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The paradox of being insecure in a far more peaceful world
Description: The world has rarely been more peaceful or felt so insecure. Nightly news bulletins assail their audience with the gruesome images of war and the emotional exhibitionism that passes for much modern television reporting. George Bush speaks of a war fo
Date: 14 September 2006
Author: by Philip Stephens
Source: Financial Times
The world has rarely been more peaceful or felt so insecure. Nightly news bulletins assail their audience with the gruesome images of war and the emotional exhibitionism that passes for much modern television reporting. George Bush speaks of a war for civilisation, Tony Blair of lethal arcs of extremism. The raw facts tell another story.

There are many fewer wars now than at any time since 1945. The prospect of conflict between great powers has rarely seemed so remote. The incidence of genocide has fallen steeply. For all that public opinion is rightly shocked by the death toll in Iraq, the casualties are small when set against those typical of conflicts 20 or 30 years ago. The Iraq-Iran war claimed a million dead during the 1980s. Who remembers now, or paid much attention to then, the 100,000 who perished in the small central American state of Honduras?

There is a stubborn myth that the cold war confrontation between the US and Soviet Union delivered an unprecedented era of peace. Memories of the ugly conflicts between India and Pakistan and the brutal civil wars in places such as Nigeria have faded. Much of the present discourse about the Middle East assumes that today's bloodletting is somehow new.

Exhaustive analysis by the Canadian-based Human Security Centre shows that the number of armed conflicts around the world has fallen by 40 per cent since the collapse of communism. Notwithstanding mass murder in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, there have been far fewer acts of genocide. The number of refugees halved between 1992 and 2003.

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