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Conflict and Peace in the 20th Century - GCSE

Conflict and Peace in the 20th Century - GCSE

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Ten Historic Peace Deals The World Actually Managed To Pull Off

In a world continuously scarred by wars, the work of peacemakers around the globe has never been more demanding or more important.

Around the globe, mediators, diplomats, conflict resolution experts, civil society groups and countless others are toiling -- often behind the scenes -- to reach the agreements that end wars. Their task has grown more complex as the nature of conflict evolves, becoming more interconnected, ideologically driven and dependent on new technologies.

Peace deals are often just a first step on the hard road to lasting peace. Yet that first step is crucial: a feat of hope over despair, and compromise over confrontation. “If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we have ever prepared for war,” writes American author Wendell Berry in Citizenship Papers.

Below is an outline of 10 recent historic peace agreements that moved some of the world's worst conflicts toward peace, based on data compiled by Uppsala University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

Egypt and Israel

On March 26, 1979, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty that ended the 30-year state of war between the countries, and made Egypt the first Arab state to recognize Israel.

President Jimmy Carter with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty at the White House in Washington on March 26, 1979. (AP Photo)

The treaty was the fulfillment of the Camp David Accords agreed on in U.S.-brokered talks a year earlier, for which the Egyptian and Israeli leaders were awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize.

For the first time since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the nation had normal relations with an Arab neighbor. The deal also included Israel's return to Egypt of the Sinai peninsula, which it had captured in a 1967 war. Egypt, in turn, agreed to keep the region demilitarized. Egypt also opened up the strategic Suez Canal to Israeli ships.

It was a historic deal, but highly controversial in the region. Other Arab countries, still in a state of war with Israel, suspended Egypt from the Arab League. Sadat was assassinated by Egyptian Islamic extremists in 1981, who cited the deal as one of their grievances. Meanwhile, Egypt was richly rewarded by the U.S. for the peace deal in economic and military aid.

El Salvador

On Jan. 16, 1992, El Salvador’s government and leftist rebels agreed to end over a decade of civil war in the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

FMLN Commander Joaquin Villabolos signs the El Salvadoran Peace Accords at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City on Jan. 16, 1992. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)

Conflict broke out in El Salvador in 1980 amid mounting government repression, wealth disparities and popular protests. Leftist guerrillas called the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation waged an offensive against U.S.-backed government troops and brutal paramilitary death squads. The war left at least 70,000 people dead and the country’s economy and infrastructure in ruins.

The government and rebels eventually asked the U.N. to mediate peace talks, and despite continued violence, they reached a final deal in 1992. Under the agreement, the rebels agreed to lay down their arms after a nine-month ceasefire and become a political party. The government agreed to cut the size of the Salvadoran military, investigate human rights abuses and institute limited land and democratic reforms.

While El Salvador’s civil war was over, the country struggled to cope with the legacy of the war amid soaring crime and gang violence. “It takes the sons and daughters of warriors to consolidate the peace,” explained Diana Negroponte, a Latin America scholar at the Brookings Institution. “However, in El Salvador, for want of job opportunities and advancement within the country, some of the next generation turned to gang warfare."

South Africa

On Nov. 18, 1993, the South African government and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party agreed on an interim constitution that paved the road to the end of apartheid.

F.W. de Klerk (L) shakes hands with Nelson Mandela (R) at the World Trade Centre near Johannesburg, Nov. 18, 1993. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)

Mandela had been released after 27 years in prison three years earlier, amid escalating political violence in the country. After decades of armed struggle against white minority rule, Mandela's ANC movement entered negotiations with the government to end the system of apartheid.

The 1993 constitution laid out the path to South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in 1994 and the structures of a post-apartheid rule, including a Constitutional Court and Bill of Rights. The ANC won the election by a landslide, and Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa.


On Dec. 14, 1995, the leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia signed the Dayton Accords, ending the worst conflict in Europe since World War II, with around 100,000 casualties and over 2 million displaced.

Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic (L), Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic (C) and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman sign the Dayton peace accord on Dec. 14, 1995, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (MICHEL GANGNE/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed, the multiethnic republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina tried to break away in 1992. But it descended into violence as Serbian, Bosniak and Croat forces fought for territorial control. Serbian forces’ systematic killing, deportation and rape of Bosniaks and Croats raised international alarm, and after massacres in Markale and Srebrenica, NATO forces intervened, bombing Serbian positions. U.S., European and Russian leaders brought the warring leaders together for peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, and the agreement was signed a month later.

The Dayton Accords established separate Serbian and Muslim-Croat political entities under a single Bosnian state. The deal was praised for freezing the conflict, but it did not end the region’s deep divides. Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegović said the agreement was like "drinking a bitter but useful medicine." Today, Bosnia has a weak central government, with its political components maintaining their own flag, their own anthem and their own version of history, the BBC reports.

Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević was tried for genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Kosovo by a special U.N. tribunal in 1999, although he died before the conclusion of the trial.


On Dec. 29, 1996, the Guatemalan government and leftist rebels signed a peace deal that ended 36 years of civil war, the longest and deadliest of Central America’s civil wars.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu (L) greets Guatemalan Rebel Commander Rolando Moran after the signing of the peace accord in Guatemala City, December 29, 1996. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

After a U.S.-supported military coup in 1954, leftist guerrillas launched an insurgency against the military government in 1960. Guatemalan forces and paramilitary groups waged a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that took a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s poor and indigenous population. A 1999 U.N. report found state-sponsored attacks on indigenous Guatemalans amounted to genocide, and blamed U.S. support to the military for aiding human rights violations. In all, as many as 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or “disappeared” during the conflict.

Peace talks began in the early 1990s, and culminated in the deal to end hostilities in 1996, earning guerrilla leader Rolando Morán and Guatemalan President Álvaro Arzú the UNESCO Peace Prize. The peace process controversially included an amnesty for many crimes committed during the conflict. However, in recent years, Guatemala has begun to try some of the most grave abuses, including an ongoing case against former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Human rights activists blame the long years of impunity for the violence and organized crime that blights Guatemala, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. In 2007 the U.N. set up an international commission against impunity to help Guatemala fight criminal networks in the country.


On June 27, 1997, Tajikistan’s president and the leader of the United Tajik Opposition signed a peace accord in Moscow that ended five years of civil war.

Tajik opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri (L) and Russian President Boris Yeltsin shake hands, as Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmomov looks on in Moscow's Kremlin, June 27, 1997. (AP Photo)

The conflict broke out shortly after Tajikistan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. An imbalance of power between ethnic and regional groups led to an armed uprising against the Moscow-backed government. The civil war killed over 50,000 people and created a humanitarian crisis in the country, already the poorest nation in Central Asia. The U.N. made several attempts to broker a peace deal before the warring parties finally agreed to end hostilities and institute political reforms in 1997.

While the peace deal ended the war, the country remains mired in poverty and corruption, and is heavily dependent on security and economic support from Moscow.

Northern Ireland

On April 10, 1998, seemingly intractable enemies in Northern Ireland agreed to a peace deal called the Good Friday Agreement, helping to bring an end to decades of sectarian and political strife.

(L-R) Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair after signing the Northern Ireland peace agreement, April 10, 1998. (AP Photo/Dan Chung/Pool)

Under the deal, republicans (who want Northern Ireland to be part of the Republic of Ireland) and unionists (who want to remain in union with Great Britain) essentially agreed to disagree on the final status of region. In the meantime, the agreement established a separate parliament, or assembly, for Northern Ireland and a ministerial council for coordination with the Republic of Ireland. It also included provisions for police reform, for the release of paramilitary prisoners and for the paramilitaries to turn over their weapons. The deal was ratified by referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Peace faced several stumbling blocks. Paramilitary splinter groups opposed to the deal continued the violence, including the Real IRA bombing in Northern Ireland's Omagh that August of that year that killed 29 people. Political disputes raged over several components of the deal, including the annual unionist marches in Northern Ireland, which remain a flashpoint today. The Northern Ireland Assembly barely functioned until 2007, when former enemies the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin formed a power-sharing government. Controversies continue today over what was agreed upon, including secret assurances to fugitive republican paramilitaries.

Yet the agreement marked a historic breakthrough in a centuries-long political quagmire, and transformed life in conflict-torn Northern Ireland. “After 15 years, the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland still occasionally quivers, sometimes abruptly, and yet it holds,” Irish novelist Colum McCann wrote on the anniversary of the agreement in 2013. “It is one of the great stories of the second half of the 20th century, and by the nature of its refusal to topple, it is one of the continuing marvels of the 21st as well.”

Papua New Guinea

On Aug. 30, 2001, the government of Papua New Guinea and leaders of island of Bougainville signed a peace deal, formally ending the most violent conflict in the South Pacific since World War II.

Chiefs, elders and politicians attend the ceasefire signing ceremony on the island of Bougainville, April 30, 1998. (AP Photo/Australian Defence PR)

The civil war was first sparked by local resistance to the Panguna copper mine, owned by an Australian company, amid concerns about its environmental impact on the island. A separatist uprising broke out in the 1980s and was brutally crushed by Papua New Guinean security forces. As the conflict spiraled, some 20,000 people lost their lives. The parties reached a ceasefire in 1998, mediated by Australia and New Zealand. The full peace agreement three years later included granting considerable autonomy to Bougainville and holding a referendum on full independence within 10 to 15 years.

As that deadline approaches, Bougainville’s autonomous government has warned that international support for the implementation of the agreement had waned in recent years. The government launched preparations for the referendum earlier this year.


