LONDON -- The people I'm not going to feel sorry for if the Bosnian war winds down are the arm-chair strategists. They keep telling us that the world is desperately dangerous -- Samuel Huntingdon's "Clash of Civilizations" in Foreign Affairs, Steven David's "Why The Third World Still Matters" in International Security, Robert Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy" in Atlantic.
Yet if Bosnia is wrapped up before Christmas, what will they point to? Chechnya and Rwanda are calming. Saddam Hussein's teeth continue to be pulled. In Palestine, the wolf is lying down with the lamb. North Korea has been cauterized (or is it Carterized?). Central America has returned to its habitual status of backwater. Even Haiti has gone quiet.
Bosnia, if not this year then next year, will probably retreat into the Balkan shadows, becoming as significant a political memory as Cyprus, whose Greek Christian population in 1974 was ethnically cleansed by Turkish Muslims and which is today a forgotten "bitter lemon," a divided island policed by long-suffering U.N. battalions.
With Bosnia behind us, perhaps we can at last begin to lever ourselves out of what Charles Maynes, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, calls the "New Pessimism" which, by re-arousing our Cold War militaristic instincts, has kept defense budgets high and political innovation in chains.
A less violent age
We could make a fresh start at looking at the post-Cold War world. The truth is that despite the Yugoslav turmoil, despite Iraq, Rwanda and Somalia, we are living in a less violent age. The Cold War, with its proxy conflicts, was a time of enormous blood-letting in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Central America and Africa. Bosnia cannot compare with even the smallest of these -- Bosnian casualty rates are half those of Central America or Angola. There are far fewer wars today than there used to be. After Bosnia I would expect war to become even more infrequent.
Power today grows less and less out of the barrel of a gun and more and more out of economic, scientific and cultural development. Except for a dwindling clique in China, the world is no longer ideologically driven. And even fundamentalist religion fuels conflicts in countries as diverse as Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and Algeria, it shows no sign of providing fuel for the pursuit of hegemony. Islamic aggression is essentially defensive, attempt to preserve its world from the intrusions of "Western modernity."
It is time to start worrying about war a little less and peace a little more. It is time to get military budgets down and arms sales under wraps. A significant cut in military spending could feed our health care and educational systems, and tame our high interest rates. Russia could get the helping hand it has long deserved. Africa could be rescued. The U.N. could be transformed.
If Bosnian peace is achieved, we may at last get the blue sky the Cold War's end should have given us. This time we shouldn't allow the pessimists to narrow our vision. There are too many important and productive things to do.
Jonathan Power writes a column on the Third World.