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Commentary: Global Peace Index

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   June 14, 2013 at 9:55 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- Trompe l'oeil is the art of creating illusion and no one was better at it than the late Soviet Union with the word "peace."

Founded in 1950, the World Peace Council in Helsinki, Finland, was entirely a KGB creation. Disarmament and peaceful coexistence were the ingredients of intellectual catnip for liberal intellectuals the world over.

Anyone who wrote or spoke about WPC's Soviet control was silenced with the all-purpose accusation of McCarthyism.

The WPC's stated mission was to promote peace campaigns around the world against U.S. "warmongering."

So effective was the soporific that the Kremlin went one better and ordered the U.S. Communist Party to set up the U.S. Peace Council, which it did in November 1979 at International House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., twice addressed the conference.

No fewer than 77 members of the U.S. Congress signed up for USPC.

By 1981, USPC came out for Third World revolutionary organizations and against weapons of mass destruction that "cannot be separated from support for detente and to halt the forces that seek to crush struggles for liberation."

Undeterred by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, USPC churned on solo. By 2010, it had expanded from three U.S. chapters to 10 (e.g., San Francisco Bay Area Peace Council; Southern Arizona Peace Council).

USPC has gained in respectability since the demise of U.S.S.R. WPC moved its headquarters from Helsinki to Greece.

The end of the Cold War also liberated the word "Peace," no longer a Soviet monopoly.

In fact, there is now something called the Global Peace Index sponsored by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Measuring the state of peace since 2008, GPI says "more countries (110) deteriorated in peace than increased in peace (48)."

The 10 highest ranking are predictable -- e.g., the small Nordic and Alpine democracies. Europe, even with several countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece seeing "less peaceful conditions," was the most peaceful region while North America is the second.

Libya, curiously, experienced "the greatest rise in peacefulness," a sentiment not shared by too many Libyans or by the family of the U.S. ambassador who was killed by al-Qaida supporters in Benghazi.

Uruguay and Chile were twinned as the two most peaceful in Latin America while Bhutan took top honors in South Asia.

Predictably, too, Afghanistan wound up as low man on the totem pole, displacing Somalia, which moved up a notch.

Looking at the 2008-13 trends, GPI notes -- surprise! -- that the world has gradually become less peaceful over the past six years.

The global economic impact of containing violence, says GPI's most recent index, was estimated at $9.4 trillion in 2012, "or 11 percent of gross world product."

Stats rapidly become irrelevant when GPI says, "the economic impact of violence containment to the world economy is nearly double the value of the world's agricultural production, nearly five times the total output of the tourism industry to the world (gross domestic product) and almost 13 times the annual output of the global airlines industry."

South Asia, GPI reports, "is the least peaceful, followed by the Middle East and North Africa, and Russia and Eurasia."

The measuring criteria are hard to fathom when "Sudan and Chad experienced the second and third largest gains in peace as a result of easing conflict," but "despite this they remain in the lower reaches of the GPI."

Predictably, the 10 "Most Peaceful" are Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Canada, Sweden and Belgium.

GPI's seventh edition of "global levels of peacefulness ranks 162 nations (Afghanistan is 162nd) using 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources which gauge three broad themes: the levels of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization."

Following Afghanistan in the 10 "Least Peaceful" come Somalia, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, Congo, Russia, North Korea and the Central African Republic.

By generating "new information on the state of peace at the national and global level," the Global Peace Index hopes to make a valuable contribution to better understanding how civil society, researchers, policymakers and government can create a more peaceful society."

Many historians see warfare as an "inescapable and integral aspect of human history."

Prolific author on international relations Conway W. Henderson writes that 14,000 wars have taken place between 3,500 B.C. and the late 20th century, costing 3.5 billion lives (half of today's world population), leaving only 300 years of peace.

And in "War Before Civilization," Lawrence H. Keeley (University of Illinois) says approximately 90-95 percent of known societies throughout history engaged in at least occasional warfare.

China's Mao Zedong said the Communist camp shouldn't fear nuclear war with the United States since even "if half of mankind died, the other half would remain while imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist."

In the 2013 Global Peace Index of 162 nations, Iceland ranks first, Afghanistan last, and the United States 110th, sandwiched between Papua New Guinea (109) and China (111).

Go figure.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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