Peace Time: June 25, 2001


One reason for the growing number of vicious little wars in the 1990s was the large number of surplus weapons, and unemployed soldiers, caused by the end of the Cold War. The weapons made it easier to arm more people, while many of the suddenly unemployed soldiers provided cheap mercenaries for training recruits, operating complex weapons or actually doing some of the fighting. Most of the weapons and mercs came from Russia and Eastern Europe, where the end of communism revealed the bankruptcy of the centralized economies. So the weapons were sold for whatever they could fetch and many of the now unemployed troops often went along as mercenaries. There was little government interference in this, as the government owned the weapons. Ten years later, the situation is worse. Many of the young lads using all those weapons have grown up knowing nothing but the law of the gun. Living by looting is a hard habit to break. Bringing peace to large parts of Africa and Asia means more than making a deal with the warring parties. Something has to be done to convince all those young guys with guns that working for a living is preferable to armed robbery. So far, two approaches have been tried, each with a degree of success. The most brutal method is to keep killing the gunmen until they collectively decide that disarmament is preferable to death. You don't get all the guns, but you get most of them. The ones who hang on to their weapons become troublesome bandits. Some of those who disarm turn to crime anyway. Another approach is to, in effect, but the weapons. The payment is sometimes accompanied with shaky promises of employment and education. You still end up with some armed bandits and criminals, but not as many people get killed. Sadly, many of the current wars won't end when the leaders sign agreements. For most of these wars, a generation has been raised on robbery and won't easily give it up. Peace won't come until an unarmed generation comes of age.


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