Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

A realist guide to world peace

By Stephen M. Walt

23 Dec 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

In a world of independent nations, violent conflict is an immutable threat, but this FP columnist argues that economic interdependence and global trade make peace a realistic endeavor for the future.

It’s the holiday season, that brief period each year when we are encouraged to think about peace. Warring armies sometimes declare cease-fires at this time, and around the world different communities of faith are told that pursuing and preserving peace is a sacred duty. If we are fortunate, most of us will spend some part of the next few days enjoying the company of friends and family and trying to put humanity’s crueler instincts to the side, at least for the moment.

Let’s be honest: 2022 was not a good year for peace. In addition to a brutal and senseless war in Ukraine—a war that shows no signs of ending and could still get much worse—violent conflicts are still underway in Yemen, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Syria, and many other places. Although U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping managed a fairly cordial meeting at the G-20 summit in Bali in November, the two most powerful countries in the world remain divided on a host of important issues. Given the state of the world and the United States’ desire to remain the leading global power, it should surprise no one that the Senate just voted an 8 percent increase in the U.S. defense budget. Even formerly pacifist-leaning countries such as Germany and Japan took dramatic steps to rearm during 2022.

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