DiscoverPlain English with Derek ThompsonWorld on Fire, Part 2: Global Conflict Has Surged to an 80-Year High. Why?
World on Fire, Part 2: Global Conflict Has Surged to an 80-Year High. Why?

World on Fire, Part 2: Global Conflict Has Surged to an 80-Year High. Why?

Update: 2024-01-16
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This is the second episode in "World on Fire," a series on the historic levels of global violence and conflict in the Middle East, the Americas, and beyond. Listen to Part 1 here: "World on Fire, Part 1: The Houthis, Israel's Impossible War, and Worsening Middle East Chaos."

You and I are living through an extraordinary period of global conflict. In Europe, Russia, and Ukraine are engaged in one of the continent's deadliest hot wars since 1945. In Africa, the last few years have seen devastating wars in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. In the Middle East, of course, there is Israel's record-breaking bombing of Gaza and the unfolding crisis in Yemen. In Central Asia, Azerbaijan launched a brutal attack against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. In Central and South America, cartel and gang violence has surged. The Jalisco Cartel New Generation and its affiliates in Mexico and Columbia, were responsible for more than 11,000 deaths in 2022. Last week, the state of Ecuador arrested 900 people in a security operation to stop gang violence, following the prison escape of one of the country's most powerful drug lords.

According to researchers at Uppsala University, this might be the most violent period of the 21st century, with more total conflicts than any year since World War II. Why is it all happening at once?

Paul Poast is a political scientist who studies international relations and conflict history at the University of Chicago. In an essay for The Atlantic, he said we are in the midst of “not a world war, but a world at war.” And in this interview, we consider five theories for why global conflict seems to be surging around the world.

If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com.

Host: Derek Thompson

Guest: Paul Poast

Producer: Devon Baroldi

Mentioned in this episode:




  • The Uppsala Conflict Data Program [link]



  • "Not a World War But a World at War," by Paul Poast [link]



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World on Fire, Part 2: Global Conflict Has Surged to an 80-Year High. Why?

World on Fire, Part 2: Global Conflict Has Surged to an 80-Year High. Why?

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