In some ways, the most worrying thing about 2016 is that there are still more than five months of it left. Given just how much bad news has been packed into the year so far, the question has to be asked – what else could go wrong?
The answer, of course, is a lot.
It may well be that the mass casualty assaults in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Munich and Orlando – as well as a smattering of smaller attacks in France and Germany in particular – are only the beginning. Not all are necessarily linked to Islamist militant groups, but in each case they are raising the temperature of local domestic politics in a distinctly dangerous way.
In the Middle East, Islamic State is unquestionably losing ground in Iraq and Syria, but that may not make the group any less likely to strike out. This weekend’s bombing in Kabul – as well as other similar incidents in Iraq and elsewhere – act as a savage reminder that the level of terror attacks in the West remains incredibly low in comparison.
Nor are these the only – or necessarily even the greatest – dangers. Tensions with both Russia and China could well ratchet higher. The European Union remains in turmoil – it’s not just Brexit; the euro zone crisis remains entirely unresolved.
The number of countries suffering some kind of internal political crisis is also alarmingly high. After its attempted coup on July 15, Turkey appears more unstable than at any time in recent history – which is awkward, as it is something of a linchpin to Western policy on a variety of fronts. Russia must deal with a falling oil price, China with potentially flagging growth. Many Western countries, including the United States, UK, France and Germany are socially divided on a scale not seen in decades if not generations.
And, of course, it’s still far from impossible that the United States will elect Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the White House in November.
On balance, of course, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton remains the favorite – although polls from the Republican convention last week suggest her lead might be slipping. Attacks like those in Brussels and Orlando have tended to help Trump. So, quite possibly, might a string of recent attacks on U.S. police officers – although the widespread outrage over killings of often unarmed African-Americans may also boost turnout for the Democrats.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the worse the rest of the world looks, the more it likely plays into Trump’s narrative – even though it’s equally difficult to conclude he would be anything other than disastrous at handling those crises.