On Aug. 18, 2003, Liberian representatives signed a peace agreement in the Ghanaian capital Accra, ushering in a more stable period for the war-torn country.

Sekou Damate Conneh, leader of the main rebel group, signs a peace pact in Accra on Aug. 18, 2003. (AFP/Getty Images)

Liberia had been wrought by conflict since a 1980 military coup, which was followed by a 1989 uprising led by warlord Charles Taylor. Taylor later won presidential elections, but his support for rebel forces in neighboring countries made Liberia a pariah state, and Liberian rebels battled to oust Taylor’s regime. Liberia’s civil wars left at least 200,000 dead.

In 2003, the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor for war crimes in that country’s brutal conflict. Taylor agreed to resign and went into exile in Nigeria. After Taylor left the country, the government, rebels, political parties and civil society groups reached a peace accord, which was monitored by United Nations peacekeepers. The peace deal ushered in a two-year transitional government, before democratic elections brought to power Africa’s first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Her government set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate crimes committed during the long years of war.

The peace stuck, and Liberia made progress rebuilding its shattered economy. But corruption and political disillusionment linger on, as Liberian writer Robtel Neajai Pailey explained on the 10th anniversary of the accord. “Although the guns have fallen silent, Liberia is experiencing what social theorist Johan Galtung called negative peace -- that is, peace derived from the absence of physical violence,” he wrote in The Guardian. “Over the next decade and beyond, Liberia must strive for positive peace: the absence of indirect, structural violence manifested in poverty, inequality, and impunity.”


On Nov. 21, 2006, Nepal’s Prime Minister Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the head of the Communist Party of Nepal Prachanda entered into peace talks to end a decade of civil war.

Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala (L) talks to Maoist Chariman Prachanda (R) during the signing of a peace agreement, in Kathmandu on Nov. 21, 2006. (DEVENDRA M SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Maoist rebels rose up against the country’s constitutional monarch in 1996, seeking to establish a communist republic. The conflict raged for a decade, killing more than 13,000 people. Nepalese King Gyanendra assumed executive powers in 2005 and vowed to end the rebellion. But popular pressure forced him to rescind his absolute control, and a new Nepali government invited the rebels for peace talks, culminating in the 2006 deal.

The Maoists entered politics, and the monarchy was abolished in 2008, but subsequent governments have failed to agree on a new constitution. The Himalayan nation continues to grapple with political instability, as it faces the mammoth task of recovering from the massive April 2015 earthquake.

AQA History: Conflict and Peace in the 20th Century Sources

Note: I'm going to answer the question first without my books in front of me, then below I'll check and add the right stuff.

The source is a cartoon by Soviet artist in 1938. This was the year that the Munich Agreement (29 September 1938) was signed, where Stalin was not allowed in. It's quite biased because it's a Soviet cartoon, so it can only show the Soviet side of the Agreement. The purpose of the source to is show how the Munich Agreement is going to hurt Russia by using Hitler to destroy Russia. Stalin was not allowed in the Munich Agreement, and at the Agreement Daladier and Chamberlain gave Hitler the Sudetenlands to appease him, which would have worried Stalin that they were giving more land and more chance to take over Eastern Europe.

I disagree with the interpretation because at the Munich Agreement, they didn't have Stalin there because all three leaders were anti-communists and Hitler would not agree to talk if Stalin was there. Also I disagree because Chamberlain and Daladier weren't trying to destroy Russia with this Agreement, they were merely trying to gain "peace with honour". Chamberlain had Hitler sign the Anglo-German Declaration which was an agreement that both countries saw it in their best interests not to go to war. Clearly the Munich Agreement was not to send Hitler to destroy Russia, but to prevent another world war over a small section of land in the Czechoslovakia.

What Were the Deadliest Wars of the 20th Century?

The three wars of the 1900s with the highest number of civilian and soldier fatalities were World War II, World War I, and the Russian Civil War, respectively.

World War II

The largest and bloodiest war of the 20th century (and of all time) was World War II. The conflict, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, involved most of the planet. When it was finally over, between 62 and 78 million are estimated to have died.   Of that enormous group, which represents about 3 percent of the entire world population at the time, the huge majority (over 50 million) were civilians.  

World War I

World War I was also catastrophic but total casualties are much harder to calculate as deaths were not well documented. Some sources estimate that there were over 10 million military deaths plus civilian casualties, of which there are thought to be even more (so in total, the number of deaths is estimated at 20 million or more).   Factoring in the deaths caused by the 1918 influenza epidemic, spread by returning soldiers at the end of World War I, this war's death total is much higher. The epidemic alone was responsible for at least 50 million deaths.  

