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As the world burns, will optimism be enough?

The world outside Canada is an alarming place right now. It's hard to recall a period when so much unhappy news was so prevalent on so many fronts.

For much of the 20th century, the globe could be divided into two or three dominant camps, primarily involving the rivalry between Western-style democracy and various forms of communism. Today, the threats are more numerous, more diverse and less easily calibrated. It was easy enough to grasp the theory behind communist ideology; it's much harder to understand why any rational person would support the barbarity of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

As National Post columnist Terry Glavin recently noted, it has been 700 years since the Middle East fell so deeply into chaos. From Iraq to Syria to Yemen to Egypt, the region has become a morass of flames, war, dictatorship and theocracy, and it will soon ­- thanks to U.S. President Barack Obama's pact with Iran - add a hostile nuclear power to the mix. Those countries that aren’t in chaos are trying to deal with the flood of refugees from those that are.

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