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Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats published his poem “The Second Coming” in 1920 in the aftermath of the first world war and the devastation of Europe. Today, 100 years later, the spectre of anarchy is haunting the world once again. Not the anarchy of political philosophy but the anarchy of chaos, a state of lawlessness when governments and societies deteriorate and collapse. Central, Sahelian and East Africa; the Arabian Peninsula; the Levant; Iraq; Afghanistan; Myanmar; Central and South America, are all increasingly suffering from chaos and violence, as war lords, drug lords, and corruption rise and established governments decline.

The West has not seen such a widespread run of this sort of anarchy since the Thirty Years War in Europe half a millennium ago. Out of that human experience came the development of the nation-state, a social creation that was required to fulfill two functions: project authority over its territory and peoples and protect its national boundaries. Today, failed and failing states are increasingly unable to perform those two fundamental functions.

Increased refugee flows from the southern hemispheres and the Middle East impact not only immediate neighbors; but threaten political dialogue, economics and security in Europe, Russia, China. and the United States.

How can our national governments and the international community successfully address this challenge?

We asked several foreign policy commentators to address that question in the following articles.


On American Diplomacy and the Disorderly Oscillation of World Orders by Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

A Collapsing World? by György Schöpflin

Towards a New Normalcy? by Robert Cox

Dealing with Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Herman J. Cohen

When Anarchy Spills Across Borders by Edward Marks and Marshall Adair


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