Symbols & Signs

Puzzle Inspired Story

Peace and War

In the study of wars and their causes, one of the strongest discernible patterns observed by many analysts is the phenomenon of the “democratic peace.” One researcher, R. J. Rummel, provides the following illustrative fact: of the 353 pairs of warring nations which took up arms against each other from 1816 to 1991, not a single one comprised two democracies. In other words, democracies do not attack each other, and every conflict in that period required one non-democracy. In addition, in the century which has just ended, non-democracies’ slaughter of their own citizens exceed the combatant death toll from all armed conflicts by, perhaps, a factor of four.

In his book, Death by Government, R. J. Rummel estimated that at least 169 million people were killed at the hands of their own rulers in the 20th century. Totalitarian governments were responsible for all the instances where a government killed its citizens by the millions. Authoritarian regimes dominated among those which killed their own kind by the tens of thousands. Democracies accounted for less than 1% of this carnage. James Madison, one of the founders of American democracy, saw very clearly that liberty requires constant vigilance, and that governments must be checked by law.

Some dismiss this pattern and argue it away, for example, as a result of the unifying effect of the Soviet threat during the Cold War. The pattern is, nonetheless, one of the most significant correlations observed when investigating the nature of war. It appears to be a positive finding. The internet and the unprecedented global interconnectivity appear to have helped the spread of democratic ideals (the Arab Spring comes to mind). In today’s world, however, even an accident could derail decades of hard won progress.

The international sign for peace was designed in 1958 by British artist Gerald Holtom. Two sources of inspiration led to the widely adopted design. The first source was the letters N and D, for “Nuclear Disarmament,” from the semaphore (flag-signaling) alphabet superimposed over each other. The second was a human being in despair with hands stretched downwards. Holtom later regretted the downward orientation of the symbol and its pessimistic connotations. Yet perhaps his original intuition was rooted in fear supported by the facts. Since 1958 the following countries have acquired nuclear weapons: France (1960), China (1964), India (1974), Israel (1979), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006).


The Peace Sign

Difficulty Score

Level Like/Not Like Votes Click to see

Solvers' Ratings

Be the first to solve this puzzle! After creating a free account with us—a step which takes only moments to complete—you'll be able to rate your experience with every grid you have solved. You will aso be able to share your impressions by leaving a comment.