In 1994, Robert Kaplan wrote an article “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” Now, twenty years later, with a few minor tweaks, he’s saying, “See I told you so!”

In Why So Much Anarchy? Kaplan says that “significant portions of the earth, rather than follow the dictates of Progress and Rationalism, are simply harder and harder to govern.” He focuses especially on the current anarchy enveloping and sinking the Arab world and sets out to explain the roots:

  • The End of Imperialism. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.
  • The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists.
  • No Institutions. The key element, is the lack of institutions that fill the gap between the ruler at the top and the extended family or tribe at the bottom.
  • Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities.
  • Doctrinal Battles. As state identities weaken, sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.
  • Information Technology. While smartphones and social media can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards.

Kaplan believes this anarchy will be with us for a long time to come, but also warns of even greater anarchy if current anti-authoritarian sentiment continues to spread in Russia and China. But we don’t need to look beyond our own land to see some laws ignored and others not applied.

When the world is in such an unstable world, it’s good to remind ourselves of five stabilizing and comforting truths:

1. Our sovereign God is on the throne of the universe, before whom nations, super-powers, and empires are like a drop in a bucket or a speck of dust on the balances (Isa 40).

2. God decides which nations will strengthen and rise, and which nations will disintegrate and fall (John 76:7).

3. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, is independent of this world, and is coming regardless of which country’s name is on each piece of ground (John 18:36; Rev. 11:15).

4. We can enjoy the peace and presence of God in our souls even when all around us the “mountains” are being cast into the midst of the sea (Ps. 46).

5. Each individual Christian is in the hand of God and although our physical safety is not guaranteed, we are spiritually and eternally safe (John 8:28-29).

6. The increasing anarchy may well be one of the “signs of the times” that remind us of the imminent end of all time, and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness not anarchy will dwell. (Matt. 24:7; 2 Peter. 3:13)

  • Woody Bailey

    Excellent thoughts here David. People still need strong leadership and what you wrote reminds me of Romans 13:3. If things get really chaotic, there may well be another “pax romana.”