[This post is by guest-writer Line Løvåsen].
Following up on this post, some additional information on the evolution of military conflicts and military spending.
Since 2005, the Human Security Report Project (HSRP) publishes reports on trends in armed conflicts and political violence. The reports indicate a decline by around 40% in armed conflicts and political violence since 1992. Another report, the SIPRI yearbook of 2009, counts 16 armed conflicts going on in the world in 2008. In 1998 there were 36, and from 1989 to 1998 there were over 100.
The decline is explained by the end of the two “conflict machines”, colonialism and the Cold War. The increase in international activism, more specifically at the UN, and changes in the nature of warfare have also resulted in fewer deadly conflicts. The wars of today are of a lower intensity, and are fought with lighter arms, predominately between weak government forces and poorly trained rebels. The increasing number of refugees is another reason for lower death tolls, together with a decrease in the number of authoritarian regimes. According to the report, terrorism is the only type of political violence that is increasing, but it still accounts for a small number of deaths. Despite this relatively small number, many politicians still claim that terrorism is the biggest threat.
According to the peace dividend-notion, there should be a reduction in military spending when there is a decline in conflicts. However, SIPRI, which reports on annual military spending, shows, in the 2009 report, an increase in military spending by 45% since 1997. The world now spends more than 1464 billion dollars annually (!) on the military and arms trade. The biggest spender is the United States, which is responsible for almost half of the total world spending, and during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, US military expenditure increased to its highest level in real terms since World War II. In addition to increased spending, there is also an increased concentration of spending with around 15 countries responsible for over 80% of total spending.