2012 – Another Year Past Its Best And Little To Hope For In 2013. Unless Of Course You’re Rich Or Corrupt Or Both
Henry Forth writes from London: The New Year has arrived and there are 37 wars and lesser conflicts going on all over the globe as you read this. Pick a continent and you have to duck – even if it’s no more than a too-violent protest over some government or another.
There are so many confrontations and tensions waiting to spill over to something much worse, we might even say that as 2013 opens, we are entering some seriously troubled waters with war stalking most headlines around the world.
That is the saddest message coming from 2012. Not so sad, but noteworthy is that 2012 must be remembered for changes of leadership from East to West; from the troubled economies of the once flourishing Far East to the consistently floundering Europe and the deeply unstable Africa, both Saharan and sub-Saharan.
For examples: Vladimir Putin is back on the Russian Presidential throne; Barack Obama stays in the Oval Office; François Hollande stumbles about France as President. Augustin Matata Ponyo became Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo knowing that the job meant nothing and it wasn’t worth undoing his briefcase. As for poor Shinzo Abe, the new Japanese Prime Minister, who got the job for the second time round: when President Obama called him to congratulate him on getting to run Japan, Abe thought he was talking to George W Bush, somehow forgetting that four years back all had changed in America.
The most important change was in Egypt where Mohammed Morsi became President. It was a reminder to the whole world that still travels with an idea of democracy that there are two fundamental requirements before democracy may be evaluated: the people must have free votes and the judiciary must be independent. Egypt stands uneasily astride these basic principles.
But it is equally easy to be diverted from the main issues as 2012 closes. Going from East to West, the world lives in its own skin with considerable difficulty as a very brief scan of the passing year shows:
North Korea successfully tested a rocket that comes from a programme quite capable of developing an intercontinental missile and maybe strong enough to carry a nuclear payload. China therefore considered herself for the first time surrounded by neighbours armed with a nuclear capability – India, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the seemingly pointless war followed a repeated pattern in shrouds. The European and American coalition plundered every implausible phrase from their combined lexicon of platitudes, clichés and downright lies to tell the world that come 2014 all would be well in that wretched part of the world and anyway, if it turned out not to be, so what? The inheritors of the Bush legacy had done their best. Ironically, 2012 proved this was absolutely true. The coalition did its best, but its best was not good enough. As the year closed, the Taliban was talking but on its own terms in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Taliban militants were killing whomsoever they chose especially locals who had target -spotted for American drone attacks.
In the Middle East, 2012 saw the bloodthirsty truth of the disparate rebels in Syria and the crass diplomacy – including that of the EU – that with loud fanfares recognised these rebels as government in waiting. Should that come about, God help the Syrians. The tragedy is just starting.
Not far away, Israel invaded even more Palestinian territory to build settlements that made an absolute mockery of any plan for a two state solution. In so doing it gathered sad contempt from much of the interested world for the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Needn’t have been like that, but the warning that contempt for a nation’s government that goes unanswered within the state of Israel could tragically lead to anti-Semitism, was ignored. On Netanyahu’s government head be it.
Sub-Saharan Africa held few surprises in 2012. Mali edged toward being the new Afghanistan. Nigeria became richer, treated its people in a worse fashion than ever before, split into religious factions and built on its reputation in Europe as the corrupt centre of the continent that exports the most untrustworthy people to places like London, Paris, Berlin.
The rest of the world was not much better with the poor getting poorer, the corrupt getting richer and the supposedly sophisticated and largely Western states utterly incapable of resolving global calamities natural or man-made – including their economies.
Will 2013 promise anything better? Answer: probably not. The only one prediction to be considered is this: just as we knew the Arab Spring would be a difficult autumn and got that just about right, so Africa will be the place to watch even more than now.
The deep and morbidly inevitable note to that prediction is that now there are no superpowers, no safe economic systems and no impressive mercantilism. It is true that the woes looming in 2013 will develop into the madness everyone senses. This is because without the powers to impress and interfere, there is no way of stopping 2013 being a place we’d rather not be- and we haven’t even considered Israel and Iran.