The World May Be Entering a Much Bloodier Era

War is on the rise everywhere. When the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London published its authoritative Armed Conflict Survey in early December, it counted 183 conflicts globally in 2023 — higher than had been recorded in 30 years. The most remarkable episode of this harrowing new era of global violence is an astounding spate of military takeovers in what has come to be known as the coup belt, stretching uninterrupted across Africa’s Sahel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea: six countries enduring 11 coup attempts, eight of them successful, since just 2020.

When Steven Pinker’s sweeping history of violence, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” was published a little more than a decade ago, it quickly became a touchstone for a cohort of geopolitical optimists making broad claims of human progress. The book’s core empirical claim was about death: that global rates of murder and war had been declining both notably and steadily for a very long time and that the world was now far more peaceable than it had ever been.

On the time scale of human civilization, this might still be true, particularly when it comes to interpersonal violence. But on the time scale of human memory, it isn’t true any longer, particularly when it comes to warfare. Counting by the number of conflicts, the world as a whole is a more violent place than it has been for at least 30 years. By some measures, it’s more conflict ridden than at any point since the end of World War II. Nonstate violence — conflict between nongovernmental armed groups, such as gangs — has more than tripled, according to Sweden’s Uppsala Conflict Data Program, since a low point in 2007. Violence by state forces against civilians has more than doubled since 2009, and assassination attempts are on the rise.

These conflicts are also producing much more bloodshed. In 2011, when Pinker published “Better Angels,” there were nearly 40,000 deaths from warfare worldwide, Uppsala estimates. In 2022, they say, the number was above 238,000 — a nearly sixfold increase. It had nearly doubled in a single year.

For Americans, this shift has been marked by the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. But there are more than two wars going on in the world, many of them with much more tenuous connections to U.S. interests and far less American attention as a result.

Today, one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises is unfolding in Sudan, where a civil war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced nearly eight million and, according to U.N. officials, has

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