IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

a few reflections

I know, I know…we hear about war often enough; and this seems to confirm the pessimistic view that violent conflict will always be with us.  However, if you stop and think about it, world events can be seen as confirming the approach of peace, rather than negating it.  How you may wonder.  Well consider the following idea.  The most widely held “theory” of international relations, called oddly enough “Realism” , seems to suggest that all states are power seeking and potential aggressors against all other states (or at least their proximate rivals).  However, if we consider the current configuration of international relations, war is becoming largely unthinkable (if not altogether impossible) within more and more groups of states.  One need only think of the states of North America (and remember the U.S. invaded Mexico over and over again in past centuries), or, most obviously, the European Union (the region where the entire theory and practice of power politics was created in the past–this should never be forgotten).   One might add to this most of the Caribbean, more and more of Central and South America (the occasional soccer “war”, notwithstanding 🙂 ) ,  and probably Southeast Asia as well.  There are all sorts of good reasons for this trend; such as the need for closer economic ties among states in a region.  Once such ties are in place, and profitable, their disruption becomes a disincentive to violent conflict among the states involved.

There are certainly troubled regions, but even in some of these, events are not necessarily going according to the Realist view.  For instance, much of the international community has worked to prevent another outbreak of violent conflict between India and Pakistan.  You might feel that this could still happen (and it could); but when one considers all the elements that make this situation unstable (past history of conflict, territorial dispute involving an essential water resource, religious differences, terrorism, nuclear weapons and on and on…) it is rather amazing that the whole thing hasn’t blown up again in recent times.

It has become a commonplace to say that in our era international conflict has been greatly reduced while intranational or communal conflict has increased (which may or may not be true, depending on who you read).  However, the possible signifigance of this development is often overlooked.   One way to view this is that the world is, in a sense, “settling”–meaning that fewer and fewer international borders are in dispute (a frequent cause of war in the past), and this can only be a good thing.

So, all I am trying to say is that the world really has changed, and these changes can be seen as creating conditions conducive at least to “negative” peace (ie the absence of violent conflict among states).   But, as we have argued previously, negative peace is a “space” which needs to be filled by positive peace–human rights, good governance, equitable development, etc…–if violent conflict is to be reduced overall in human affairs.


July 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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