Conventional wisdom has it that the cold-blooded killing in Iraq is sectarian. That wars raging in sub-Saharan Africa are tribal. And that the coiffed (and perhaps crazed) North Korean dictator launching missiles and testing nukes is the biggest danger lurking in East Asia.
In a world as complex and confounding as ours, such clichés can provide a rough conceptual shorthand, and perhaps even some cold comfort, as we try to understand geopolitical conflicts thousands of miles away and as we struggle to keep track of what seems like a growing list of 21st-century hot spots.
Of course it's never that simple.