As geopolitical conflicts worsen, has the world become permanently less stable?


In light of the continuation of numerous conflicts across the Middle East, and increasing tensions between the West and Russia, it’s difficult to argue that the world is becoming more stable. The resumption of conflict between Israel and Hamas, coupled with the breakdown of state-society relations across the region, has resulted in an increase in intra and inter-state conflict. The fragmentation of Syria and Iraq has caused thousands of deaths, with millions more displaced, and has started to pull other actors in (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah and the US), raising the chance of a global blowback from these conflicts. International responses to these moments of crisis are designed to help, including the current US airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS). But with political power and security increasingly seen in zero-sum terms, they are only likely to add to the growing instability. Dr Simon Mabon is a lecturer in international relations at Lancaster University and a research associate at The Foreign Policy Centre.


At best, stability is a relative measure. Analysts can point to the decades-long Cold War and say it was incredibly stable compared to the unpredictable present. Perhaps it was stable from an American or Soviet perspective, but your average Vietnamese, Angolan, or Latin American citizen is likely to view the period as one of upheaval, violent change, and instability. But even if true stability is a fantasy, today’s world is no more unstable than it was a year or even five years ago. The pieces of the geopolitical puzzle rest where they have for some time: a slowly declining US, a stagnating Europe, a re-emerging China and Russia, and a host of middle powers in the South seeking a place on the world stage. The one thing we can be sure of is that, however stable or unstable the world is today, it’s not a permanent state. As the Cold War should have taught us, nothing lasts forever. Dr Dylan Kissane is director of graduate studies and a professor of international politics at CEFAM in Lyon, France.