View Full Version : War in Decline?

Tom Odom
01-17-2006, 05:52 PM
Combat deaths worldwide have not topped a half-million since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Before that, they ran one million to three million a year in World War I and three million to four million a year in World War II. In recent years, the numbers have been between 20,000 and 30,000.

The reason: Asymmetric conflicts such as the war in Iraq and simmering low-intensity ones don't kill as many people.

The above quote came from http://ebird.afis.mil/ebfiles/e20060115411576.html supposedly documenting that war has declined, especially since the end of the Cold War.

The referenced statistics completely ignore Rwanda: 800,000 in 100 days during the genocide, 70,000 dead in Goma, and numbers of actual battlefield dead unknown.

They also ignore the follow-on conflict in the Congo (Zaire) with an estimated 3 million + dead.

I guess it depends on where and who you choose to count as "war dead."


01-17-2006, 06:30 PM
Here is the link (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/front/13629601.htm) to the original article in the Miami Herald for those that do not have access to the Early Bird.

01-17-2006, 09:42 PM
Tom, thanks for articulating reason #318 - why the world hates us. This article makes clear the fact that the deaths of those in DPR Congo or Rwanda are not congruent to deaths in Kosovo or Iraq in the eyes of Americans.

Tom Odom
01-17-2006, 10:14 PM
What is striking about this article is that it draws on 3 centers and their parallel studies. One cannot say for sure that the centers missed Africa but this report surely did.

And you are absolutely correct in our (Americans) in how we assign importance to various calamities. It is certainly natural to to be self-centric in such assessments: 9-11 was horrific in where it happened, how it happened, and its real-time coverage. The losses were devastating and do not feel that I would seek to soften that tragedy. But on a scale of disasters, the numbers were just a blip. The Kibeho DP Camp in Rwanda clearing op in April 1995 killed more than 2,000; it made the WP for a day or so.

What has boggled my mind since Rwanda--and led me to write my memoirs--was that the aftermath exapnsion of the war into Zaire (DRC) was worse and has been essentially ignored by not just the US but the world aside from a somewhat sputtering UN Peackeeping mission. In April 2004, USIP asked me and Ambassador Dave Rawson along with 3 journalists who were in Rwanda to discuss our ability to report on what was happening during and after the genocide. Our audience were all grad students, various reps from the foreign policy crowd in DC, historians, etcs. One question that was thrown at us was can it happen again? I answered "absolutely" and pointed to the deaths in the Congo. I do not think that audience even grasped the number 3 million when I offered it. It seemed equally bizarre to me when President Clinton did go to Rwanda as part of his African tour and appologize for his adminstration's inaction during the genocide when his adminstration's inaction after the genocide led to an expanded war in the Congo that was ongoing as he said, "Never Again" in Rwanda.

Merv Benson
01-17-2006, 11:00 PM
I think the Iran Iraq war produced for more KIAs than his annual total. In contrast the first Gulf War in 1991 which was not asymetrical had fewer casualties.

I think the case can be made that the total casualties in asymetrical warfare can be significant because they drag on so long. I have seen estimates that the Vietnamese suffered over a million casualties during the wars that led to the communist conquest.

Does his count include Pol Pot? How about the Sudan? It can be argued that the man made famine in the Sudan and the current one in Zimbabwe will kill significant numbers of people. We know that Stalin killed millions in the Ukraine and Mao killed millions in China using famine as a low cost genocide.

01-18-2006, 12:19 AM
If someone truly cares about the plight of the Sudanese, Congolese, or Zimbabweans, find a way to make them essential in the Global War on Terror. If in fact we thought these countries would become further breeding grounds of terror, we would provide more assistance to prevent such an occurance. In the end, I can only infer that we dont care if they terrorize each other so long as they do not terrorize us.

If the numbers reported are accurate, we are spending $7 billion per month in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would one month of this kind of support by way of pure humanitarian assistance buy us in terms of influence iwith poor Muslims in Africa? Apparantly, the Chinese think it will get them something of value in the long-run.