes of peace.  For those who truly desire world peace and want worldwide deaths from political violence to decline,  it would be useful to  study these statistics. 

            In the 1930’s and 1940’s, we experienced a horrible world war when over 50 million people died from political violence.  The end of World War II did not end conflict.  According to the Center for Systemic Peace,  in the five years after World War II, over 3 million people died worldwide from conflicts in places as diverse as Greece, Costa Rica, Burma, and during the India- Pakistan partition.  That toll included over one million Muslims killed in the India Pakistan conflict after the British withdrew at a timetable publicly announced by the British government.

For conflicts that began from 1950-1959, over 4.5 million died from political violence.  Conflicts started in that decade included 1.5 million deaths in China as a result of government crackdowns on land owners, 1.5 million deaths in Korea as a result of the North Korean invasion of the South, militarily supported by China, and 500,000 deaths from ethnic warfare in the Sudan.

Wars in the 1960’s resulted in approximately 3 million deaths world wide or 300,000 average deaths per year.  Conflicts in that decade included the Vietnam conflict (approximately 1 million), 500,000 in the Chinese “Cultural Revolution” and conflicts in approximately 19 African nations. 

The conflicts that began from 1970-1974 resulted in over 2.5 million deaths world wide—an annual increase from the previous decade to an average of 500,000 per year.

From 1975 when the United States stopped military funding for our allies in South East Asia, political deaths world wide from wars that began in that last half decade shot up to over four million— a 60% increase to 800,000 on average per year. There were 1.5 million deaths in tiny Cambodia, 1 million in Angola, 750,000 in Ethiopia and in 1978 a war in Afghanistan began that eventually claimed 1 million lives.  Therefore, while peace activists consider the Carter years, where American withdrew from world conflict, to be years of peace, they were in fact some of the bloodiest years in the last half of the twentieth century. 

Almost 2.8 million people died from wars that started in the 1980’s, including 500,000 in the Iran-Iraq war, 500,000 in Mozambique, and a million in the Sudan—an average of 280,000 deaths from political violence per year.  Those were the years when the peace activists protested a missile defense shield in Europe and promoted a nuclear freeze.  There were virtually no protests about the actual deaths of millions from political violence worldwide.  

During the eight years of the Clinton administration, deaths from political violence actually increased on an annual basis from the decade of the 1980’s.  Almost 2.4 million people died in wars started during the eight years of the Clinton administration, including conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi, and the former Yugoslavia.

What has happened since 2001 as a result of the worldwide terror war?  Worldwide deaths from political violence during the six years of the Bush administration – up to December 2006—have declined dramatically from any previous era.  The Center for Systemic Peace has calculated that deaths from political violence during the Bush Presidency, including those in the Sudan,  Iraq, the United States, and Afghanistan , have totaled a mere 327,000, or 54,0000 deaths on average per year—a 78% decrease in deaths from political violence compared to the Clinton years.  The comparison with the Carter years is more astonishing: the amount of deaths from political violence worldwide during the Bush administration is only 7% of the annual deaths from political violence during last half of the 1970’s.  Indeed, with world population today at 6.3 billion, the percentage decline is even more dramatic.  World population in 1980 was less than 4.5 billion.  Therefore, deaths from political violence have decreased from approximately 17 deaths per 100,000 people in 1980 to less than one death per 100,000 during the first six years of the Bush Presidency.

Why the dramatic decline?  This breathtaking development can be attributed at least in part to the Bush Doctrine.   The Bush Doctrine consists of two major premises.  First, the doctrine requires an uncompromising offense against killers and thugs,  through military  intelligence, financial, law enforcement, and political means.  Second, the doctrine promotes democracy for all people, no matter what their skin color or ethnic or religious background, as a way to stem terror.  In a speech last week warmly received by the attending dissidents in Prague, the President stated:  “freedom is the non-negotiable right of every man, woman, and child, and that the path to lasting peace in our world is liberty.” 

It is fashionable to blame the President for everything wrong with the world, and give him no credit for improvements in the human condition.   But the statistics from the Center for Systemic Peace show an unmistakable pattern.  First, when the liberal West has turned inward, political violence has increased.  A million people died in India and Pakistan after the British withdrew from the area in the late 1940’s.  South East Asia exploded in violence when America withdrew its military support for our allies in the 1970’s.  

Second, when democracies flourish, political violence decreases.  As President Bush noted in his Prague speech, at the beginning of the 1980’s there were 45 democracies in the world.  Now there are 120.  The rise in democracies coincides with the decline in political violence. President Bush is right:  the path to lasting peace is liberty.

Third, the Bush Doctrine of zero tolerance for terrorism has had the remarkable effect of tamping down violence worldwide.  When killers are on the run, violence decreases.  We have terrorists occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is no coincidence that they have not returned to American soil—or to foment major trouble elsewhere.

The pundits and the politicians are fond of saying that the President’s policies are not working.  But the facts reveal something quite different. The President’s clear eyed vision and courageous implementation of the Bush Doctrine –and our wonderful courageous American fighting men and women who superbly execute it--have made the Bush era one of world peace never before seen in our lifetime—and perhaps never in world history.  It is quite an accomplishment.


  1. Even if President Obama did grasp the significance of this historical analysis, he does not seem to possess the leadership qualities necessary for dealing with tyrants. He seems more comfortable taking cover behind the U.N.

  2. This is a very interesting and eye-opening post, Mrs. Bucknam. Thank you for taking the time to do the research and presenting it with such clarity.

  3. Thank you, Suellen. I did spend a lot of time going over the statistics and calculating the totals for each era, but I found it fascinating as it contradicted the conventional wisdom, which is always fun to find out!