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Believe It or Not, 2008 Was Relatively Nonviolent

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Posted on Jan 1, 2009

By Marie Cocco

    Peace is not at hand, at least not as Americans define it. Yet peace has been breaking out all over.

    For those whose vote for Barack Obama was driven by their desire to remove U.S. troops from Iraq, the year begins with hope that may dim as reality replaces campaign rhetoric and the entanglement takes time to be unknotted before any swift military disengagement is possible. Then Afghanistan begs attention, and Obama has promised to turn the troops in that inhospitable direction.

    The lens through which most in the United States view the question of war and peace, security or insecurity, is narrow: Are American servicemen and women at risk? Do terrorists have us perilously close in their sights? Is the television constantly beaming violent and repellent images—the Israeli assault on Gaza, the slaughter in Mumbai, modern-day pirates off the coast of Africa? Media imagery and American myopia rarely allow a broader look.

    The surprise of a larger perspective is that the number of armed conflicts around the world has declined dramatically since the early 1990s. The end of the Cold War brought an end to the proxy wars fought by states that came within the sphere of influence of either the U.S. or the Soviet Union. The wars were waged with heavy armaments and high technology the superpowers freely supplied to their surrogates. The lives lost in them far exceed the historically low number of deaths we’ve seen in the regional and ethnic conflicts that have broken out since.

    The wars of liberation from colonial powers also ended, another milestone that has—incongruously as it may seem in the glare of today’s headlines—put the world on a path to less death and destruction, not more. The 1990s, according to the Canada-based Human Security Report, was the least deadly decade since World War II. Since then the relative calm has held, according to Nick Grono, deputy president of the International Crisis Group, which studies global conflicts.

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    Among the ways to count our blessings is to acknowledge a startling transformation in the world’s military posture. Other than U.S. troops, the largest number of uniformed military personnel now deployed around the world are United Nations peacekeeping forces. The U.N. currently deploys about 90,000 uniformed personnel, with most units sent to quell violence stemming from regional conflicts in Africa.

    “These missions have huge flaws, but they still make a difference,” Grono says. “It’s very active and out there,” he says of the U.N. “Of course, it’s active and out there in places where the major Western countries don’t want to be.”

    The ethnic hatreds and territorial disputes that propel today’s violence are still responsible for great suffering and humanitarian crises. They are the sort of conflicts that could easily worsen with the global financial crisis, as impoverished nations find it ever more difficult to finance basic infrastructure and government services. Climate change holds the possibility of a vast migration from regions in which farming or other pillars of rural life become impossible to sustain. Such an upheaval is itself a security threat; it cannot be addressed by moving divisions of soldiers and tanks in its direction. “Poverty and declining growth lead to increasing conflict,” Grono says.

    Burned by the tragic misadventure in Iraq and now burdened with a domestic economy that is the worst in at least three decades, Americans for the most part do not wish to encumber the United States with troubles in far-off lands. One purpose in electing Obama, after all, was to extricate ourselves from the historic blunders committed by President George W. Bush.

    Yet even Bush came to realize, however slowly, that poverty, disease, political desperation and the disintegration of civic life—more than an expansionist impulse of a great power—are among the roots of today’s violence. In the unfortunate jargon we have come to learn since 9/11, these are the elements that can combine to create “failed states”—the lawless breeding grounds for terrorists.

    As the year turns, we have earned through a stunning election the right to believe that the United States will conduct itself with less swagger and a good deal more common sense. Yet one lesson of history is that the world can improve without us. It holds the promise of doing better, still, with the United States engaged as an agent not only for peace but for justice that can be its midwife.
   
    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.
   
    © 2009, Washington Post Writers Group


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By Folktruther, January 4, 2009 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

Right on, TD truthers.

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By M.B.S.S., January 4, 2009 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

i agree with proles assessment.

the idea that there can be a peaceful world is a dangerous one.  luckily americans are some of the most frightened and jumpy folks on the planet.  the propaganda will not work without some enemy to rail against and just like reagan had the ridiculously dangerous threat of grenada in the 80’s we have various entities in the world that “necessitate” our building the largest military in the history of the world.  and what is the fun of building bombs if we cant blow them up?  its like children playing in the backyard except instead of dad being angry about the mess we have dead bodies and oppressed peoples.  oops.  we humans will get it eventually, i hope.

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By Dave Schwab, January 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

The quickest and surest route to a more peaceful world is significant cuts in federal military spending.

Sign the petition for a Secure Green Future from GreenChange.org:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1488/t/689/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=509

Tell President Obama to cut wasteful military spending at least 70% and invest the savings in education, health care, preventing foreclosures and developing green energy.

More military spending will only create more violence. True security comes from living peacefully, within the limits of Earth’s capacity, and making sure that everyone’s basic needs are met.

