December 21, 2016

A Look Back At Some Of The Stories That Defined 2016

With the year coming to a close, we wanted to look back at some of the moments that defined this, well, let’s say unconventional, year:

  • Anti-Establishmentism: You can’t really talk about 2016 without talking about Donald Trump, and you can’t really talk about Trump without looking at the global anti-establishment wave that he rode into the White House. Fringe movements on the right and the left went mainstream this year claiming electoral successes in the Philippines with the election of Duterte, the UK with Brexit, Italy with the failure of Renzi’s referendum and, most notably, in the US with an unexpectedly close democratic primary and the ultimate election of Donald Trump. The big question for 2017 will be whether these movements will be able to govern and maintain their independence or will they collapse under the weight of their own promises and lack of experience like similar movements in the past.  
  • Venezuelan implosion: One place to get a rough idea of how demagogues preform is Venezuela, and the omens aren’t looking good. The economy has been suffering due to incredible mismanagement by the populist government for years now but 2016 is when the bottom really fell out. Hyperinflation meant that people needed bags of cash to buy basic foodstuffs, assuming they could even find them after waiting in line for hours. Hospitals were without medicines, people without toilet paper and cities without electricity for much of the year. Can 2017 be a turning point for the oil rich country? 
  • Syria:  This year was particularly gruesome in Syria as the Russians upped their intervention and the Syrian government began turning the tide against the rebels. After a particularly intense battle, Aleppo was finally re-captured by government forces. Multiple efforts for a diplomatic solution came to naught as the government and Russia proved obstinate and the rebels were too busy infighting amongst themselves. The war isn’t over though: ISIS still controls parts of the country’s east and other Islamist rebels still control parts of the countryside in the North and South. It is still uncertain whether 2017 be the end of the war or merely a new phase of it. 
  • ISIS: Speaking of ISIS, the war on the Islamist group hasn’t been going as well as advertised. Despite intense military pressure, the group still controls the majority of the land it held at the start of the year. The Iraqi military was barely able to wrest control of Fallujah and has been bogged down in an attempt to take back Mosul. The Syrian government took back Palmyra only to lose it to the group again. Meanwhile, ISIS was able to carry out terror attacks from Cairo to Brussels with relative impunity. Does Trump actually have a plan to defeat them in 2017?
  • Turkey’s coup: A botched coup attempt, allegedly by the supporters of a cleric called Fethullah Gulen, marked a turning point for the country’s “democracy” earlier this year. The extent to which the coup plotters had penetrated the military caused such paranoia that it prompted a dramatic purge of the country’s institutions, giving President Erdogan unprecedented powers. The government’s also gone after MPs of the Kurdish party and tried to cement a more authoritarian presidential system in the country. Check and balances didn’t exactly prevail in 2016 and Erdogan is making similar plans for next year.
  • Paris agreement: One piece of good news was that the world finally took the issue of climate change seriously. Perhaps it was the terrible amount of smog in Beijing, Paris and New Delhi, or perhaps it was the rapidly melting ice caps, but the world eventually decided to make efforts to counter it. It’s not clear whether this agreement can survive the climate change skepticism of the incoming administration but it seems that the rest of the world won’t be waiting on the US to clean their own skies. 
  • Cuban opening: Another glimmer of hope can be found in the growing anticipation of opening Starbucks’ first Cuban store. After decades of a largely ineffectual embargo and political isolation, the US and Cuba have begun the process of normalizing relations. Even Donald Trump, whose threatened to roll that opening back, might succumb to the temptation to open a Trump Tower Havana. Some of you might even be escaping the cold and spending the holiday season down in sunny Havana. Are we jealous? Absolutely. 

Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: