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Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide Hardcover – September 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Winning the War on War reveals the greatest untold story of the past two decades-that contrary to popular impressions, war has become substantially rarer and less dangerous... This book could change the understanding of policy makers, opinion leaders, and a wide readership."
-Steven Pinker, professor of psychology, Harvard College; author of the bestseller The Blank Slate

"Goldstein's argument that we're actually beating back war seems counterintuitive, but he marshals some impressive arguments..." -- Library Journal

"A surprising study that suggests warfare is decreasing ... Optimistic, useful history of diplomacy as counterweight to brutality." -- Kirkus Reviews

"An optimistic, if controversial, assessment by a respected anti-war advocate." -- Publishers Weekly

"Professor Goldstein has written a novel, highly informative, and exceedingly valuable book." -- David Hamburg, President Emeritus, Carnegie Corporation of New York; former president, AAAS

"A highly readable account of the nature and problems of peacekeeping, ... an important contribution to public understanding of international affairs." -- Brian Urquhart, Former Undersecretary-General of the UN; author of Ralph Bunche: An American Life and Hammarskjöld

"Does what no other book has attempted, providing a synoptic view, and narrative, of the slow but successful evolution of UN peacekeeping. It takes an unusual and unorthodox approach that works very well indeed." -- Paul Kennedy, Professor of History, Yale University and author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

From the Inside Flap

The astounding truth: peacekeeping is working
Preeminent scholar of international relations, Joshua Goldstein, tears down one of the greatest myths of modern history.  Despite all the hand wringing, fear mongering, and bad-news headlines, peace is on the rise.  Fewer wars are starting, more are ending, and those that remain are smaller and more localized than in past years. Incredibly, no national armies are still fighting each other--all today's wars are civil wars. This worldwide decline in armed conflict is crucially important for America's shift from a decade of war to an era of lower military budgets and operations.
Goldstein's groundbreaking analysis of the empirical evidence is convincing, but the real power of his argument lies in the accounts of experiences on the violent frontlines where peace must actually be put into effect. His vivid "boots on the ground" account shows how today's successes in building peace grow out of decades of effort and sacrifice by ordinary and extraordinary people working through international organizations, humanitarian aid agencies, and popular movements around the world. At the center of this drama is the United Nations and its sixty-year experiment in peacekeeping - overwhelmingly supported by American public opinion - which is making a measurable difference in reducing violence in our time.

Taking us from his own sleepless night in Beirut as shells landed in nearby streets, to the agonizing failures of the international community in Bosnia and Rwanda, to the recent triumphs of peacekeeping in West Africa, Goldstein tells the most exciting and important untold global story of our age. He shows how large-scale looting, sexual assault, and atrocities are being stopped, and how we can continue building on these hopeful and inspiring achievements to keep winning the war on war.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (September 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525952535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525952534
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joshua S. Goldstein is professor emeritus at the School of International Service at American University, winner of the International Studies Association "Book of the Decade" award, among others, author of International Relations (10th edition), and a research scholar at the University of Massachusetts. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. His book Winning the War on War (2011), shows that despite the gory headlines the decade after 9/11 was the most peaceful worldwide in a century. His book The Wounds Within (2015) discusses veterans and PTSD.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By MARTIN HELLMAN on September 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit that, like most people, I did not question the conventional wisdom that the world was going to hell in a hand basket, especially where war is concerned. Looking at Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other places where horrible event are taking place, it's not hard to see why.

Goldstein challenges that belief with data. In fact, that's one of his main points. As Jack Webb used to say on TV's Dragnet, "I want the facts, ma'am, just the facts." That's this book's mantra. Forget what you think you know, look at the facts, and then decide.

The book likens our situation to having jumped "out of the fire, into the frying pan." The frying pan is hot, so we tend not to notice that things are improving. It also notes that the media has a tendency to highlight the violence and bloodshed, so it's understandable that, based solely on our emotional reaction to the news, we think things have not improved.

The book is surprisingly well written for one of its genre -- meaning I am enjoying reading it not just for the hopeful message it conveys, but that it's also fun to read.

Highly recommended!

Martin Hellman
Professor Emeritus, Stanford University
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Roth on December 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every day, we turn on the news, and the world seems to be getting more and more violent. In his new book, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, Joshua S. Goldstein argues that, contrary to popular belief, armed conflict is actually decreasing around the world. The central theme of Winning the War on War is the role that the UN and its peacekeeping missions plays in this decline.

Goldstein first reviews the trends in war since 1945. In spite of an upswing in civil war in the early 1990s, there has been actually been a significant decline in both the number of wars and war-related deaths in the post-Cold War era. There were 1.5 million deaths in the Vietnam war, compared with 55,000 deaths during the Salvadoran civil war. Also missing are the large-scale, violent interstate wars, which have virtually disappeared from the world stage.

Although Goldstein acknowledges there are a variety of possible explanations for the decline in violent conflict, he attributes a large part of it to the development of the international community, specifically the UN and peacekeeping. While he admits that there are still many inadequacies in the UN's structure and ability to make policy, he places strong emphasis on its abilities to change war-making into peace-building. The second section of the books analyzes several stages of peacekeeping-from the early years when the invention of peacekeeping was still new to more recent missions and the improvements that have been made. Goldstein pays careful attention to the failures and successes in peacekeeping in the early 1990s, and argues that the UN has learned from its mistakes, allowing it to function more effectively in the realm of peacekeeping.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jon Reisdorf on May 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are like me you are always looking for something positive to keep going, to keep hope alive. In my ever widening search I came across Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide the subject of this book review. Old lefty Joshua S. Goldstein paradigm-altering well -researched study suggests that things are not as bleak as those on the right and left have led us to believe.
This is not a sing Kumbaya - New Age -all is unfolding as the universe intended - book. Goldstein points out that in his opinion there is nothing particularly nonviolent in human psychology or physiology. He also believes that there is no great nonviolent evolutionary process at work. The progress toward a more peaceful world is demonstrably uneven and fragile. However, his well-written book (which works as a survey course on war and peace) points out what works and how we should strengthen those things that work. The most effective instrument of peace is the United Nations.
As I read Goldstein's narrative I was struck about how both main stream media and the right only reports peace keeping failures. If it bleeds it leads is the rule for local and international news. Peaceful successes don't get noticed.
With almost no support from the United States, Goldstein argues that UN peace keeping efforts - often eviscerated and almost always inefficient - are the main cause in the effect of a more peaceful world.
His book can be heavy going. Interspersed throughout Goldstein's book is the tragic story of rape as a weapon in war. Sadly violence against women is as old as war itself and rape has long been a means of destroying the social fabric of perceived enemies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on April 8, 2014
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I never would have believed it if I hadn't read the facts. Dr. Goldstein makes a very convincing and well researched argument about the decline in violence world wide. I had the chance to hear him at a Symposium for World Peace at Sivananda Yoga Retreat Ashram and knew that I needed to read more. What a great read.
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