Courtesy Reuters

Intelligence analysts have labored for years to identify the factors that make countries unstable. For those wanting to anticipate the next failed state, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Gregory Treverton (“The Calm Before the Storm,” January/February 2015) offer a counterintuitive insight: “Disorderly regimes come out as safer bets than commonly thought—and seemingly placid states turn out to be ticking time bombs.” But the authors fail to support that claim, and their proposed method for assessing a state’s fragility does not appear to offer anything better than the early warning methods already in use.

Taleb and Treverton point to “five

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