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Do NOT Try This At Home: Which Country is the World’s Most Dangerous?

Personally, when I think of the World’s Most Dangerous Places, I think of Robert Young Pelton, whose approach to off-the-beaten-path travel saved my life more times than I care to count during the early reckless years of my youth.

David Rothkopf, however, of Carnegie/Commerce Dept/CFR fame, takes a different view on the meaning of what makes a country dangerous: “actors who can cause the greatest disruption through their actions to the most people over the next decade or so.” As he also points out, “the most dangerous countries are the ones with the most power.”

So it is with some dubiousness that I call attention to the Rothkopf’s Top 10 World’s Most Dangerous Countries.

The fact that he ranks the United States at number one, Russia four and Venezuela 10 – not to mention that the European Union even makes the list at all – should call this entire exercise into question. But as he explains in ranking China #2, “the most dangerous countries are the ones with the most power.”

On that basis, why is Russia #4? Because of its power or the perception of its power?

With that said, following are the excerpts that fall most directly within the purview of what we spend most of our time concerning ourselves with here. The original article is here.

10. Venezuela

Ok, Chávez won’t start any world wars. But think of his disruptive reach around the hemisphere, his support for the FARC, and his cultivation of ties to Russia, China and the Middle East and its clear this is the one guy who is most likely to disrupt lives in Latin America for the foreseeable future.

8. The European Union

Europe should be a force for stability in the world. But an EU without an effective foreign policy mechanism, without the ability to shoulder its share of the military burden associated with keeping the world safe, with a faltering Euro and with too many new members is a big void where the world needs strength. Sometimes the greatest threat comes from those who could take action to preserve stability but who do not.

7. Nigeria and Congo (Tie)

Nigeria is the biggest country on a continent that is increasingly important to the world for oil and other resources.It is a major player in the global energy scene. And it faces multiple threats both internally and from a truly scary neighborhood. Congo is the site of the world’s most deadly conflict of the past decade and both a metaphor and hub for the kind of regional fracturing that make instability in Africa one of the things most worrying U.S. and European military commanders.

4. Russia

See the preceding article. I rank them behind Pakistan because the odds are better that their desire to be part of the world system ultimately suppresses the country’s more dangerous impulses. And because they are likely for the near term to be more dangerous as a diplomatic and political disruptor and as a regional mischief maker than as a direct military threat to anyone outside their immediate neighborhood. If I’m in that neighborhood though, I’m uncomfortable. And on top of all that, the most recent picture of a bare-chested Putin on horseback has me worried.

2. China

I do not believe China is a military threat to the U.S. or to anyone now or at any time in the near future. Rather they are on top of this list for the same reason that the number one country is: the most dangerous countries are the ones with the most power. They flex their muscle … economic, political, or military… and they have the biggest impact. Or, as in the case of China, if they don’t … if they remain the reluctant great power … and don’t assume a role in the international system proportionate to their power, it will throw the system out of balance. (For example: if Iran’s nuclear program is a threat and China could make a difference in containing it but doesn’t … they become a contributor to the threat.) Further, they’ve got internal struggles that could have them focused inward for a long time … some, with the Uighurs say, that could have them caught up in a struggle with the Islamic world that could next spread into Central Asia (a development that worries me a great deal.)

1. The United States

I generally believe the U.S. is a force for good in the world and I am inclined to believe that is the objective of the current administration. But there is no denying that the one country who has most aggressively reached out to touch the world militarily in the past decade is the Untied States. Further, and more importantly, following the logic in the EU and China mentions above…no one has more power than the United States. That means no one can do more damage with a mistake or even with inaction. Also: as in the case of China and the EU, our economic missteps punish the planet and there is very little evidence to suggest we’ve taken the steps we need to avoid another meltdown of the 2008-2009 variety. Ask yourself: What has harmed more people on the planet, terrorist brutality or Wall Street venality?