Foreign Policy Digital

The State of War

The world is more peaceful than ever, except when it comes to state violence against citizens.

The world is less violent today than at virtually any other time in human history. Hard as it is to believe, deaths from armed conflicts between states have declined dramatically since the 1950s. And although civil-war deaths have ticked up in recent years, they have still fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War. After increasing over the past decade, even terrorist-related killings have started to fall. Homicides, too, are on the decline in most parts of the world.

All this is cause for celebration, but it is not the whole story. Although the world has done a good job at reducing certain forms of violence, others are on the rise, particularly state violence against citizens and criminal violence from mafias, drug cartels, and gangs. Complicating matters, state and criminal killings are often intertwined. Politicians, police, and other officials may be in cahoots with criminal bosses, which makes their crimes harder to uncover and address.

This is not to say that disrupting and reducing such bloodshed is impossible. Other forms of organized killings have become less common partly

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