Russian Civil War

The third bloodiest war of the 20th century was the Russian Civil War. This war caused the death of an estimated 13.5 million people, almost 10% of the population—12 million civilians and 1.5 million soldiers.   Unlike the two world wars, however, the Russian Civil War did not spread across Europe or beyond. Rather, it was a struggle for power following the Russian Revolution, and it pitted the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, against a coalition called the White Army.

Interestingly, the Russian Civil War was over 14 times deadlier than the American Civil War. By comparison, the latter was a much smaller war that resulted in 642,427 Union casualties and 483,026 Confederate casualties.   However, the American Civil War, which began in 1861 and ended in 1865, was by far the deadliest war in history for the United States. The second deadliest in terms of American soldier fatality was World War II with a grand total of 416,800 military deaths.  

The roots of World War I, 1871–1914

Forty-three years of peace among the great powers of Europe came to an end in 1914, when an act of political terrorism provoked two great alliance systems into mortal combat. The South Slav campaign against Austrian rule in Bosnia, culminating in the assassination of the Habsburg heir apparent at Sarajevo, was the spark. This local crisis rapidly engulfed all the powers of Europe through the mechanisms of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, diplomatic arrangements meant precisely to enhance the security of their members and to deter potential aggressors. The long-term causes of the war can therefore be traced to the forces that impelled the formation of those alliances, increased tensions among the great powers, and made at least some European leaders desperate enough to seek their objectives even at the risk of a general war. These forces included militarism and mass mobilization, instability in domestic and international politics occasioned by rapid industrial growth, global imperialism, popular nationalism, and the rise of a social Darwinist worldview. But the question of why World War I broke out should be considered together with the questions of why peace ended and why in 1914 rather than before or after.

War and Peace in the 20th Century

The 20th century was the most murderous in recorded history. The total number of deaths caused by or associated with its wars has been estimated at 187 million, the equivalent of more than 10 per cent of the world&rsquos population in 1913. Taken as having begun in 1914, it was a century of almost unbroken war, with few and brief periods without organised armed conflict somewhere. It was dominated by world wars: that is to say, by wars between territorial states or alliances of states. The period from 1914 to 1945 can be regarded as a single &lsquothirty years&rsquo war&rsquo interrupted only by a pause in the 1920s &ndash between the final withdrawal of the Japanese from the Soviet Far East in 1922 and the attack on Manchuria in 1931. This was followed, almost immediately, by some forty years of Cold War, which conformed to Hobbes&rsquos definition of war as consisting &lsquonot in battle only or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known&rsquo. It is a matter for debate how far the actions in which US Armed Forces have been involved since the end of the Cold War in various parts of the globe constitute a continuation of the era of world war. There can be no doubt, however, that the 1990s were filled with formal and informal military conflict in Europe, Africa and Western and Central Asia. The world as a whole has not been at peace since 1914, and is not at peace now.

Nevertheless, the century cannot be treated as a single block, either chronologically or geographically. Chronologically, it falls into three periods: the era of world war centred on Germany (1914 to 1945), the era of confrontation between the two superpowers (1945 to 1989), and the era since the end of the classic international power system. I shall call these periods I, II and III. Geographically, the impact of military operations has been highly unequal. With one exception (the Chaco War of 1932-35), there were no significant inter-state wars (as distinct from civil wars) in the Western hemisphere (the Americas) in the 20th century. Enemy military operations have barely touched these territories: hence the shock of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September. Since 1945 inter-state wars have also disappeared from Europe, which had until then been the main battlefield region. Although in period III war returned to South-East Europe, it seems very unlikely to recur in the rest of the continent. On the other hand, during period II inter-state wars, not necessarily unconnected with the global confrontation, remained endemic in the Middle East and South Asia, and major wars directly springing from the global confrontation took place in East and South-East Asia (Korea, Indochina). At the same time, areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, which had been comparatively unaffected by war in period I (apart from Ethiopia, belatedly subject to colonial conquest by Italy in 1935-36), came to be theatres of armed conflict during period II, and witnessed major scenes of carnage and suffering in period III.

Two other characteristics of war in the 20th century stand out, the first less obviously than the second. At the start of the 21st century we find ourselves in a world where armed operations are no longer essentially in the hands of governments or their authorised agents, and where the contending parties have no common characteristics, status or objectives, except the willingness to use violence. Inter-state wars dominated the image of war so much in periods I and II that civil wars or other armed conflicts within the territories of existing states or empires were somewhat obscured. Even the civil wars in the territories of the Russian Empire after the October Revolution, and those which took place after the collapse of the Chinese Empire, could be fitted into the framework of international conflicts, insofar as they were inseparable from them. On the other hand, Latin America may not have seen armies crossing state frontiers in the 20th century, but it has been the scene of major civil conflicts: in Mexico after 1911, for instance, in Colombia since 1948, and in various Central American countries during period II. It is not generally recognised that the number of international wars has declined fairly continuously since the mid-1960s, when internal conflicts became more common than those fought between states. The number of conflicts within state frontiers continued to rise steeply until it levelled off in the 1990s.

