chapter  1
Sustaining the peace: stopping the recurrence of civil wars
Pages 18

Since the end of World War II, there has not been a single day in which there was not an armed conflict of some sort going on somewhere in the world. That observation in and of itself is, unfortunately, not especially provocative or startling to anyone who reads a daily newspaper. What may not be as obvious is that the patterns of armed conflict have changed dramatically since the end of World War II. Both the predominant form and primary locus of armed conflict have shifted dramatically from the patterns that had prevailed for the previous 300 years. First, whereas war between nations was the modal form of conflict for the three centuries prior to World War II, since 1945 the predominant form of armed conflict has been civil war (revolution, secession, ethnic conflict); interstate war has become relatively rare. Second, whereas the interstate wars of the previous 300 years took place mainly among (and on the territory of) the members of the central power system (including Europe and North America, plus Japan and China), the civil wars of the past half century have occurred almost exclusively in the Third World (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). Indeed, until the collapse of Leninist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1991, there had been no major civil wars on European soil, and only China among the major powers had experienced any conflicts of sufficient magnitude to warrant inclusion in any of the major civil war data sets.1