The Three-Strikes rule
There is another problem with too many urgent global threats – global crises demand global leadership. Yet as examined in the chapter on Globalization Crises, the international community does not even have effective infrastructures for dealing with those sorts of problems. As a result, even two truly-major global crises (comparable, say, to the global-banking crisis of 2008) will be very tough to handle at the same time. Three concurrent such crises is too much to expect existing systems to be able to manage. The partly-parochial, unintentionally short-term solutions that would inevitably result would themselves then cause even more uncontrolled crises that would eventually lead to further unrecognized damage.
This risk of triggering further problems is made even worse by the fact that, on top of everything else, global systems tend to respond painfully slowly to attempts to change course. Even if leaders somehow could keep a clear head and maintain a clear view of the full implications of all their actions, which in practice they never could, they would still be unable to cope. The longer you leave it before responding to global crises, the more that options to change direction become overly restricted. Everything takes too long. It is an extreme instance of the often-quoted example of steering massive oil-tankers – if captains try to change direction too late there is absolutely nothing they can do to avoid crashing.
In terms of multiple globally-defined threats to the national economies of numerous individual states, the metaphor is closer to trying to steer several fleets of often-competing oil tankers through a sea of uncharted and largely-hidden icebergs. Before the tanker captains can even begin to steer a course to safety without getting in each other’s way, they must first agree with their rivals what avoidance strategy they should adopt. That will cause still further delay, which risks making things even worse.
In conclusion, even though it would be hard enough for corporate and government leaders to handle multiple crises within the same ‘family’ of threats (for instance, all Capitalism Crises – like the current Sovereign-debt crises on top of the world economic slow-down), it would nevertheless be a lot easier than multiple crises driven by backlashes of largely separate global trends (say, uncontrollable worldwide Religion-inspired urban terrorism and a devastating global Industrialization-pollution crisis) that necessarily shared few if any common solutions.
As a first approximation, governments and corporations can reassure themselves that multiple crises all arising from the same basic trend still only count as One Strike against them. Parallel urgent crises driven by two largely-separate trends, however, are sufficiently hard to address in harmony that this scenario represents Two Strikes. The implication is that as countries are tested by crises generated by any of the trends detailed in this book, leaders should keep track of the number of distinct clusters of threats they are urgently tackling. Three Strikes – and they risk being out.