More familiar is the erosion of the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The two world wars of the first half of the century involved the entire populations of belligerent countries both combatants and non-combatants suffered. In the course of the century, however, the burden of war shifted increasingly from armed forces to civilians, who were not only its victims, but increasingly the object of military or military-political operations. The contrast between the First World War and the Second is dramatic: only 5 per cent of those who died in World War One were civilians in World War Two the figure increased to 66 per cent. It is generally supposed that 80 to 90 per cent of those affected by war today are civilians. The proportion has increased since the end of the Cold War because most military operations since then have been conducted not by conscript armies, but by quite small bodies of regular or irregular troops, in many cases operating high-technology weapons and protected against the risk of incurring casualties. While it is true that high-tech weaponry has made it possible in some cases to re-establish a distinction between military and civilian targets, and therefore between combatants and non-combatants, there is no reason to doubt that the main victims of war will continue to be civilians.

What is more, the suffering of civilians is not proportionate to the scale or intensity of military operations. In strictly military terms, the two-week war between India and Pakistan over the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 was a modest affair, but it produced ten million refugees. The fighting between armed units in Africa during the 1990s can hardly have involved more than a few thousand, mostly ill-armed combatants, yet it produced, at its peak, almost seven million refugees &ndash a far greater number than at any time during the Cold War, when the continent had been the scene of proxy wars between the superpowers.

This phenomenon isn&rsquot confined to poor and remote areas. In some ways the effect of war on civilian life is magnified by globalisation and the world&rsquos increasing reliance on a constant, unbroken flow of communications, technical services, deliveries and supplies. Even a comparatively brief interruption of this flow &ndash for instance, the few days&rsquo closure of US airspace after 11 September &ndash can have considerable, perhaps lasting, effects on the global economy.

It would be easier to write about the subject of war and peace in the 20th century if the difference between the two remained as clear-cut as it was supposed to be at the beginning of the century, in the days when the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 codified the rules of war. Conflicts were supposed to take place primarily between sovereign states or, if they occurred within the territory of one particular state, between parties sufficiently organised to be accorded belligerent status by other sovereign states. War was supposed to be sharply distinguished from peace, by a declaration of war at one end and a treaty of peace at the other. Military operations were supposed to distinguish clearly between combatants &ndash marked as such by the uniforms they wore, or by other signs of belonging to an organised armed force &ndash and non-combatant civilians. War was supposed to be between combatants. Non-combatants should, so far as possible, be protected in wartime. It was always understood that these conventions did not cover all civil and international armed conflicts, and notably not those arising out of the imperial expansion of Western states in regions not under the jurisdiction of internationally recognised sovereign states, even though some (but by no means all) of these conflicts were known as &lsquowars&rsquo. Nor did they cover large rebellions against established states, such as the so-called Indian Mutiny nor the recurrent armed activity in regions beyond the effective control of the states or imperial authorities nominally ruling them, such as the raiding and blood-feuding in the mountains of Afghanistan or Morocco. Nevertheless, the Hague Conventions still served as guidelines in the First World War. In the course of the 20th century, this relative clarity was replaced by confusion.

First, the line between inter-state conflicts and conflicts within states &ndash that is, between international and civil wars &ndash became hazy, because the 20th century was characteristically a century not only of wars, but also of revolutions and the break-up of empires. Revolutions or liberation struggles within a state had implications for the international situation, particularly during the Cold War. Conversely, after the Russian Revolution, intervention by states in the internal affairs of other states of which they disapproved became common, at least where it seemed comparatively risk-free. This remains the case.

Second, the clear distinction between war and peace became obscure. Except here and there, the Second World War neither began with declarations of war nor ended with treaties of peace. It was followed by a period so hard to classify as either war or peace in the old sense that the neologism &lsquoCold War&rsquo had to be invented to describe it. The sheer obscurity of the position since the Cold War is illustrated by the current state of affairs in the Middle East. Neither &lsquopeace&rsquo nor &lsquowar&rsquo exactly describes the situation in Iraq since the formal end of the Gulf War &ndash the country is still bombed almost daily by foreign powers &ndash or the relations between Palestinians and Israelis, or those between Israel and its neighbours Lebanon and Syria. All this is an unfortunate legacy of the 20th-century world wars, but also of war&rsquos increasingly powerful machinery of mass propaganda, and of a period of confrontation between incompatible and passion-laden ideologies which brought into wars a crusading element comparable to that seen in religious conflicts of the past. These conflicts, unlike the traditional wars of the international power system, were increasingly waged for non-negotiable ends such as &lsquounconditional surrender&rsquo. Since both wars and victories were seen as total, any limitation on a belligerent&rsquos capacity to win that might be imposed by the accepted conventions of 18th and 19th-century warfare &ndash even formal declarations of war &ndash was rejected. So was any limitation on the victors&rsquo power to assert their will. Experience had shown that agreements reached in peace treaties could easily be broken.

