A Dangerous World


What dangers await the world in 2018?

Ben Keller here with the latest Murder-Books.com post.  Frequently, we write here about the business or craft of writing mysteries or thrillers.  You’ve heard about police procedurals, research into criminal conspiracies, and surprising histories of true life crime that have had an impact on literature.  Woven throughout is the thread that, in my ever so humble opinion, sets this group of writers apart:  authenticity.  We are the Guys Who Know, each of us bring our hard-won experience in law enforcement, investigations, the court systems, and the law to inform our writing.

In that vein, I wanted to share some recent developments from the “authenticity” part of my life.  My current role requires me to monitor emerging security risks around the world.  To anticipate where dangerous situations are most likely to occur, and to recommend strategies to mitigate those risks so the company I work for can continue to do business.  To accomplish this, I spend a lot of time liaising with various Federal agencies, international embassies, and sources of intelligence around the world.

That effort led me recently to a stuffy, wood-paneled exclusive clubroom in midtown Manhattan.  A suit and tie was the required dress for men, and I could feel the derisive stares of the regular members reading the Times and sipping brandy by the fireplace as they immediately pegged me for only a mere visitor.

The snooty venue aside, the event itself was fascinating.  Perhaps the most prestigious security consulting and intelligence analysis firm around, Control Risks, was hosting an event to offer their predictions to the greatest geopolitical risks facing the world in 2018.

Their presentation was impressive.  Collectively, their speakers boasted pedigrees from the FBI, national security analysts, Ivy League academics, international journalists, and highly respected financial analysts.  These were people who know how the world works, and they were turning their eye toward security risks facing businesses operating internationally.  Here’s what they predict:

  1. North Korea Escalation:  They predict North Korea will have a nuclear-capable ICBM before the end of 2018.  They think an intentional nuclear attack is unlikely, but the primary risk derives from an accident or a miscalculation during a test of such a missile.  They caution that the Kim Jong Un regime will not collapse, nor will China exert much effort to make the “North Korea problem” go away.
  2. Large Scale Cyber Attack:  We will see more powerful, targeted attacks, with national infrastructure being particularly vulnerable.  In response, governments will increase their efforts to exert some additional control over corporate data systems in the forms of increased regulation.  This could divert a company’s resources away from actual security to compliance, ironically making them more at risk.
  3. United States Gets Protectionist:  The U.S. could withdraw or limit participation in international trade agreements such as WTO and NAFTA, or press for more favorable terms with rival nations such as China.  This could disrupt trade, and lead to changes to U.S.-based companies doing business abroad.  For example, a host nation could impose new fees, penalties or spurious regulation in retaliation for U.S. trade practices.
  4. Power Rivalry in the Middle East:  Due to a number of factors, some traditional power structures are either fading or fragmenting, leading to different parties pressing for increased influence in the sphere.  The two biggest rivals are Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Actual war between the two is unlikely, but we will see them engaged in power struggles and small, isolated proxy wars around the region.
  5. Personalized Leadership:  Around the world, some heads of state are non-traditional, unpredictable leaders (Trump, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Maduro, Putin, Erdogan, etc.).  Conflicting nationalist policies and unpredictable responses could lead to greater instability.  Foreign business are attractive targets to populist leaders looking to make a point.

What does this mean for the company I work for?  What does that mean for you and me?  Well, I make a career out of trying to interpret that, and I can’t begin to address that here.  But I would point out that I find this list of predictions fascinating.  I find human behavior fascinating, and at its root, that’s all this list is about.

We do live in a dangerous world, but in my opinion, no more so or less so than almost any other time in history.  In fact, data suggests humans are safer now than ever before.  But to ignore the risks that do exist is to be willfully blind.  My advice to my clients, and to you dear reader, is to be mindful of the risks around us, take appropriate mitigating actions, but ultimately live our lives.  To live in fear is to admit defeat.  And I think there’s a whole lot more to enjoy in life than to fear.

My son gave me a life lesson when he was about four years old.  Our custom when saying our evening prayers was to say one thing we were thankful for and one thing we were asking for.  On one late night, when he was fighting to stay awake, he sleepily said, “I’m thankful for… everything.  Well, only the good stuff.  Well, maybe the bad stuff too, because you can’t tell the good stuff without the bad stuff.”

I was blown away, and I stayed up way too late that night thinking about his simple wisdom.  I think it’s a good thing for us to remember.  With all these risky things to think about, maybe their greatest value is to define all the good things in our lives.

-Ben Keller

I mentioned the firm Control Risks and their annual “Risk Map” predictions.  I have no connection to that company, but if I’m going to mention their research I should at least cite my source.  If you’d like to learn more, I can personally recommend their firm, and you can learn more here.  Any liberties I’ve taken or errors I’ve made in summarizing their predictions are mine and mine alone!

2 thoughts on “A Dangerous World

  1. Great Post, Ben. The venue sounds awesome! But the subject…that’s what it’s all about. Your experience took me back to my year with Army CID in 2003, where I spent the first two months before deploying to Iraq at HQ. Every morning, I got to review the Daily Intel Brief, the classified version of what’s happening in the world. I came to the same conclusion: the world is a very dangerous place. It made me more appreciative of our nation’s intelligence and military capabilities and increasingly frustrated with the forces that thought we could save money by reducing them.


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