"Some Conflicts Will Never End."
Never say never. In 2005, researchers at the U.S. Institute of Peace characterized 14 wars, from Northern Ireland to Kashmir, as "intractable," in that they "resist any kind of settlement or resolution." Six years later, however, a funny thing has happened: All but a few of these wars (Israel-Palestine, Somalia, and Sudan) have either ended or made substantial progress toward doing so. In Sri Lanka, military victory ended the war, though only after a brutal endgame in which both sides are widely believed to have committed war crimes. Kashmir has a fairly stable cease-fire. In Colombia, the war sputters on, financed by drug revenue, but with little fighting left. In the Balkans and Northern Ireland, shaky peace arrangements have become less shaky; it's hard to imagine either sliding back into full-scale hostilities. In most of the African cases -- Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ivory Coast (notwithstanding the violent flare-up after elections there in late 2010, now resolved) -- U.N. missions have brought stability and made a return to war less likely (or, in the case of Congo and Uganda, have at least limited the area of fighting).
Could we do even better? The late peace researcher Randall Forsberg in 1997 foresaw "a world largely without war," one in which "the vanishing risk of great-power war has opened the door to a previously unimaginable future -- a future in which war is no longer socially-sanctioned and is rare, brief, and small in scale." Clearly, we are not there yet. But over the decades -- and indeed, even since Forsberg wrote those words -- norms about wars, and especially about the protection of civilians caught up in them, have evolved rapidly, far more so than anyone would have guessed even half a century ago. Similarly rapid shifts in norms preceded the ends of slavery and colonialism, two other scourges that were once also considered permanent features of civilization. So don't be surprised if the end of war, too, becomes downright thinkable.