Last week I wrote about the decline in the number of armed conflicts worldwide ("The Peace Epidemic"), as documented in The Human Security Report 2005, to which I was led by a Dec. 28 op-ed by Andrew Mack in the Washington Post. Mack is director of the University of British Columbia's Human Security Center, which produced the report. After I posted my column on this subject, I learned that the peace epidemic has been documented in a number of other scholarly reports, too. These were synthesized and interpreted by my friend Gregg Easterbrook in a May 30 New Republic cover story and, subsequently, by John Tierney in a May 28 New York Times column. Although I subscribe to both the Times and the New Republic, I somehow missed these pieces when they first appeared. Might I myself be an example of the public's instinctual resistance to the lesson that, far from becoming a more dangerous place, the world is, pace Osama Bin Laden, becoming safer?
The Easterbrook and Tierney stories made no mention of The Human Security Report 2005, because it hadn't been released yet. Instead, they drew on studies by Monty Marshall of George Mason and Ted Robert Gurr of the University of Maryland, and by John Mueller of Ohio State. The Marshall-Gurr study, which is available online, addresses one question that a number of readers posed to me: Did the trend toward decreased conflict continue into 2005? The answer is yes. "Major societal wars" worldwide declined from 12 in 2002 to eight in early 2005. The number of states judged to be on the brink of collapse is 31, down from 34 in 2003. Even since the start of the Iraq war, the world has become less conflict-ridden. Hallelujah!