The New World Disorder: What Kills You Is Peace
In the dying light of a cool afternoon, at a shallow bend of the broad and sweeping Amur River, in the Russian Far East, a man pulled at the oars of a fishing boat and hauled up at a sandy beach just below Sikachi Alyan, an old village of the Nanai tribe. On this day, 53-year-old Misha came back empty-handed. But when he was a boy, the 4,400-kilometre Amur was teeming with fish. There were giant taimen and kaluga sturgeon – the largest freshwater fish in the world. There were salmon and skygazers, pikes and grass carps, river-horses, ciscos, and catfish.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia was plundered. Salmon bound for Russia’s Pacific rivers were scooped up by Japanese and Korean fishing boats. Poaching became a multi-million-dollar criminal business. By the late 1990s, almost half of Russia’s economy was controlled by gangsters. Life expectancy among Russian males fell by seven years, to 57, roughly the same as Sudan. The Amur was looted of its fish.
It was anarchy, and it was how Misha found his life entwined with two billion other people around the world – the third of humanity now living in the new world disorder that the Washington, D.C.-based Fund For Peace describes in its “Failed State Index.”
At the dawn of the 21st century, by conventional measurements, peace was breaking out all over. Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies. Since the end of the Cold War, wars have declined by 40 per cent. They have become far fewer in number, and less deadly. War isn’t the problem. It’s the peace that will kill you: nine out of ten armed conflicts underway around the world are not between nation states. They are battles within states over food, water, arable land, and mineral wealth, especially oil.
By the fall of 2005, the Institute for Environment and Human Security reckoned that there were already 20 million “environmental refugees” in the world – far more than war refugees or people fleeing state repression. Today’s refugees are fleeing ecological collapse, desertification, deforestation, drought, and crop failure. They’re running from lawlessness, warlordism, and organized crime. Within five years, the Institute predicts, there will be 50 million such refugees.
The above is from an essay of mine that appears in the March/April issue of Adbusters, now on the shelves. The essay sets out just some of the reasons why I believe much of the contemporary “anti-war” movement is fighting yesterday’s battles.
Countries like Canada – we’re the ninth largest economy in the world – have a duty to intervene on behalf of civilians in failed states. We’re going to have to learn a lot, very soon, about how to do that sort of thing effectively. And more importantly, we should be doing all we can to ensure that nation states don’t collapse in the first place.
To the “anti-state” left, this is apostasy.
The Fund for Peace is here. The Institute for Environment and Human Security findings are here.
UPDATE: The Adbusters essay is online now, here. My mugshot there is scary. I look positively scrofulous.