The Age of Violence

PARIS – Global problems are rarely straightforward. But, in general, careful analysis of their various facets leads to some understanding of their causes and, in turn, to reasonably promising solutions. Indeed, the opportunity to analyze such problems regularly is precisely what makes my role as a columnist so gratifying. Lately, however, promising solutions have been increasingly elusive.

Simply put, much of the world is mired in conflict, with little hope of escape. In Ukraine, violent clashes between pro-Russian separatists and the police are just the latest development in the country’s deteriorating security situation. Syria remains locked in a brutal civil war. And tensions between Israel and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program – not to mention Israel’s decades-old conflict with Palestine – are exacerbating instability in the Middle East, where ten countries, taken together, have become the world’s largest market for weapons, purchasing more new arms annually than China.

Several African countries – Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Somalia – are engulfed in permanent civil war, leaving citizens without potable water, much less schools, hospitals, and other social infrastructure. In Nigeria, the Islamic militia Boko Haram – a glorified gang of criminals – brings disgrace on the Prophet, in the name of whom they abducted more than 200 schoolgirls to sell or use as sex slaves.

In Asia, China’s military buildup and increasingly assertive approach in pursuing its territorial claims in the South and East China seas – which overlap with claims by Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam – is raising concerns among its regional neighbors. It does not help that China’s economic growth, which provided a powerful boost to the region’s smaller economies in recent decades, has slowed considerably.