11/02/2005 03:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Where Did the Wars Go?

Not enough attention is being paid to a new U.N. report which indicates that wars have declined around the world by 40% since 1992. As headlines are being grabbed by terrorism, it's not being noticed that we are living in a less violent world. This is important to realize since it serves to counter the fear tactics of militarists and reactionaries.

The leader of the 3-year study states, ''The average war today tends to be very small, low intensity conflict, fought with ill-trained troops, small arms, and light weapons, often very brutal, with lots of civilians killed -- but the absolute numbers of people being killed are . . . much, much smaller than they were before. " If that seems surprising, the report notes that the decline is even greater in major conflicts, those that kill 1,000 or more soldiers on the battlefield: these are down by 80%. Similar sharp declines have shown up in civil wars and genocide.

Despite the horrific mass slaughter in Rwanda in 1994, the U.N. report says that mass killings because of religion, ethnicity or political beliefs plummeted by 80 percent between the 1988 high point and 2001.

All this argues that a viable peace movement is taking place on the level of world consciousness. One can take hope that the human race now considers the bloodbaths of WW I and II unthinkable. I had used the decline in war as the basis for writing (in "Peace Is the Way") about the emergence and victory of a new peace movement, one based on evolving awareness. I didn't have the current U.N. report at hand then, but it's gratifying that despite the huge media coverage of violence and armed conflict, the underlying reality may be far different and far more encouraging.