Attila the Pun
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
fight fight fight

A recent study has found that "armed conflict, genocide, political crises and human rights abuses" have fallen sharply since the end of the Cold War.

Whilst the decline in outright war accords with intuition, the decline in genocide since 1946 seems wrong. With the horrors in Rwanda and Dafur fresh in our minds, genocide (even ignoring the situations where the terms is grossly misused) would not seem to be on the wane.

So which countries have been causing the most trouble? Australia, that famous country of warmongers, comes in at number 5. Number 1 goes to Britain, which is not surprising given their post colonial history. Number 2 isn't a huge shock either, being the French. The USA and the USSR round out the top four.

So what has caused this decline? Considering the author of the report worked in the strategic planning unit in the office of Kofi Annan, the answer is not suprising - the UN.

Professor Mack, who was director of the strategic planning unit in the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1998 to 2001, cites several examples, including a sixfold increase in UN efforts to prevent wars from starting, a fourfold increase in UN peacemaking missions to end unresolved conflicts and an elevenfold increase in the number of states made subject to UN sanctions.

Sure. The former colonial powers' declining willingness to get involved in their childrens' problems, not to mention the victory of the US in the Cold War, had nothing to do with it. It is the famously effective UN sanctions (like Iraq) and peacekeeping efforts (like Rwanda) that have made the world a safer place.

The report, produced under Professor Mack's direction by the Human Security Centre at Canada's University of British Columbia, also accuses the US State Department of "spinning the figures" on terrorism incidents to reinforce Washington's constant refrain that it is winning the war on terror.

The report points to an eightfold increase in significant terror attacks to support this. But what is a "significant terror attack" though? The report classifies it as one which involves loss of life (fair enough), injury or property damage over $US10,000. (emphasis added)

Ten grand? Does that mean that if a bunch of greenies vandalise an SUV (not too hard to cause $10k of damage if you really try) then that is a significant terror attack? If so, that means that an attack by a bunch of hippies on a hummer will be recorded in the same column as the attack on the London underground or even the World Trade Center. Using that criteria, then criticising the US for "spinning figures" is a bit rich.

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