Saturday, November 26, 2011

Did the Cold War Save Lives?

By Philip Gardocki

Despite the press’s increasing focus on the wars around the world, you are far safer from war than you think.

Because of efforts to avoid the unthinkable, the world has avoided another world-wide war of the sort that have been occurring periodically for the last 500 years. Spain fought for world dominance in the 1500s. Later, all the European powers were involved in power struggles to one degree or another. By the 1700’s there was a world wide conflict between France and England, of which the French and Indian War, our Revolutionary War, and the Napoleonic era were just continuations. With France subdued, the English proceeded to establish and consolidate conquests all over the world against indigenous peoples.

By the late Nineteenth Century, the Germanic peoples pulled themselves together and became the dominant force in Europe. With a more modern infrastructure, and better organizational skills, they defeated France in 1870 and began to surpass England in economic power. When Germany tried to establish trading enclaves elsewhere in the world they found that all the choice spots were taken and were forced to establish themselves a niche empire whose very presence helped lay the groundwork for two world wars.

The hard numbers can never be known for previous centuries but, in this century, if you lived from 1900 to 1950, your odds of dying as a result of war were in the 4.5% range. About three billion people have lived in that timeframe and about 140 million were killed due to war or associated purges. From 1950 – 2000, your odds were around .8% or less. About 7 billion people have lived in that timeframe and about 60 million died from war or associated purges. If you avoided living in a communist country, the odds shift downward to 4.1% in the early part of the century and .2% of the later half.

Also consider that, if you extrapolate about 1% of the worlds population died in World War One, and 5% died in World War Two, the cost of a late Twentieth century World War Three, even without nukes, could easily have been 250 million, and more likely, a billion.

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