Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Be Afraid of the World, Be Very Afraid

| May 20, 2019

Five global problems that are getting worse—and may never get better.

Who's right: Cassandra or Dr. Pangloss? Are we on the brink of serious trouble, as Cassandra of Greek myth prophesied, or is all for the best "in this best of all possible worlds," as the fictional Pangloss insisted in Voltaire's Candide? In recent decades, Cassandra-like warnings include Robert Kaplan's The Coming Anarchythe late Samuel Huntington's The Clash of CivilizationsBill McKibben's gloomy environmental and social forecasts, and predictions from everyone who thinks U.S. President Donald Trump will end democracy as we know it. On the other side, the ranks of neo-Panglossians include Steven PinkerJoshua Goldstein, and (on some issues) John Mueller, who stress the extraordinary progress humans have made over the past 500 years and believe that risk of violence or other major disruptions continues to shrink.

I'm generally a fairly upbeat guy, despite my realist proclivities and my recurring frustrations at the embarrassing state of U.S. foreign policy. But today I'm going to indulge my inner Cassandra and describe the five bad things that worry me today. I hope I’m wrong....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Be Afraid of the World, Be Very Afraid.” Foreign Policy, May 20, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt