Is war in decline? Recent scholarship suggests that it is. The empirical basis for this argument is a decline in battle deaths over the past several centuries, a standard metric for counting wars and armed conflicts. Dramatic improvements in medical care in conflict zones—in preventive medicine, battlefield medicine, evacuation, and protective equipment—have raised the likelihood of surviving battle wounds today compared with past eras. Thus the fact that war has become less fatal does not necessarily mean that it has become less frequent. Original data on wounded-to-killed ratios, supplemented by medical research and interviews with physicians from the military and nongovernmental communities, is used to advance this claim. The results show that the decline in war is likely not as dramatic as some scholars have argued. These findings question the foundation of existing datasets on war and armed conflict. They also highlight the growing need for policy focused on the battle wounded.

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