War Is Over If We Want It?

Every holiday season since 1971 when I hear John and Yoko Lennon and those adorable children's voices from the Harlem Community Choir singing Happy Xmas (War Is Over) "if you want it," I think to myself, "If only it were so." Forty years later professor Joshua Goldstein, author of the just released Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, tells me it may be true after all: "War among human beings is not inevitable. Rather, the end of war, though also not inevitable, is possible."

How is the end of war possible? Dr. Goldstein's research demonstrates that the common thinking that wars are increasing and becoming more brutal is a myth. Even with attacks in Afghanistan, the Yemen uprising, and Libyan rebels fighting under NATO airstrikes he states,

Based on these headlines, you might assume that war around the world is worse than it's ever been. But the reality is just the opposite -- armed conflict is decreasing. Fewer wars are starting, more are ending, and those that remain are smaller and more localized than in past years. The decade since 9/11 has been the most peaceful worldwide in the past century. No national armies are fighting each other in the world today.

So how does this information help us end the wars that are still raging? Dr. Goldstein's research shows us which strategies have worked to reduce past conflicts enabling us to know which ones to employ and support in the future. During a National Public Radio interview, he pointed out that despite the fact that the United Nations' peacekeeping efforts are successful (when properly funded) the average American household is paying $700 a month on defense and only $2 on peacekeeping. The impact of increasing this amount to just $4 could be dramatic.

From his book and an article in Foreign Policy magazine to a short and clever video called Peace Is Increasing, Dr. Goldstein wants his audiences to know,

The possibility of an end to war is not something to be ridiculed, but to be pursued. I hope that this story... ultimately about peace, will inspire readers to see... through the continuing fog of war...our best qualities as human beings: our ability to communicate, to empathize, to cooperate, and to create a safer, freer, more prosperous world for our children.

And I hope that the United Nations' International Peace Day on September 21st finds us closer to the end of war. Just perhaps, "out of the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train."