Monday, May 25, 2009

Bad Economy=Conflict? Not This Time!

Thomas Barnett's new column at World Political Review points out the obvious. War as we have known it is declining. In the face of pundits who Pollyannaed that the world would go to hell in a hand basket as a result of the financial crisis that began in earnest last October had a lot of explaining to do as the body count fails to match the prognosis.

Barnett writes from this solid evidence.

When the global financial contagion kicked in last fall, the blogosphere was quick to predict that a sharp uptick in global instability would soon follow. While we're not out of the woods yet, it's interesting to note just how little instability -- and not yet a single war -- has actually resulted from the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Run a Google search for "global instability" and you'll get 23 million hits. But when it comes to actual conflicts, the world is humming along at a level that reflects the steady decline in wars -- by 60 percent -- that we've seen since the Cold War's end. As George Mason University's Center for Systemic Peace (CSP) notes, that trend applies within the Muslim world, too, so even America's "war on terror" has not quite lived up to the pessimists' expectations.

Arabs-Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Mexico. None have been helped by the financial crisis, but all predate it. Iraq's internal situation has actually improved, despite slumping oil revenue. And as for fears that Mexico might soon become a "failed state," that government's recent response to the swine flu indicates otherwise.

The CSP's database lists only three new conflicts since 2008 -- Russia-Georgia, Kenya and southern Sudan. None can be blamed on the global economy. Meanwhile, Colombia's internal security has improved dramatically, and Sri Lanka's stubborn separatist movement just collapsed.

Yes, we suffer from Somali piracy, and American and Chinese subs continue their cat-and-mouse games off China's otherwise quiet coast. Still, many expected more from a financial panic that, according to the IMF, erased roughly 6 percent of global GDP: Beijing and Washington locking horns, for instance, instead of letting Taiwan negotiate peace with the mainland.

But disappointment abounds for the doom-and-gloomers:

READ TO REST: The New Rules: The Good News on the Global Financial Downturn

So as we turn from remembrance of our war dead and look to the future, we can take solace that at least for the present, the flags however painful they as they drape those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America will be fewer in number.

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