Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A really bad scenario -- which may be true

Source: "The Axis of Upheaval," Niall Ferguson, Foreign Policy, March/April 2009.

concluded, in The War of the World, that three factors made the location and timing of lethal organized violence more or less predictable in the last century. The first factor was ethnic disintegration: Violence was worst in areas of mounting ethnic tension. The second factor was economic volatility: The greater the magnitude of economic shocks, the more likely conflict was. And the third factor was empires in decline: When structures of imperial rule crumbled, battles for political power were most bloody.
Comment: The global recession is going to increase economic volatility. It is also going to decrease the resources available to rich countries to intervene abroad and change the focus of their political attention to domestic rather than foreign policy issues. We already have ethnic tension in abundance, but we may see more migration taking place which would be likely to exacerbate such tensions. Thus, Ferguson holds that there will be at least nine nations presenting serious danger of upheaval and violence.

Few things are more damaging to economic and social progress than upheaval and violence. Thus we may see an unfortunate negative spiral in countries that most need progress: worsening economic conditions and pull back of outside support allowing ethnic tensions to lead to violence, which in turn makes the economy even worse. JAD

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