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Belmont Club

Darkness in the Heart

November 20th, 2012 - 9:45 pm

The Globe and Mail reports:

The rebel takeover of the key Congolese city of Goma has sparked fears for the future of one of Africa’s biggest and most war-torn countries.

In the short term, the victory by the M23 rebels could trigger a wave of reprisal attacks on civilians in the city of a million people. Thousands of displaced people, in the chaos of the rebel advance, are fleeing out of Goma or into the city from rural camps …

United Nations peacekeepers, who had deployed helicopters to strafe the rebels with cannons and rockets on Sunday in a futile attempt to slow their advance, appeared to give up and just stood by watching as the rebels took the city. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was “absurd” that the 17,000-member UN force was unable to stop a few hundred rebels.

Absurd? Absurd?

For some, the correct word is “expected”. Not so for Steven Pinker, who’s argued that the decline in international warfare is due to the rise of international institutions but most of all, due to the “humanitarian revolution”. He figures the nastiness has been bred out of us by now.

Another contributor was the expansion of international peacekeeping forces, which really do keep the peace—not always, but far more often than when adversaries are left to fight to the bitter end.

Finally, the postwar era has seen a cascade of “rights revolutions”—a growing revulsion against aggression on smaller scales. In the developed world, the civil rights movement obliterated lynchings and lethal pogroms, and the women’s-rights movement has helped to shrink the incidence of rape and the beating and killing of wives and girlfriends.

In recent decades, the movement for children’s rights has significantly reduced rates of spanking, bullying, paddling in schools, and physical and sexual abuse. And the campaign for gay rights has forced governments in the developed world to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and has had some success in reducing hate crimes against gay people.

Why has violence declined so dramatically for so long? Is it because violence has literally been bred out of us, leaving us more peaceful by nature?

People who believe that humanity has become relatively more peaceful because of our better angels may still be around to witness what happens if the current administration does away with the long Pax Americana.

Without America, peace may prove more fragile than than we think.

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