December 29, 2015


Despite Bloody 2015, the World Really Is Safer Than Ever (Michael A. Cohen, Dec. 23, 2015, World Politics Review)
In 2014, five countries--Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria--were responsible for nearly 80 percent of all terrorist attacks. Things have gotten slightly better in Pakistan and worse in Syria this year, but the combined percentage is likely quite similar for 2015. Terrorism has become a much more utilized weapon of war, but it is still one that is largely localized to areas of instability and insurgency. 

In the West, which has had a collective freak-out over terrorism since the Paris attacks in November, terrorism is a vanishingly rare phenomenon. By one measure, over the past 15 years less than 1 percent of all terrorism deaths have occurred in Western countries. The simple and depressing fact is that the transition from authoritarianism that began in the Middle East in 2011 with the Arab Spring has bred conflict, greater instability, an embrace of radicalism and staggeringly higher death tolls. But this also makes the region a global outlier.
While intrastate wars have seemingly become more deadly, interstate war still remains an almost unheard-of occurrence. The Russian "invasion" of Crimea would seem to undercut that notion, but it is actually the exception that proves the rule. Indeed, in broad swaths of the world--North America, East Asia, South America, Europe and much of Africa--peace and stability remain the norm.
Seemingly intractable conflicts in Colombia and Myanmar appear closer to resolution. The U.S. has taken steps to normalize relations not just with Iran, but also Cuba. Nonproliferation efforts made enormous strides with the Iran nuclear deal, which comes on the heels of the chemical weapons deal in Syria. The one country that seems to act with the greatest disregard for global norms, Russia, continues to be economically isolated, having only recently shed its diplomatic isolation. So far Moscow's decision to thumb its nose at the rest of the world has been an economic disaster. As the response to Russia's actions in Ukraine demonstrates, virtually every country in the world has accepted and adhered to the global consensus opposing cross-border invasions and violations of international sovereignty.
And if one looks beyond the question of global conflict, there is an even brighter story.
According to the United Nations, 25 years ago, nearly half of those living in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. Today, the proportion is around 14 percent. Meanwhile, the global middle class has tripled in the same period.
Malaria rates have dropped 58 percent since 2000. Fewer children are dying from measles. Global infant mortality rates have fallen by more than half since the 1990s. By nearly every social, educational and health-related metric, the world is making extraordinary advances and people are living healthier, freer and more prosperous lives.
Indeed, what is most telling about the state of the world today is that efforts to enshrine global norms, enhance international cooperation, limit and contain conflict, and improve the human condition have become the dominant paradigm of international relations. 

You can't have a clash of civilizations when there is only one.
Posted by at December 29, 2015 4:55 PM


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