The Death Toll of a Dying Order

NEW YORK – Ukraine's crisis should not blind us to the main conundrum of global affairs today: while the world is more peaceful than it has been for 300 years, when measured by the number of wars between states, the level of disorder is rising. In fact, there is growing anarchy in the world's hotspots.

This tendency can be seen not just in the implosion of Syria and the spread of strife, displacement, and massive human suffering to neighboring countries. In Nigeria, Africa's largest country, at least 2,500 civilians have been murdered by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in the last month alone. An estimated 1.5 million people have been displaced in the northeastern states of Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa, and the violence has spilled over into neighboring Niger and Chad.

Moreover, the Taliban is far from vanquished in Afghanistan. The government of the Central African Republic struggles to establish its power even in its capital. Some 1,700 clans and militias are battling for power in Libya. There remain 40 major armed groups on the loose in eastern Congo. And the list goes on.

In all of these places, an overstretched and under-resourced humanitarian sector has been thrust into the front line, salving some of the worst wounds of the record-breaking number of people displaced from their homes by conflict and disaster. United Nations agencies and their NGO partners, designed to deal with the victims of organized, time-limited, rule-bound interstate conflict, are struggling to cope in the face of chaotic, long-term intra-state conflict.