Joshua Goldstein: Despite Gloomy Headlines, War is on the Wane
Everywhere you look, war is on the decline; we have peacekeeping to thank for that.
The world still has regular state armies with 20 million people in them—but they're not fighting each other right now. We need to look at the dogs that didn't bark. China hasn't fought a single military battle in the past 25 years. It's really remarkable given China's history and the history of war in East Asia. The only explanation that fits is the development of the United Nations and peacekeeping.
To learn about war, don’t rely on only 24-hour news reports.
Wherever there's a war in the world, journalists will rush over and tell us the horrors of it. It's good, I'm grateful that they do that, but it doesn't tell you what the big picture is. Whether there's one war or a hundred, the blood's going to look just as red on the TV screen.
Peacekeeping succeeded despite attacks on its legitimacy.
There's a long history of people on the right being suspicious of the UN. They thought it was a den of communists back in the 1950s and 60s, which is funny because the Soviet Union was down on the UN, too, because the UN was against North Korea and the Korean War. [The Soviets] were unhappy with the UN in the Congo crisis in the early ‘60s also and thought it was in cahoots with colonialism. [Great powers] think the UN is a challenge to sovereignty. That's what all the great powers worry about. That it will undermine their sovereignty.
But, in the end, the American public overwhelmingly supports the UN.
In a recent poll, 79% of Americans wanted to strengthen the UN, and a strong majority agreed with the sentiment that the US should follow the UN even when it means that we don't get our first choice of policy. It's the right thing to do because, overall, it'll be more effective for our country. There's very strong public support for the UN, but those people are quiet. The ones that think the UN is coming in black helicopters to take away their guns make a lot of noise.
And the next ten years are only going to be more peaceful for the US.
We've pulled back tens of thousands of troops from Europe, Japan, Korea, and Latin America in this past decade. So, America's footprint around the world is a lot lighter than it's been in my lifetime once we pull back those massive forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, it's very unlikely that the US is going to go into a new war like Iraq. That's a lesson learned.