In recent years the situation has been further complicated by the tendency in public rhetoric for the term &lsquowar&rsquo to be used to refer to the deployment of organised force against various national or international activities regarded as anti-social &ndash &lsquothe war against the Mafia&rsquo, for example, or &lsquothe war against drug cartels&rsquo. Not only is the fight to control, or even to eliminate, such organisations or networks, including small-scale terrorist groups, quite different from the major operations of war: it also confuses the actions of two types of armed force. One &ndash let&rsquos call them &lsquosoldiers&rsquo &ndash is directed against other armed forces with the object of defeating them. The other &ndash let&rsquos call them &lsquopolice&rsquo &ndash sets out to maintain or re-establish the required degree of law and public order within an existing political entity, typically a state. Victory, which has no necessary moral connotation, is the object of one force the bringing to justice of offenders against the law, which does have a moral connotation, is the object of the other. Such a distinction is easier to draw in theory than in practice, however. Homicide by a soldier in battle is not, in itself, a breach of the law. But what if a member of the IRA regards himself as a belligerent, even though official UK law regards him as a murderer? Were the operations in Northern Ireland a war, as the IRA held, or an attempt in the face of law-breakers to maintain orderly government in one province of the UK? Since not only a formidable local police force but a national army was mobilised against the IRA for thirty years or so, we may conclude that it was a war, but one systematically run like a police operation, in a way that minimised casualties and the disruption of life in the province. In the end, there was a negotiated settlement one which, typically, has not so far brought peace, but merely an extended absence of fighting. Such are the complexities and confusions of the relations between peace and war at the start of the new century. They are well illustrated by the military and other operations in which the US and its allies are at present engaged.

There is now, as there was throughout the 20th century, a complete absence of any effective global authority capable of controlling or settling armed disputes. Globalisation has advanced in almost every respect &ndash economically, technologically, culturally, even linguistically &ndash except one: politically and militarily, territorial states remain the only effective authorities. There are officially about two hundred states, but in practice only a handful count, of which the US is overwhelmingly the most powerful. However, no state or empire has ever been large, rich or powerful enough to maintain hegemony over the political world, let alone to establish political and military supremacy over the globe. The world is too big, complicated and plural. There is no likelihood that the US, or any other conceivable single-state power, could establish lasting control, even if it wanted to.

A single superpower cannot compensate for the absence of global authorities, especially given the lack of conventions &ndash relating to international disarmament, for instance, or weapons control &ndash strong enough to be voluntarily accepted as binding by major states. Some such authorities exist, notably the UN, various technical and financial bodies such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, and some international tribunals. But none has any effective power other than that granted to them by agreements between states, or thanks to the backing of powerful states, or voluntarily accepted by states. Regrettable as this may be, it isn&rsquot likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Since only states wield real power, the risk is that international institutions will be ineffective or lack universal legitimacy when they try to deal with offences such as &lsquowar crimes&rsquo. Even when world courts are established by general agreement (for example, the International Criminal Court set up by the UN Rome Statute of 17 July 1998), their judgments will not necessarily be accepted as legitimate and binding, so long as powerful states are in a position to disregard them. A consortium of powerful states may be strong enough to ensure that some offenders from weaker states are brought before these tribunals, perhaps curbing the cruelty of armed conflict in certain areas. This is an example, however, of the traditional exercise of power and influence within an international state system, not of the exercise of international law. *

There is, however, a major difference between the 21st and the 20th century: the idea that war takes place in a world divided into territorial areas under the authority of effective governments which possess a monopoly of the means of public power and coercion has ceased to apply. It was never applicable to countries experiencing revolution, or to the fragments of disintegrated empires, but until recently most new revolutionary or post-colonial regimes &ndash China between 1911 and 1949 is the main exception &ndash emerged fairly quickly as more or less organised and functioning successor regimes and states.

Over the past thirty years or so, however, the territorial state has, for various reasons, lost its traditional monopoly of armed force, much of its former stability and power, and, increasingly, the fundamental sense of legitimacy, or at least of accepted permanence, which allows governments to impose burdens such as taxes and conscription on willing citizens. The material equipment for warfare is now widely available to private bodies, as are the means of financing non-state warfare. In this way, the balance between state and non-state organisations has changed.

