9 Amazing Moments When We Almost Reached World Peace
Former NBA star and serial eccentric Dennis Rodman's recent so-called diplomatic mission to North Korea inspired us to think of previous occasions when peace around the world seemed really, really close.
By Caitlin O'Connell
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When a Diplomat Tried to Stop a War (2012)
Who: Kofi Annan, United Nations and Arab League joint special envoy to Syria, and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad
What: Alarmed by a bloody civil war set in motion during the Arab Spring, the U.N. appointed its former chief Kofi Annan as its envoy to war-torn Syria. Annan outlined a comprehensive, six-point plan for peace, and called on the Syrian government and opposition forces to heed his demands.
Outcome: No good. The government refused to cooperate and Annan resigned, declaring the mission impossible. He criticized the international community for lacking a clear vision for peace. The Syrian civil war still rages on; as recently as March 2013, over one million Syrians have fled the country.
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When the U.S. Ended Bloody Chaos (1995)
Who: The presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia
What: After the Cold War, Serbs found themselves in a violent struggle to claim a state they controlled. At the same time, newly independent Croats and Bosniaks began fighting each other, but eventually, they formed an alliance against the Serbs. In 1995, President Clinton convened a conference in Dayton, Ohio, to negotiate peace among the warring parties.
Outcome: Intense. It took 21 days of negotiations, but the Dayton Accords successfully brought an end to nearly four years of violent conflict in the region.
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When the People Tore Down the Wall (1989)
Who: East Berlin and the Soviet Union; West Berlin and the Allied nations
What: After World War II, German's capital city was divided into East Berlin, to be controlled by the Soviet Union, and West Berlin, to be divided among the United States, Britain, and France. The partition didn't become literal until the 1960s, when the Soviet Union proposed a physical wall to prevent deflection. In November 1989, with Soviet power waning, East Germans fearlessly began to tear it down.
Outcome: Transformational. The Cold War was over, and the fall of the Berlin Wall became the symbol of its end.
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When Egypt and Israel Agreed to Start Over (1979)
Who: Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter
What: Neighboring nations Egypt and Israel had been at war since Israel's creation in 1948. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter brokered a peace agreement to end aggressions that also mandated that Israel fully evacuate the Sinai Peninsula, an Egyptian territory that had been captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. The final peace agreement was signed in March 1979.
Outcome: Unsatisfying. The Egyptian people (and Arab world at large) were furious with Sadat for making peace with Israel, and in 1981 he was assassinated by Muslim extremists. However, despite recurring moments of tension, the peace holds today.
When an Unpopular War Ended (1973)
Who: The governments of North and South Vietnam and the United States
What: In 1968, President Johnson established preliminary peace talks in Paris to end America's military intervention in Vietnam. Talks stalled, but were picked up by President Nixon and continued for another three years. Finally, in January 1973, a peace treaty agreeable to all parties—the North and South Vietnamese governments and the U.S.—was ready.
Outcome: Mixed. Although the Paris Peace Accords ended direct U.S. military involvement, American diplomacy took a hit: Nixon and his administration's questionable dealings, such as National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger conducting years of secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese, tarnished the treaty's legacy.
When Japan Threw in the Towel (1945)
Who: Japan and the Allied Powers of World War II
What: By August 1945, Japan could take no more conflict. Facing total devastation, Japanese Emperor Hirohito accept the Potsdam Declaration (which called for Japan's unconditional surrender) and sent a delegation to the U.S.S. Missouri, an American battleship stationed in Tokyo Bay, to offer peace.
Outcome: Relief. World War II was brought to an official end.
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When Britain Tried to Make a Deal With Hitler (1938)
Who: Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain, and Adolf Hitler, dictator of Nazi Germany
What: When Hitler set his sights on acquiring the Sudetenland, a majority German territory that became part of Czechoslovakia under the Treaty of Versailles, Chamberlain flew to the Bavarian Alps to negotiate with the dictator directly. Hitler demanded the Sudetenland join Germany proper, and Chamberlain said yes if Hitler would withdraw his forces.
Outcome: Disastrous. Mere months after Chamberlain infamously declared "peace in our time," Hitler recanted and invaded Poland, starting World War II. The rest is history.
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When the Allied Forces Had Had Enough War (1919)
Who: Diplomats from the Allied Powers of World War I, led by the "Big Three": U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister Lloyd George, and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau
What: After Germany's defeat in World War I, the Allied Powers gathered in Paris to discuss how they could ensure the world would never go to war again. Germany was not invited to the party.
Outcome: Short-sighted. The Allied Powers demanded Germany take full responsibility for the damage caused in World War I. Defeated, the nation signed, but historians attribute the harsh terms of the Versailles treaty to Hitler's rise in the years that followed.
When Europe Envisioned Balanced Power (1814-15)
Who: The who's who of 19th-century European nations, led by the "Big Four": Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria
What: When Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1814 after 25 years of continuous war, representatives from every country that had been affected gathered in Vienna in September 1814 for a conference that would establish a new political order.
Outcome: Temporarily victorious. Leaders re-drew the political boundaries that Napoleon had disrupted. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of peace conferences that would become known as the Concert of Europe.