Peace in Our Time

I was up at Yale talking international law and global governance. When folks like me start waxing eloquent about world peace and cooperation, it’s easy to dismiss us as utopian. Look how far we are from that end-state! It’s unimaginable. And I point them to this point about France and Germany:

Yes. Let us give thanks that the most brutal and blood-soaked border in the world is quiet–a border inhabited on both sides by those bloodthirsty peoples who have been numbers one and two in terms of the most effective killers of foreigners for centuries.

Who am I talking about? The Germans and the French, of course

It is now 65 years and 9 months since an army crossed the Rhine River bearing fire and sword. This is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since the second century B.C.E., before the Cimbri and the Teutones appeared to challenge the armies of the consul Gaius Marius in the Rhone Valley.

The story behind why worrying about a “big blowup in Europe” now is a worry about bank defaults rather than the wholesale destruction of major cities is a long and complicated one. But what’s clear is that it couldn’t have happened without the rise of liberal sentiments on the continent and the construction of liberal institutions to go along with them. France is still France, Germany is still Germany, and the continent still has various problems. But the problem of war has been abolished, just as it has on the US-Canadian border, between the United States and Japan, and in other portions of the globe. The trend worldwide has been toward fewer cross-border wars and fewer and less deadly internal conflicts as well. Working toward further reductions—toward peace—is by no means futile.