Mid­dle-in­come coun­tries are more war­like than very poor or rich ones

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL - By Jonathan Power Copy­right: Jonathan Power.

We need jaw jaw not war war”, said Win­ston Churchill rather hyp­o­crit­i­cally. Still, he would be glad to see that the num­ber of wars around the world has fallen dra­mat­i­cally since the end of World War II, de­spite the con­flicts in Korea, Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Le­banon, Pak­istan ver­sus In­dia, Cen­tral Amer­ica, Cyprus, ex-yu­goslavia, Syria and now Ye­men.

Com­pared to cen­turies past this has been a re­mark­able era, yet one not of­ten ac­knowl­edged.

In­ter­state wars, apart from In­dia ver­sus Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Iran and Ye­men, have van­ished off the map. The wars that re­main are civil wars.

The democ­ra­cies do not go to war with each other, as Bri­tish Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher long ago ob­served.

A de­tailed study made by the Economist last month, an­a­lyzed all in­ter­na­tional wars since 1900, along with the bel­liger­ents’ wealth and de­gree of de­vel­op­ment.

It counted all con­flicts in which at least 100 peo­ple per year were killed, ex­clud­ing deaths from ter­ror­ism, mas­sacres of civil­ians out­side com­bat, star­va­tion or dis­ease.

The data showed a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween democ­racy and peace, with the ex­cep­tion of the US.

The coun­tries most prone to war these days are not democ­ra­cies or au­toc­ra­cies; they are coun­tries in be­tween.

A sim­i­lar finding ap­plies to pros­per­ity. Mid­dle-in­come coun­tries are more war­like than very poor or rich ones.

Why? Wars are ex­pen­sive, and cit­i­zens in tyran­nies strug­gle to or­ga­nize up­ris­ings. Per­haps a lit­tle po­lit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion or wealth makes it eas­ier to take up arms.

The de­vel­op­ment and growth of in­ter­na­tional law have un­doubt­edly had a cool­ing im­pact. Grotius, the great Dutch philoso­pher, wrote in the early 17th cen­tury: “Where ju­di­cial set­tle­ment ends, the war be­gins”.

To wage war was not a crim­i­nal act. It was what States did to up­hold the law. Grotius was a clever man but in fact, his writ­ings sanc­tioned the two ter­ri­ble world wars.

We now re­al­ize that “le­gal­iz­ing war le­git­imized vi­o­lence and blocked routes to peace”, as writ­ten by Oona Hath­away and Scott Shapiro in their sem­i­nal book, The In­ter­na­tion­al­ists.

It was a suc­cess­ful Chicago Cor­po­rate lawyer, Sal­mon Levin­son, who wrote in 1917, “The only real way to bring an end to the war is to out­law war”.

All the plans made be­fore as­sumed the le­gal­ity of the war. Levin­son drew up a plan to out­law war un­like any other peace plan than un­der dis­cus­sion.

Levin­son or­ga­nized a global so­cial move­ment around the idea of Out­lawry. He made an im­pact. At a spe­cial con­fer­ence in Paris of ma­jor coun­tries on Au­gust 27th, 1928, the French For­eign Minister Aris­tide Briand, de­clared that the day would mark “a new date in the his­tory of mankind” and the end of “self­ish and will­ful war­fare”.

By sign­ing a treaty, soon to be known as the Kel­logg-briand Pact, the nations of the world would no longer treat war as a law­ful means to re­solve dis­putes.

Briand said the treaty would “at­tack the evil at its very root” by de­priv­ing war of “its le­git­i­macy”.

That day, 15 nations signed the Peace Pact, and within a year nearly ev­ery na­tion in the world did the same. For the first time in his­tory, a war was con­sid­ered to be il­le­gal. Trag­i­cally, the Pact didn’t sur­vive the pres­sure of events and the self­ish, na­tion­al­is­tic, views of an­tag­o­nis­tic coun­tries.

The first chal­lenge came from Ja­pan when it in­vaded Manchuria in 1931. The League of Nations was par­a­lyzed. The other im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion, the In­ter­na­tional Court Of Jus­tice, whose char­ter said that dis­putes had to be sub­mit­ted to it, was ig­nored.

The US Sec­re­tary of State, Henry Stim­son, started to think about sanc­tions-“Sanc­tions of peace” to re­place the “sanc­tions of war”. In Jan­uary 1932 Stim­son de­liv­ered diplo­matic notes to Ja­pan and China, say­ing, “The US Gov­ern­ment does not in­tend to rec­og­nize any sit­u­a­tion, treaty or agree­ment which may be brought about by means con­trary to the covenants and the obli­ga­tions of the Pact of Paris.”

The League al­lowed that Ja­pan might take Manchuria but Manchuria would not be­long to Ja­pan. Later, other sig­na­to­ries of the Pact- Ger­many, Ja­pan and Italy- ig­nored it.

At the end of the Sec­ond World War, the United Nations Char­ter in­cluded the words of the Pact ver­ba­tim:

“All mem­bers shall re­frain in their in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions from the threat or use of force against the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity or po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence of any state.” There was one ex­cep­tion- if the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil au­tho­rized force to keep the peace.

To­day we look at a world where ter­ri­to­rial con­quest has all but dis­ap­peared. Im­mu­nity for Heads of States no longer ex­ists.

The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court can pros­e­cute those ac­cused of war crimes. Be­fore 1928 the av­er­age State could be ex­pected to be con­quered once in a per­son’s life­time. Now, it is once or twice in a mil­len­nium.


Yes, a lot of it. Most peo­ple, es­pe­cially politi­cians, are blind to this mo­men­tous achieve­ment.

Democ­ra­cies do not go to war with each other

Coun­tries most prone to war are not democ­ra­cies or au­toc­ra­cies, but coun­tries in be­tween

The data showed a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween democ­racy and peace, with the ex­cep­tion of the US. The coun­tries most prone to war these days are not democ­ra­cies or au­toc­ra­cies; they are coun­tries in be­tween

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