President-elect Trump has long advocated the need for the United States to revitalize and strengthen its conventional defenses. Since taking office, he has been notably silent on global security aside from his references to the refugee threat and the need to enhance U.S. nuclear forces. His statements on defense and his key appointments in the areas of defense and security support a more muscular U.S. military role in the world.
The world the Trump administration inherits is less stable and more prone to conflict than at any time in the past decade. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an Australian think tank, produces a number of indexes that rate trends in global terrorism, militarization and refugees, among others, to measure whether the world is becoming more or less peaceful.1 The IEP overall score for the Global Peace Index (GPI) shows that global peace deteriorated sharply in the 2009 — 2010 period and has made little progress toward a more peaceful world since.2 (Chart).
The IEP’s Global Peace Index for 2016 continues a decade-long decline. The gap between the most peaceful and most troubled countries widened.
The two indicators of the IEP’s 23-indicator data set that deteriorated the most were global terrorism and political instability. Deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent, with only 69 countries reporting no deaths from terrorism. The number of countries reporting more than 500 deaths from terrorism more than doubled from five to 11.
While the majority of terrorist activities are concentrated in the Middle East, they are increasing globally as well. Deaths from terrorism reached 30,000, an all-time high, even though they are still a small percentage of all violent deaths.
Battle deaths from military conflict rose to 100,000 in 2014 — a 25-year high. The majority of those deaths occurred in Syria.
Of the nine countries that had “internal conflict” deaths in 2016, only four reported such deaths in 2008. Notably among these, Mexico ranks number one, ahead of Iraq which is number two. Both countries had more than 30,000 deaths from internal conflicts in 2016.
Finally, the number of displaced people has doubled since 2007 to 60 million in 2015. Both Somalia and South Sudan reported 20 percent of their populations displaced. In Syria, 60 percent of the population has been displaced by the conflict.
There are positive signs with some improvement in external conflicts, but this trend has been offset by the loss of life in internal conflicts. Against this backdrop, military personnel and expenditure have generally gone down globally.
2 A higher GPI score indicates “less peaceful” conditions.
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