Will a scandal-ridden White House survive? : 2018: Global instability, climate danger | Sunday Observer

Will a scandal-ridden White House survive? : 2018: Global instability, climate danger

If the past year saw a rise in violence and wars across the globe, will 2018 be any different? And what about the rise in global temperature and seawater levels?

Despite all the pious phrases about ‘world peace’ by politicians, the world is experiencing more war and suffering than ever since the Iraq Invasion War of 2003-2011. That ‘war’ never properly ended because it transformed into an insurgency against the Western-backed government in Baghdad and then became the ISIL insurgency that still smoulders in pockets of desert on the Syria-Iraq border.

Meanwhile, along with wars in Afghanistan and Libya and Syria, over the past few years, newer wars and insurgencies have erupted in Yemen, the southern Philippines, and all along the Sahara Desert borderlands of several western and central African states, namely, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Mali and South Sudan. The United Nations is overloaded with refugee crises across northern Africa and western and central Asia and, most recently in the Rohingya displacement from Burma to Bangladesh.

The numbers of refugees in the world now total tens of millions. In addition to the recent displacements due to wars, there are decades-old displacements yet unresolved – the worst and most poignant case being that of the Palestinians. The United States’ formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘capital’ has served to highlight the plight of the displaced people of Palestine - now numbering nearly 5 million.

If 2018 offers some hope to more recent displaced populations due to trends in conflict resolution or mitigation in some theatres of conflict, the displaced people of Palestine, having completed over a half century of exile, do not have such hope.

Any careful study of the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories will compel one to ask if there is any real ‘holiness’ in the so-called ‘Holy Land’ of the Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Such is the daily tragedy of forcible displacement from homes and livelihood and, impoverished and powerless refugee life in the 50 plus refugee camps (actually large, temporary, townships) all crowded into the tiny pockets of West Bank and Gaza that is all that remains of ‘Palestine’ as well in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon. If there is anything that approaches the condition of racist ‘Apartheid’ yet remaining on Earth, it is in Israel and the remnant Palestinian territory. Israel itself, like South Africa, is a strange (actually eerie) combination of modern democracy and racist discrimination, subjugation and forced, permanent exile of people.

While the agony of the Palestinians must continue into 2018, the rest of the world is also dotted with hot spots.

If tensions in the Korean Peninsula simmer, it is more to do with constant and massive military exercises and invasion practice by US and South Korean forces than the occasional rocket test launch by North Korea. Certainly, while a nuclear-armed North Korea is now a reality (whatever Washington might say), a jittery, brutish dictatorship in Pyongyang destabilises the whole region. But anyone who knows a little bit of 20th Century history, knows that North Korea was only recently driven to nuclear armament after decades of having to put up with annual military exercises by hostile US and South Korean forces that have been regularly held since the Korean War ended in 1953.

In Iran last week there were riots in several cities by citizens protesting rising living costs. Similar protests occurred many years ago. Unlike the terrors of the US-backed ‘monarchy’ of the Shah of Iran in the 1960s-70s, when such civilian action was met with military suppression, mass detentions, torture and disappearances, civil protests under the Islamic Republic are treated softly and under Iranian law. Even it is not a perfect democracy (where is such a ‘democracy’?), Iran does have a functioning justice system although the discriminatory elements of feudal Islamic traditionalism continue to mar the system.

How 2018 will see changes for the better in the rest of West Asia, especially with the Saudi monarchy flexing its muscles both within the Kingdom and against neighbouring Yemen and Qatar, is doubtful. Qatar remains under an invasion-style blockade by Saudi Arabia and some of its client princedoms (emirates) along the Persian Gulf coast and Riyadh seems determined to maintain its bullying tactics against that more liberal princedom in Doha.

The Saudi monarchy’s primary focus is to balance the growing power of Iran. If Riyadh thinks that simply petro-dollars and expensive, western-supplied weaponry is enough to deter a major regional power like Iran, it is mistaken. Iran has a population of 80 million plus unlike the Saudi’s 27 million (the Kingdom has a further 8 million expatriate workers). Tehran easily controls the largest, most powerful, military force in the region after Turkey (which is a modern NATO member). Only Israel is more powerful simply because it possesses nuclear armament.

Hence, given the instability of the dictatorial Saudi monarchy, it is likely to be only a matter of time before Iran achieves ascendancy in the region.

While the Islamic State forces are on the run in Syria and Iraq, that particular political disease and social psychological condition also occurs in different parts of the world, especially among impoverished and disempowered Muslim populations. Thus the IS inspired Boko Haram in sub-Saharan central and western Africa is likely to sustain its insurgency until major efforts are made by governments in the region to address local problems of poverty and marginalisation.

The changes in power in South Africa with the expected transition from President Jacob Zuma to veteran Communist liberation fighter Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 is likely to see improved economic conditions in Africa’s richest but most unequal society.

No such certainty is predictable in the United States as long as a divided but governing Republican Party continues to prop up the a faltering Donald Trump presidency in 2018. After the midterm congressional election in November 2018, however, Trump may be dumped by the Republicans, especially if his complicity with Russian subversion uis confirmed by current investigations. In the US, therefore, 2018 might be the year of ‘regime-change’.

The biggest challenge, in this writer’s view, however, is that of global climate crisis. At the end of the new year, will island Sri Lanka have got a few metres smaller due to rising oceans?