They Called It Progress

Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Revives Debate Over the Atomic Bomb -  The New York Times

In absolute terms—and probably per capita as well—the twentieth century visited more collective violence on the world than any century of the previous ten thousand years. … [E]arlier wars deployed nothing like the death-dealing armaments, much less the state-backed extermination of civilians, that twentieth-century conflicts brought with them…. [T]he world death rate for large-scale war ran around 90 per million population per year during the eighteenth century, 150 per million during the nineteenth century, and over 400 per million during the twentieth…. Altogether, about 100 million people died as a direct result of action by organized military units backed by one government or another over the course of the twentieth century. Most likely a comparable number of civilians died of war-induced disease and other indirect effects…. Large postwar waves of genocide and politicide occurred before 1980 in the Soviet Union (1943–1947), China (1950–1951), Indonesia (1965–1966), again China (1966–1975), Pakistan (1971), Uganda (1971–1979), and Cambodia (1975– 1979). During the 1980s they continued on substantial scales in Afghanistan, Uganda, El Salvador, Iran, Syria, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and probably Iraq…. Since 1945, then, the world as a whole has taken decisive, frightening steps away from its painfully achieved segregations between armies and civilian populations, between war and peace, between international and civil war, between lethal and nonlethal applications of force. It has moved toward armed struggle within existing states and toward state-sponsored killing, deprivation, or expulsion of whole population categories. These trends greatly exceed population growth and the multiplication of independent states; they constitute an enormous increase per capita and per state. … Except occasionally to wring their hands at other people’s barbarity, residents of rich Western countries have not much noticed.

Charles Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence

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