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1488/t/689/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=509

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By prole, January 2, 2009 at 2:05 am Link to this comment

“For those whose vote for Barack Obama was driven by their desire to remove U.S. troops from Iraq” you can open your eyes now and uncross your fingers and return from whatever planet you’ve been living on prior to November. The excuse for continuing that illegal military occupation has aleady been concocted by our ‘progessive’ friends at the Washington Post who euphemistically assure us that, “the entanglement takes time to be unknotted before any swift military disengagement is possible.” How altogether cosy, just a little “entanglement” to be “unknotted”. Kind of like a little lovers spat, don’t you know. Leave it to our clever wordsmiths in the corporate media to put soothing spin on murder and mayhem. “Then Afghanistan begs attention, and Obama has promised to turn the troops in that inhospitable direction” Quite. In fact, he’s promised to up the ante in that forbidding enviornment and turn it into another Soviet style quagmire. As well as plunging into Pakistan border regions, seeking a military solution once again as most Democrats do in bipartisan partnership with their Republican imperial cronies. And then there’s Iran, where all options are on the table. And the Palestinian territories, where Obama has parroted the Bush hardline stance and gone even further with promises of lavish new aid to Israel and tacit approval of the latest Gaza slaughter. Oh yeah,“peace has been breaking out all over” alright. Reality hasn’t yet dimmed campaign rhetoric for some Obama believers it seems. Not surprising since it’s part of a larger ongoing apologetic for American empire shared by such venerable institutions as the Washington Post and the International Crisis Group. Such that the illegal murderous invasion of Iraq is whitewashed as just another instance like Nam where America’s good intentions went awry and we, not they, are “Burned by the tragic misadventure in Iraq”. “And now burdened with a domestic economy that is the worst in at least three decades, Americans for the most part do not wish to encumber the United States with troubles in far-off lands.” Not to mention, much more so, that people in “far-off lands” do not want to be “encumbered” with horrendous troubles inflicted on them by Americans. “One purpose in electing Obama, after all, was to extricate ourselves from the historic blunders committed by President George W. Bush”  It’s not really clear what the other purposes are, if any. But calling such crimes - “In the unfortunate jargon we have come to learn since” Nam - “blunders” helps to relieve the guilty of culpability. Which may come in handy four years from now when it’s Obama’s turn to face the music. “As the year turns, we have earned through” a stunt election no more “right to believe that the United States will conduct itself with less swagger and a good deal more common sense” than it ever has under Democratic regimes. “The lens through which most in the United States view the question of war and peace, security or insecurity, is narrow.” Indeed. It doesn’t usually take into account waging war through ‘soft power’, say. So, for instance when genial Bill Clinton’s genocidal sanctions against Iraq throughout the 90’s were killing an estimated 5,000 Iraqis a month, mainly children, that’s not counted, that’s technically considered, “nonviolent”.  “Yet one lesson of history is that the world can improve without us”. Amen. That alone “holds the promise of doing better”, as any illusion about “the United States engaged as an agent not only for peace but for justice” is like a midwife performing an abortion.

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By blog dog, January 1, 2009 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Peace breaking out all over? Then it must be time to cue the terror, or at least a missile or two to get things rolling. Ever notice how when peace threatens to “break out,” right on cue, there’s a text-book suicide bombing? The perp (now blown to bits) is always immediately identified and the parents are almost always shocked, “That’s not the child we raised.” Bless their souls, of course it’s not. Poor kid just sat on the wrong seat in the bus.

When will this end? Why not pressure Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton to ask former Mossad operative, Tzipi Livni, the next time they chat on the phone? Ending it is pretty damned simple actually: Ms. Clinton, “Tzipi, this is Hillary. Knock it off or your ams shipments halt, tomorrow! Capiche?” Ms. Livni, “Seriously?” Ms. Clinton, “Does Bill have his own bedroom?”

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By MzScarlett, January 1, 2009 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

Bush gave close to $500m to rush citizenship papers thru for illegals to vote democratic; “STILL think that this is anything other than a dictatorship had best think again; rebuild & restore USA which one senator snarled WE will decide the change!: 1000 new police who are probably criminals like those gunslingers set up as “Gov” in Afghan who abuse the people & our Gov has used abroad & at home for years; the “war on drugs” is a veil to hide their dastardly deeds: & where ever the USA goes abuse of the people & killing of children follows, just like in the USA but then again that’s what they say we have gotten away with it in the USA for years; bribing them to “go along” every nation has suffered; the Gov is corrupt to the core & a dictatorship who’s “courts” call to find out how they want them to “rule”; & the “justice” dept refuses to prosecute in most instances; THIS is “peace”??????

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By MzScarlett, January 1, 2009 at 10:47 pm Link to this comment

according to Harpers list 3/4s of the Iraqi people have lost at least 1 family member or had 1 wounded or killed; children as young as 9 years old are stuffed & caged & detained in places far overcrowed; the USA has an embassy there the size & oppulance of the Taj Majah; there WERE no Al Queda & the Pakistan army are being paid $1b by the USA to create the Taliban; they are training them & weaponing them up for us to send OUR AMERICAN troops in to be slaughtered; our wounded vets are denied disability; denied jobs cuz our Gov started the lie all military personnel have mental problems; with the Corps saying they will not give them jobs; there is not 1 agency set up in the USA Gov that does it’s job; every nation the USA sets up shop in or bribes the heads of states the people are oppressed & abused just like here at home.

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By KISS, January 1, 2009 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment

Are children who do not have enough to eat considered an act of non-violence? Mothers running for shelters, at an all time high, considered living in non-violence? Are armed robberies on an uprise non-violent? Are those without retirement funds because of fraud of wall street living in non-violence? How about the children slavery camps here and abroad..more non-violence?
How about senior citizens not able to afford medicines…is that non-violence?
You sure have one hell-of-a sense of humor, Marie.

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