Armed conflicts within states have become more serious and can continue for decades without any serious prospect of victory or settlement: Kashmir, Angola, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Colombia. In extreme cases, as in parts of Africa, the state may have virtually ceased to exist or may, as in Colombia, no longer exercise power over part of its territory. Even in strong and stable states it has been difficult to eliminate small unofficial armed groups, such as the IRA in Britain and ETA in Spain. The novelty of this situation is indicated by the fact that the most powerful state on the planet, having suffered a terrorist attack, feels obliged to launch a formal operation against a small, international, non-governmental organisation or network lacking both a territory and a recognisable army.

How do these changes affect the balance of war and peace in the coming century? I would rather not make predictions about the wars that are likely to take place or their possible outcomes. However, both the structure of armed conflict and the methods of settlement have been changed profoundly by the transformation of the world system of sovereign states.

The dissolution of the USSR means that the Great Power system which governed international relations for almost two centuries and, with obvious exceptions, exercised some control over conflicts between states, no longer exists. Its disappearance has removed a major restraint on inter-state warfare and the armed intervention of states in the affairs of other states &ndash foreign territorial borders were largely uncrossed by armed forces during the Cold War. The international system was potentially unstable even then, however, as a result of the multiplication of small, sometimes quite weak states, which were nevertheless officially &lsquosovereign&rsquo members of the UN. The disintegration of the USSR and the European Communist regimes plainly increased this instability. Separatist tendencies of varying strength in hitherto stable nation-states such as Britain, Spain, Belgium and Italy might well increase it further. At the same time, the number of private actors on the world scene has multiplied. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that cross-border wars and armed interventions have increased since the end of the Cold War.

What mechanisms are there for controlling and settling such conflicts? The record is not promising. None of the armed conflicts of the 1990s ended with a stable settlement. The survival of Cold War institutions, assumptions and rhetoric has kept old suspicions alive, exacerbating the post-Communist disintegration of South-East Europe and making the settlement of the region once known as Yugoslavia more difficult.

These Cold War assumptions, both ideological and power-political, will have to be dispensed with if we are to develop some means of controlling armed conflict. It is also evident that the US has failed, and will inevitably fail, to impose a new world order (of any kind) by unilateral force, however much power relations are skewed in its favour at present, and even if it is backed by an (inevitably shortlived) alliance. The international system will remain multilateral and its regulation will depend on the ability of several major units to agree with one another, even though one of these states enjoys military predominance. How far international military action taken by the US is dependent on the negotiated agreement of other states is already clear. It is also clear that the political settlement of wars, even those in which the US is involved, will be by negotiation and not by unilateral imposition. The era of wars ending in unconditional surrender will not return in the foreseeable future.

The role of existing international bodies, notably the UN, must also be rethought. Always present, and usually called upon, it has no defined role in the settlement of disputes. Its strategy and operation are always at the mercy of shifting power politics. The absence of an international intermediary genuinely considered neutral, and capable of taking action without prior authorisation by the Security Council, has been the most obvious gap in the system of dispute management.

Since the end of the Cold War the management of peace and war has been improvised. At best, as in the Balkans, armed conflicts have been stopped by outside armed intervention, and the status quo at the end of hostilities maintained by the armies of third parties. This sort of long-term intervention has been applied for many years by individual strong states in their sphere of influence (Syria in Lebanon, for instance). As a form of collective action, however, it has been used only by the US and its allies (sometimes under UN auspices, sometimes not). The result has so far been unsatisfactory for all parties. It commits the interveners to maintain troops indefinitely, and at disproportionate cost, in areas in which they have no particular interest and from which they derive no benefit. It makes them dependent on the passivity of the occupied population, which cannot be guaranteed &ndash if there is armed resistance, small forces of armed &lsquopeacekeepers&rsquo have to be replaced by much larger forces. Poor and weak countries may resent this kind of intervention as a reminder of the days of colonies and protectorates, especially when much of the local economy becomes parasitic on the needs of the occupying forces. Whether a general model for the future control of armed conflict can emerge from such interventions remains unclear.

The balance of war and peace in the 21st century will depend not on devising more effective mechanisms for negotiation and settlement but on internal stability and the avoidance of military conflict. With a few exceptions, the rivalries and frictions between existing states that led to armed conflict in the past are less likely to do so today. There are, for instance, comparatively few burning disputes between governments about international borders. On the other hand, internal conflicts can easily become violent: the main danger of war lies in the involvement of outside states or military actors in these conflicts.

States with thriving, stable economies and a relatively equitable distribution of goods among their inhabitants are likely to be less shaky &ndash socially and politically &ndash than poor, highly inegalitarian and economically unstable ones. A dramatic increase in economic and social inequality within, as well as between, countries will reduce the chances of peace. The avoidance or control of internal armed violence depends even more immediately, however, on the powers and effective performance of national governments and their legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of their inhabitants. No government today can take for granted the existence of an unarmed civilian population or the degree of public order long familiar in large parts of Europe. No government today is in a position to overlook or eliminate internal armed minorities. Yet the world is increasingly divided into states capable of administering their territories and citizens effectively &ndash even when faced, as the UK was, by decades of armed action by an internal enemy &ndash and into a growing number of territories bounded by officially recognised international frontiers, with national governments ranging from the weak and corrupt to the non-existent. These zones produce bloody internal struggles and international conflicts, such as those we have seen in Central Africa. There is, however, no immediate prospect for lasting improvement in such regions, and a further weakening of central government in unstable countries, or a further Balkanisation of the world map, would undoubtedly increase the dangers of armed conflict.

