Cesare Merlini 11, nonresident senior fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Italian Institute for International Affairs, May 2011, “A Post-Secular World?”, Survival, Vol. 53, No. 2
Two neatly opposed scenarios for the future of the world order illustrate the range of possibilities, albeit at the risk of oversimplification. The first scenario entails the premature crumbling of the post-Westphalian system. One or more of the acute tensions apparent today evolves into an open and traditional conflict between states, perhaps even involving the use of nuclear weapons.The crisis might be triggered by a collapse of the global economic and financial system, the vulnerability of which we have just experienced, and the prospect of a second Great Depression, with consequences for peace and democracy similar to those of the first. Whatever the trigger, the unlimited exercise of national sovereignty, exclusive self-interest and rejection of outside interference would self-interest and rejection of outside interference would likely be amplified, emptying, perhaps entirely, the half-full glass of multilateralism, including the UN and the European Union. Many of the more likely conflicts, such as between Israel and Iran or India and Pakistan, have potential religious dimensions. Short of war, tensions such as those related to immigration might become unbearable. Familiar issues of creed and identity could be exacerbated. One way or another, the secular rational approach would be sidestepped by a return to theocratic absolutes, competing or converging with secular absolutes such as unbridled nationalism.