The Decline of War

Article excerpt

"Policing the Remnants of War" by John Mueller, in Journal of Peace Research (Sept. 2003), Sage Publications, 2455 Teller Rd., Thousand Oaks, Calif. 91320.

Will the world ever war no more? In certain important respects, the ancient institution of war is already on the way out, asserts Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University. Major war among developed countries is now rare and un likely, and, despite appearances, conventional war in the wider world also is in decline. Much that now passes for war--"ethnic conflict" or outbreaks of the "clash of civilizations"--is actually something else: "opportunist predation waged by packs, often remarkably small ones, of criminals, bandits, and thugs."

Most of the three dozen or so wars fought since the end of the Cold War have been civil wars in poor countries. Many, if not most, of the combatants have been either mercenaries recruited by weak states (as in the former Yugoslavia) or warlord gangs that developed within weak or failed states (as in Liberia). The ranks of the Serbian (or Yugoslavian) army were filled by emptying out the jails and promising loot to the new recruits; Bosnia and Croatia turned at first to street gangs for their fighting men. In 1990. writes Mueller, Liberia's weakened regime "was toppled by an armed group initially of 100 or so led by an accused embezzler and jailbreak artist, Charles Taylor, and by a somewhat larger group led by a psychopathic, hymn-singing drunk. …