Why you should care

Because when you don’t maintain constant vigilance …

It was a huge year in security, with almost every part of the world seeing tidal shifts — guns, bombs, geopolitics and diplomacy all put together in scary new ways. John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, has been in many a sweat-inducing situation and can keep a cool head when telling others what they should be freaking out about. Here’s what he noticed this year and what we should all keep our eyes on in 2015.

ISIS and the Middle East

McLaughlin’s somewhat controversial view, early on, was that we couldn’t save Iraq; the danger had been done. With a remarkably sensitive eye for maps and borders, McLaughlin argued that soon to come for the country was a dramatic repartitioning of the nation along ethnic lines. Whether you remember all your Iraq war(s) history or not, this makes for an easy primer. Looking ahead, the truth, he says, is that we have more than lines of statehood to worry about. Early after the emergence of the Islamic State, McLaughlin argued that it is a bigger threat today than al-Qaida was before 9/11. His commentary continued; read more here, here and here.

Russia

Like everyone, McLaughlin stayed fascinated by the shirtless man in Russia, Vladimir Putin. All jokes aside, Russia is a serious geopolitical contender on the world stage, he says, and we’ve only just begun to see the country’s ambition. Crimea? That was just the start. But ever the historian as much as the analyst, McLaughlin pointed out that much of Russia’s feeling toward Ukraine is about the past — perhaps much more than the present.

Click the hyperlinks to read McLaughlin’s full pieces.

Asia

While many of us were whiplashing between Russia and ISIS, McLaughlin kept an ear open for news out of the East, specifically between China and Japan — a spot he has continually maintained is one of the most dangerous on earth. But one that we forget often.

So … Are We Safer?

Well, maybe not. 2014, after all, marked a crucial centenary: It has been 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. And 1914 was yet another year when a tinderbox, geopolitical tensions, new technology and more all converged to create one of the most devastating conflicts in memory. McLaughlin’s other lesson for us, though? To keep an eye out for black swans — those dangerous security threats we’ll never see coming.

Happy New Year, eh?

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