Peace in the 21st Century

Setting aside the obvious moral arguments in favor of peace, there are many practical considerations that preclude right thinking nations from engaging in warfare in the 21st century. Two of the most compelling reasons for peace in our day are the asymmetric nature of modern warfare and the costs of warfare, measured in both real and human capital.

An analysis of modern warfare would suggest that the world has entered an era of asymmetric warfare. No longer do nations meet on the field of battle, where wave after wave of human chattel rush at one another until the clear victor is left standing. Technology, in a world in which websites such as can thrive has provided industrialized nations with the luxury of distance from the battlefield and, to offset that advantage, less fortunate enemies are forced to blend into local populations and employ tactics such as guerrilla warfare and terrorism. These tactics are unpredictable, and cause massive civilian casualties.

That our planet is undergoing widespread climate change is no longer a matter of debate. This climate change, along with shifting demographics, has the potential to cause shortages in the very things people need most, such as food, fresh water, and fuel. Unless these issues are dealt with decisively and with consensus, we risk a century of wars fought over the very resources that ensure basic human survival. Asymmetric wars, where no one wins and everyone loses.

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Which brings us to the cost of warfare. Already this century, the United States alone has spent over $900 billion on asymmetric warfare, with no end in sight. Add to that the scores of regional conflicts occurring around the globe at any given moment and the financial cost becomes staggering. Wars are financed by inflation so, in addition to the $8,000+ every American household has already spent on warfare this decade, the U.S. dollar is worth nearly one-third less than it was at the beginning of the decade.

Of course, the human cost of war can hardly be measured. It is widely estimated that over 160 million people died as a result of warfare in the 20th century. What are the chances that the cure for cancer died with one of them? Or the invention of a reliable alternative fuel source?

Warfare is far too expensive and unreliable as a means of conflict resolution to be considered a viable diplomatic strategy in the 21st century. 2008