AIF Blog

The World's Most Dangerous Place

Mar 20, 2015
A panel of international experts at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival was asked to predict the most dangerous place in the world in 2024. Here’s what they came up with:
Former deputy secretary of state James Steinberg picked the South and East China Sea, where a long-simmering dispute between China and Japan over a few tiny uninhabited islands may be approaching the boiling point. 
It’s about a lot more than the relatively unknown Senkaku Islands, Steinberg explained. A rapidly rising China is flexing its muscles, while longtime rival Japan is determined not to be marginalized — and each sees the tug-of-war as a test of its credibility. Meanwhile, the United States could get drawn into the fray because of treaty obligations dating from the end of World War II.
“It’s a slippery slope,” said Steinberg. “That question of showing credibility, showing toughness on both sides, fueled by nationalism all around is a recipe for disaster.”
Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, suggested that was happening in the Middle East, particularly with ISIS, was “sufficiently panic-inducing” because of the potential of “rapidly snowballing events.” The combination of a radical regime, rapidly deteriorating borders, and the possibility of extremists getting their hands on a large and sophisticated arsenal of weapons could “set in motion a highly combustible set of events,” Oren warned, including potentially a nuclear situation.
“The entire planet” was Strobe Talbott’s prediction for the most dangerous place in the world within the next ten years. President Clinton’s deputy secretary of state suggested that climate change would wreak ecological, economic, and geopolitical havoc if action continues at the current agonizingly slow pace. 
Besides there being no political will in Washington, “I don’t see any sign that we, the entire human enterprise, are taking this seriously,” Talbott said.
Rather than choosing one place or one situation as the world’s hot spot in 2024, nine-term ex-congresswoman Jane Harman explained why she thought terrorism wouldn’t be the pressing issue it is today — and she gave a series of predictions. Here are her thoughts.
To view the complete session, including what the panel of experts proposes to do about the world’s most urgent problems, click here.
Posted by Catherine Lutz