A tentative forecast: war in the 21st century is not likely to be as murderous as it was in the 20th. But armed violence, creating disproportionate suffering and loss, will remain omnipresent and endemic &ndash occasionally epidemic &ndash in a large part of the world. The prospect of a century of peace is remote.

War and Peace in the 20th Century and Beyond

At the turn of the 21st Century, the world was immediately gripped by the War on Terrorism followed by the Iraq War. In reflection, the 20th Century was a period marked by tremendous technological and economic progress — but it was also the most violent century in human history. It witnessed two horrendous world wars, as well as the conflicts during the Cold War.

Why do wars persistently erupt among nations, particularly the Great Powers? What are the primary factors that drive nations to violence — power, prestige, ideology or territory? Or is it motivated by pure fear and mistrust? Peering nervously at the 21st Century, we wonder whether American supremacy and globalization will help ensure peace and stability. Or will shifts in power with the emergence of new economic super-nations lead to further tensions and conflicts in this century?

Together with 29 Peace Nobel laureates, an outstanding group of scholars gathered in Oslo, Norway, on December 6, 2001, for the three-day Nobel Centennial Symposium to discuss “The Conflicts of the 20th Century and the Solutions for the 21st Century”. Read this book for the scholars' candid insights and analyses, as well as their thought-provoking views on the factors that led to conflicts in the 20th Century and whether the 21st Century will be a more peaceful one. This is a rare — and possibly the best and only — book compilation of the highly intellectual analyses by world experts and Nobel Peace laureates on the perennial issues of War & Peace.

AQA GCSE History:Conflict & Tension: Lesson 1 - Hitler's Foreign Policy

Secondary History lessons years 7-13. I have a large number of lessons not uploaded yet so if you need something get in touch and I’ll see what I can do!!

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First lesson of the foreign policy topic. Lesson begins by recapping on the last topic and making links between the crises in Manchuria/Abyssinia and Hitler’s aims. There is a revision task homework here if needed.

Pupils are then introduced to Hitler’s 3 main aims in foreign policy and what this will include. Class are encouraged to think about how each of these aims will increase tensions/ bring a war closer. They then complete some map work to show the extent of Hitler’s aims (this can be linked to previous knowledge and maps on the terms of the ToV. Lesson finishes with a comprehension task which examines Hitler’s first actions - the issue of Germany and disarmament.

Map is printable from the ppt and can be adapted easily.

Lesson makes use of the old GCSE AQA textbook - AQA GCSE History B International Relations: Conflict and Peace in the 20th Century


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British Soldiers Beaten, Shot Dead at Funeral

March 6, 1988: Three unarmed IRA members are shot and killed by Special Air Services forces in Gibraltar. At the funeral service days later, two British soldiers accidentally drive into the procession and are dragged from their vehicle, beaten and shot dead. The scene was recorded by TV cameras.

March 20, 1993: Two boys, ages 3 and 12 are killed, and another 50-some people were injured, during an IRA bombing at a shopping area in Warrington, England where bombs were placed in trash cans. The attack drew global outrage and calls for peace.

Aug. 31, 1994: After months of secret talks, and 25 years of bombings and shootings, the IRA announces an historic ceasefire with 𠇊 complete cessation of military operations.”

Feb. 9, 1996: The IRA ends the ceasefire when it bombs the Dockland’s area of London, killing two and injuring more than 100 people and causing an estimated 򣅐 million worth of damage.

War and Peace in the 20th Century

On-campus unit delivery combines face-to-face and digital learning.



Aims and objectives

This unit seeks to provide students with an understanding of the evolution of global history and politics since World War II and the background to contemporary issues. Central to this aim is the emphasis devoted in the unit to the international roles played by the USA and the USSR during the Cold War. The unit begins at the end of World War II and concludes with a postscript on the legacies of the Cold War: the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so, it highlights the role that ideology plays in shaping international relations and visions of modernity.

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:
5. Interrogate the global role of the USSR and the USA during the Cold War
6. Locate, interrogate, and integrate primary and secondary source documents in the development of an argument
7. Critically analyse and interpret key historiographical debates in the Cold War
8. Reflect on historical trends and ideologies in the twentieth century that have shaped contemporary society.

Watch the video: RE Revision Theme D - Religion Peace and Conflict - GCSE AQA (August 2022).