Paul Lachine

The Crises Nexus

Policymakers, academics, and journalists have been discussing the global financial crisis and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as if they somehow existed on parallel tracks. But today’s financial and foreign-affairs crises are closely linked.

NEW YORK – Policymakers, academics, and journalists usually discuss the global financial crisis and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as if they somehow exist on parallel tracks. But today’s financial and foreign-affairs crises are in fact closely linked. Indeed, the way the world has sought to resolve the financial crisis offers interesting insights about how the foreign-affairs crisis should be approached.

Today’s foreign-affairs crisis goes well beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. The record of countries that move from conflict to a fragile peace through military intervention or negotiated settlements is dismal: roughly half of them revert to conflict, leading to more human tragedy and large numbers of refugees. Moreover, failed states are an incubator for terrorism, trafficking of drugs and people, piracy, and other illicit activities. Of the half that remains at peace, the large majority end up highly dependent on foreign aid – hardly a sustainable model in the context of the global financial crisis.

The two crises have created immense human suffering worldwide: thousands of families have lost loved ones in wars, and the financial crisis has taken people’s jobs, livelihoods, assets, pensions, and dreams, as well as worsening fiscal and debt conditions in most industrial countries. As a result, taxpayers in donor countries are demanding more transparency and accountability in how their money is spent both domestically and abroad – and rightly so.

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