This may come as a shock to people but for the last few decades the world deaths in conflicts have been very low by post war standards. We think from the news, and from what we read on line, that violence is surging around the world, but it isn’t. This is the most peaceful era since WW2.
If we look at deaths in combat the most deadly era was the late 40s/early 50s due to the Korean War.
There was another peak in the late 60s early 70s due to Vietnam and another spike in the early 90s – the Yugoslav civil war and Rwanda. Half of all deaths in Combat since WW2 happened in the 25 years 1945-1970.
The last 30 years have seen lots of wars that have gone on a long time – particularly in the Middle East – but these have been mostly long standing low level insurgencies involving lightly armed asymmetrical warfare. While tragic and awful deaths in conflict globally for the last 30 years have been only 10% of what they were when the Korean War was raging.
The Golden Arches theory suggests that once a country becomes rich enough to have branches of McDonalds they become less likely to go to war. Some have tried to claim that there has never been a war between 2 countries who have McDonalds, which will come as a surprise to people in the Phillipines and Ukraine.
What is true is that reduction in conflict has gone hand in hand with rising prosperity and growth in international trade. Wealth inequalities within countries like the UK and the UK are rising, but wealth inequalities between Western nations, Asia and Africa are falling.
Ukraine is so shocking because it is the first time we have seen 2 modern armies with tanks and artillery facing off against each other for a very long time
This however doesn’t tell the whole story. Deaths in combat don’t include civilian casualties, which make a big difference to the graph. Working out how to categorise deaths in conflict is hard because often they are the results of action taken by a Government against it’s own people. I included deaths due to Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Biafran conflict, but excluded non conflict deaths from famine.
The numbers are a lot higher
One of the things that was most striking when looking at the data was the Arab-Israeli conflict. We read loads about the horrors that both sides inflict on each other but in fact it is a much smaller conflict than media coverage would suggest. During the Palestinian intifada Israeli Security forces killed 1500 Palestinians. During the Kashmiri intifada Indian security forces killed 55,000 people.
The way the media report on conflict and the way that social media amplifies certain messages has massively skewed our view of the world. Likewise the US/UK operations in Afghanistan and Iraq hardly register on the graph. Deaths in Afghanistan fell when the West intervened.
The constant presence of images of death and destruction across the world have given us a distorted view of the times we live in and the threats we face.
The world is getting a lot more peaceful. But there are no clicks to be had from that.