Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

5 Things in the World to Be Thankful for in 2023

| Nov. 23, 2023

It may seem harder to give thanks this year, but it's not impossible.

It's Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and the timing couldn't be worse. Given the events of the past year—and especially the past seven weeks—it's easier to find reasons to be angry or anxious than to give thanks. The war in Ukraine continues unabated, and the prospects for a Ukrainian victory are fading. Even the Wall Street Journal seems chastened by recent developments there. The Middle East has erupted yet again, and thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives. Armenians are fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh, Sudan is trapped in a brutal civil war, and millions of people have been displaced by violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are nearing the end of the hottest year on record, catastrophic climate events are becoming more frequent, and the planet is certain to become even warmer and wetter and more perilous in the years ahead. The United States is on track for one of the ugliest political campaigns in modern memory, with its future as a genuine democracy at stake.

Given all this and more, Americans might be forgiven if they deep-sixed the turkey, ordered some takeout, cracked open a whiskey bottle, and skipped the whole business of giving thanks.

I'm going to resist that impulse, however, and spend the day feeling grateful for the gleams of light that still penetrate the gloom. Here are five reasons why you might do so too.

1. No Great Power War

It's easy to lose sight of this feature of world politics given the violence and insecurity that fills the news feed every day, but we should still be grateful that the world's major powers are not fighting each other directly. I say this not because the United States, Russia, China, and other major powers are more important than the rest of the world's nations, but because an all-out great power conflict would produce even greater human suffering than conflicts between weaker states. Apart from the ominous risks of a nuclear exchange, a direct clash of arms between large industrial states would be extraordinarily destructive. The fighting in Ukraine has given us a vivid reminder of what protracted industrial warfare is like, but that admittedly brutal conflict is a far cry from what would happen if other well-armed great powers got directly involved. The last time something like that happened, tens of millions of people died. A war between great powers would also have vast economic consequences and adversely affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“5 Things in the World to Be Thankful for in 2023.” Foreign Policy, November 23, 2023.

The Author

Stephen Walt