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The Crisis of Our Crises

At first glance, the crises plaguing the world – from Greece's debt drama to Syria's implosion – seem to have little in common. But these events are not unconnected; on the contrary, they stem from a deeper crisis of international integration and cooperation.

PRINCETON – At first glance, today’s major international crises seem to have little in common. Some, such as Greece’s debt drama, are economic disasters; others, like Syria’s implosion, are characterized by brutality and political chaos; and still others, most notably Ukraine’s predicament, fall somewhere in between. But, despite what policymakers might like to believe, these events are not unrelated. On the contrary, they reflect a deeper crisis of international integration and cooperation.

Over the last 60 years, the world experienced unprecedented peace and prosperity for a simple reason: countries voluntarily integrated themselves into an international community underpinned by shared rules and norms. But this trend has given way to piecemeal crisis responses, whether austerity or localized damage control, that are based on the unreasonable assumption that problems like those in Greece, Syria, and Ukraine will eventually correct themselves.

In relying on stopgap measures to address crises, global leaders seem to have forgotten how interdependent the world has become. Upheaval or stagnation in one part of a complex system can have outsize consequences elsewhere, in the form of, say, a refugee crisis or an uptick in inequality.

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