Will we ever be able to eradicate war altogether? In modern times, wars continue to rage: since the end of the Second World War there have been over 130 more wars or violent conflicts across 80 different countries. If anything has changed at all, it is in the technology of war which is becoming more advanced.
During the 20th century the First World War claimed tens of millions of lives. The death toll for the Second World War rose to 60 million. The power struggles culminated in the nuclear arms race: today more than 10,000 nuclear warheads are on standby to annihilate the entire planet. Paradoxically, it is the 639 small arms currently in circulation that are causing the most fatalities. Civilians have become the principal victims of conflict, both during and after combat. Civilian losses during the First World War represented roughly 10% of total deaths, but this figure rose steadily over the course of the century to reach 90% in the Cambodian, Rwandan, and Lebanese conflicts.
Even away from the battlefield, war is causing damage. Military spending is constantly on the increase, reaching 1,339 billion US dollars in 2007, an average of $200 per person per year. Not only do wars utilize and waste enormous natural and economic resources, but they undermine the trust required to foster cooperation and solidarity among countries.
Following the Second World War and the disbanding of the League of Nations (the first international peace-keeping organization), the United Nations was set up to safeguard world security. Its jurisdiction is limited. Some of its resolutions have led to military intervention, for example in Korea in 1950 and in Iraq in 1991. But the UN has also been criticized for taking sides, and many of its actions have not been effective, such as those taken with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has been raging for over half a century. However, opponents of the organization have not come up with a better alternative, and in spite of its shortcomings, the UN continues to assist victims and act as a peace-keeping force in many of the world’s warring regions.