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Goldstein's 2002 Op Ed on the lull in war
Winning the War on War:
The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide

by Joshua S. Goldstein    (Dutton, September 2011)

"Winning the War on War reveals the greatest untold story of the past two decades - that contrary to popular impressions, war has become substantially rarer and less dangerous. Joshua Goldstein is widely recognized as one of the world's authorities on international relations, and he recounts this story with deep expertise but also a light touch, interleaving the amazing facts with fascinating character portrayals, disarming personal reminiscences, and forgotten-but-important historical moments. This book could change the understanding of policy makers, opinion leaders, and a wide readership."
-- Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of the bestseller The Blank Slate

"Winning the War on War does what no other book has attempted, providing a synoptic view, and narrative, of the slow but successful evolution of UN peacekeeping. It takes an unusual and unorthodox approach that works very well indeed."
-- Paul Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History, Yale University; author of the bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

"Professor Goldstein has written a novel, highly informative, and exceedingly valuable book."
-- David Hamburg, President Emeritus, Carnegie Corporation of New York; former president, American Association for the Advancement of Science; author of No More Killing Fields

"A highly readable account of the nature and problems of peacekeeping, ... an important contribution to public understanding of international affairs."
-- Brian Urquhart, Former Undersecretary-General of the UN; author of Ralph Bunche: An American Life and Hammarskjöld

"Joshua Goldstein ... tells the untold story of how we seem to be winning the long-term fight against war, and why. His book should be required reading for policymakers and the media."
-- Nils Petter Gleditsch, Peace Research Institute Oslo; president of the International Studies Association 2008-09

Reviews of Winning the War on War

   About the Author                 Email the author: jg -at- joshuagoldstein -dot- com

ISBN: 978-0-525-95253-4,     hardbound, 400 pp.,     $26.95
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Read the newspapers, and you'll be convinced war is worse than it's ever been: more civilian deaths, more rapes, more armed conflicts all around the world. But as leading scholar and writer Joshua Goldstein shows in this vivid, dramatic book, the reality is just the opposite. The commonly quoted statistic that "a century ago 90 percent of war deaths were military, but nowadays 90 percent are civilian" is based on one error in a little-read, twenty-year-old report. The truth is that the military-civilian death ratio has remained at around 50-50 for centuries. Most amazingly, we are in the midst of a general decline in armed conflict that is truly extraordinary in human history. Winning the War on War is filled with startling observations, including:
o 2010 had one of the lowest death rates from war, relative to population, of any year ever.
o No national armies are currently fighting one another-all current wars are civil wars.
o UN peacekeeping actually works very well, and 79 percent of Americans favor strengthening the UN, according to a recent poll.
In this "boots on the ground" account, Goldstein shows why global peacekeeping efforts are working-how large-scale looting, sexual assault, and genocidal atrocities are being stopped-and how we can continue winning the war on war.

© 2011 Joshua S. Goldstein

Table of Contents

  1. War on the Street Outside: Beirut, 1980
  2. The Long- Term Trend: A Trip in a Time Machine, 2011 to prehistoric times
  3. Palestine to Congo: The Invention of Peacekeeping, 1947– 61
  4. Angola to Mozambique: Failures and Successes of the Early 1990s
  5. The Kofi Annan Reforms: Consolidation and Expansion, 1997– 2006
  6. The Sierra Leone Model: Multidimensional Peace Operations, 1998– 2011
  7. The Unarmy: Nonmilitary Forces Supporting Peace
  8. Peace Movements: If You Want Peace, Work for Peace
  9. Assessing Progress: Is Peace Increasing since 1945?
10. Three Myths: Finding the Truth When Conventional Wisdom Is Wrong
11. Wars of the World: The Fires Still Smoldering
12. What We Can Do: A New Global Identity




This book asks readers to break out of a dominant way of thinking about world affairs that focuses on negativity and drowns out progress. If we turn off the screech of alarmist “news” and overblown political rhetoric for a moment and look at hard evidence objectively, we fi nd that many people in the world are working hard for peace and in fact the world is becoming more peaceful. For this shocking idea to sink in requires either a paradigm shift or at least a broken TV set.

For those who are sure wars are getting worse all the time and that peace is an illusion, and will not believe any amount of evidence I produce to the contrary, I have one question: “Compared to what?” Take the situation in Iraq in 2011— a terrible mess, Americans still getting killed by insurgents, civilians dying, the population unhappy, the government needing eight months to get organized after an election, the potential for civil war after the departure of U. S. forces. All true, and more, but “compared to what?” Compared to a few years ago when Sunni- Shiite sectarian violence ravaged the country? Compared to the period of the U. S. invasion in 2003, the looting, and the insurgency? Or compared to how Iraq would be if the United States had not botched the invasion? Or how it would be if fairies sprinkled magic dust over the country to end sectarian strife, corruption, and electricity shortages?

The ability to distinguish between bad (Iraq today) and worse (Iraq a few years ago) unlocks a profound understanding of today’s world situation. The world is going from worse to bad, from the fi re to the frying pan. Good news— unless you are freaked out by the frying pan and so upset by the “bad” coming at you constantly in the news that you cannot compare it with anything.

With the frying pan still pretty hot, it is easy to assume that war is getting worse, and can never get better, because everyone knows that war is inevitable. But if we look past the heat and smoke, a radical notion emerges in this book. War among human beings is not inevitable. Rather, the end of war, though also not inevitable, is possible. The possibility of an end to war is not something to be ridiculed, but to be pursued.

I hope that this story, one that tours some of the most awful war- torn places on earth but that is 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.

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