Is War Going Out Of Fashion?

So says one political scientist in a new study.

Havard Hegre, a professor in the department of Political Science at the University of Oslo, is the latest academic to devise a statistical model capable of reaching into the future and telling us what is likely to happen next. His study, in collaboration with the Peace Research Institute Oslo, claims that in five years’ time India, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Uganda and Burma will be at the greatest risk of conflict, while in 40 years, it will be China, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

For the purpose of the model, war is defined as being between governments and political organisations that use violence and in which at least 25 people die.

“The number of conflicts is falling,” the professor observes. “We expect this fall to continue. We predict a steady fall in the number of conflicts in the next 40 years. Conflicts that involve a high degree of violence, such as Syria, are becoming increasingly rare.”

In other words, the number of wars will halve. In 2009, some 15 per cent of the world’s countries were suffering from armed conflicts. That proportion will fall to 7 per cent midway through this century, according to the Norwegian researchers’ predictions. At its core, the study has taken a history of global conflicts over the last 40 years and added United Nations predictions for key indicators such as infant mortality rates and population structures up to 2050 to data on probable education rates.

Professor Hegre says “war has become less acceptable, just like duelling, torture and the death penalty”. His conflict model shows the combination of higher education, lower infant mortality, smaller youth cohorts, and lower population growth are a few of the reasons why the world can expect a more peaceful future. The population is expected to grow, but at a slower pace than today, and the proportion of young people will decrease in most countries, with the exception of African ones.

Unfortunately, the model has already had to be tweaked to take account of the Arab Spring and renewed Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The authors admitted that since the first findings of the model were published in 2009, conflicts in the Middle East had weakened the clear correlation between socio-economic development and the absence of civil war, while the fighting in Syria and Libya had shown that “we also have to include democratisation processes in the model”.

Half as much war by the middle of the century. I’d take that. However, I don’t think the professor has factored in the impact of cliamte change either. That’s going to throw his figures wildly off, I think.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • The last “war” the U.S. fought was World War II, over 60 years ago. However, our military has been engaged in violent activities continuously ever since. It’s possible that “war”, defined as “being between governments and political organisations that use violence and in which at least 25 people die” is decreasing, but that may not mean that the level of violence is going down. It may morph into wider and more violent police state activities. The necessity of “tweaking” the model for events of the past couple of years suggest that there may be definitional problems.

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