“I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today. It’s not.” With these words, delivered at a Memorial Day commemoration last Monday in San Diego, Mitt Romney perpetuated what is perhaps the greatest single myth in American foreign policy – that we live in a world of lurking danger and rising threats.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the world today is safer than at any point in human history. Wars of all kind, including civil wars, are on the decline; and inter-state war, in particular, is even rarer. According to the Uppsala University Conflict Database, in 1992, there were 53 armed conflicts raging in 39 countries around the world; in 2010, there were 30 armed conflicts in 25 countries.
And when wars do occur, they are for the most part low-intensity conflicts that, on average, kill about 90 percent fewer people than did violent struggles in the 1950s, according to the Human Security Report Project at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University. In fact, the first 10 years of this century witnessed fewer deaths from war than any decade in the last century
Even more important, the worst and most violent types of conflicts, great power wars, have virtually disappeared. There hasn’t been one in six decades, and a big part of the reason is that there is not a single country with the capabilities or inclination to confront the world’s biggest and most powerful nation – the United States.
Beyond war’s declining appeal, freedom is actually on the march. According to Freedom House there are 117 electoral democracies in the world, up from 69 at the end of the Cold War. The world today is also more prosperous, better educated and far healthier than ever before. A world defined by such positive attributes is a world far less likely to find itself mired in a future of violence and war.