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War and Violent Crime - The Persistence Of War

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In the heady optimism of the 1960s, many futurists and students of conflict declared that war had become obsolete as a mechanism of dispute settlement. Skepticism about the use of war as an extension of diplomacy actually emerged much earlier, following World War I. It settled nothing and cost millions of lives and billions of dollars on both sides. World War II was in some ways a continuation of the conflagration, but eventually produced a definite outcome. However, the use of new weapons made possible the total destruction of populations, rather than just active combatants. This frightened political leaders as well as the public and cast even greater doubt on the utility of war as an institution for settling international arguments. Yet wars continued, but without nuclear fallout. In spite of General Douglas MacArthur's efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to use atomic bombs against North Korea, President Harry Truman, who had already used two nuclear devices against Japan, accepted another stalemate rather than risk retaliation in kind from the Soviet Union. Further, even when facing the fall of Saigon and total defeat, South Vietnam and its nuclear allies also refrained from using weapons of mass destruction. Thus, as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had predicted, the threat of mutual annihilation deterred nuclear powers from using their ultimate weapon, and wars continued, using more circumscribed weaponry. As Mark Twain might have written, reports of the death of war have been greatly exaggerated.

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