A famous difficulty in summing up a year, or for this purpose in summing up a hundred, concerns its last days. The events of the 12th month, or the 99th year, are absorbed in our memory with greater natural ease than the third month, or the 14th year, easily and materially when they are particularly dramatic.
The last days of the outgoing year compete without difficulty for the title of “Most Important Event”. The victorious defeat of the United States in Afghanistan was doomed to be enshrined in collective memory well into the 21st century. It could be argued that it changed the course of history. It could even be argued that it was a major milestone in the decline of America.
But the last 12 months have been steeped in events with historical potential. The first quarter of this year was marked by a struggle for control of the United States, unparalleled in the 230 years of the American Constitution.
The third quarter was marked by the intensification of the campaign against political freedoms in countries with authoritarian regimes: first and foremost China, followed by Burma / Myanmar, Russia and Belarus. We have seen in the coming year one of the most massive setbacks of democracy since the end of the Cold War, 30 years ago and more.
The fourth quarter was of course marked by Afghanistan. Not only did a costly 20.year war end in defeat, but the U.S. found it difficult to retreat in an orderly fashion. The damage to its good name may be irreparable. But not only is its good name standing the test, but so is its international weight assessment.
Coffins of dead soldiers on their way to the US a day before the end of the evacuation from Kabul, August 29 / Photo: Associated Press, Jason Minto / US Air Force
This schedule does not weight the events of the year in Israel. This is an international review. Although Israel’s enormous dramas have aroused considerable interest beyond its borders, they have not represented global tendencies as such. Israel has taught the world quite a bit about caring for Corona. In the second quarter of the year and for part of the third quarter it was an enviable success story in the front pages and editorials. In the fourth part, this was already an example of short.term success. Israelis who relished the warm spotlights of the month of Iyar suffered a freezing cold in the month of Elul.
“Independence Day from the Cubid” that was not
President Biden declared victory over the Corona in a July 4 speech, “Independence Day from the Cubid,” in his own words. He noted the removal of the masks and the opening of restaurants. The recovery data spoke for themselves. They showed that the US was returning to the pre.epidemic level of economic activity. The employment figures for the early and middle of the summer were impressive on a historical scale. The last figure for the summer, from the beginning of September, was extremely disappointing.
Delta is the obvious explanation. Delta may also start pouring cold water on inflation, which has doubled in the U.S. in the past 12 months. Will the next few months show that the outbreak of inflation was the most important economic event of the coming year? Coming soon to office, he has long insisted that inflation is temporary, a natural result of manufacturing, supply and employment problems at the end of a deep recession. White House economists agree with him. From the target set by the central bank; In Europe it is 50% higher; In China, too, there was a steep rise in the (wholesale) price index.
India: The government boasted, but the oxygen ran out
The biggest victim of the corona crisis in the last eight months was India. The complacency of the central government was the original sin. In February the government still congratulated itself, through submissive media, on its success in eradicating the corona. Government supporters have advised the outside world to learn from India’s success. Not only could she contract the virus, but unlike the rich powers of the West, she also began marketing vaccines to poor countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi / Photo: Associated Press
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers held tens of thousands of elections without masks, despite ominous signs. But, did not help them. They were defeated in a key election in the West Bengal state, whose capital is Calcutta.
The card building collapsed at the end of the short Indian winter. The oxygen supply in the hospitals was depleted. Long lines lined up at the entrances, and people of all types and income levels suffocated in the parking lots. As the Hindus burn their dead, long lines of corpses lingered around crematoria, especially in the crowded northern states. Those who did not get their hands on the burn threw their dead into the rivers. Hundreds of unburned or partially burnt bodies floated on the Holy Ganges River.
The corona crop in India is unknown and it is doubtful if it will ever be known. A number of factors have acted in disguising the true dimensions of the plague: pressure on local authorities, people refraining from reporting when Corona is feared for social exclusion and the lack of post.mortem surgery.
Estimates heard from senior doctors in India are that perhaps four million people have died, ten times the official number, equivalent to all the times in the world.
Indian woman collapses near the body of a relative in the crematoria in Gohti, July 2021 / Photo: Associated Press, Anupam Nath
In the last days of summer came the news that India’s economy grew by 20.4% in the second quarter of the year. A very impressive number, which should not forget an impressive number no less than the second quarter of last year. Between April and June 2020, India’s economy shrank by 24%.
China: The regime has run out of patience
China’s exit from the corona crisis was imprinted with the regime’s strong hand. The virus was spread, even if it came back from time to time at local hotspots. The normalization of China’s life was not a passing illusion. On September 2, there were 28 verified infections, less than in Kuwait or the African Aswatini. In the US 182,000 verified were registered on this day. Of course, the statistics are questionable, but the very return to routine in China cannot be denied.
Was this an achievement of the regime? Maybe. But equally it can be argued that the early spread of the virus was a result of habits, which the regime instilled in its subjects: to hide bad news and silence their spreaders.
The grip of the Chinese regime has tightened in the last 12 months to an unprecedented extent. It has, of course, explicit political sides, such as the complete elimination of Hong Kong liberties, contrary to an agreement China signed with Britain 25 years ago. But this is what we would expect from a brutal dictatorship with a long tradition of fear of elections and of demonstrations.
Protesters against Hong Kong National Security Law detained for questioning, October 2020 / Photo: Associated Press, Vincent Yu
In the past year we have observed an even more disturbing phenomenon: the suppression of individual thought, initiative, originality and non.conformity in almost every possible area of life: from finance to high.tech, to popular culture, to dress, to style of behavior; From the silence of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, who dared to criticize the Chinese bureaucracy, through an 18.year prison sentence for the pig farm billionaire, Sun Dow, who was accused of “reducing trouble” for organizing farmers to protest against the arbitrariness of government ministries; From limiting the ability of boys and girls to play video games online, through the oppression of LGBT groups on social media, and ending with a ban on the idol culture that “pollutes the youth.“
To this of course must be added the growing talk of plans to invade Taiwan, the aggressive behavior towards neighbors in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, and the border incidents initiated with India in the Himalayas.
The heavy shadow of the oppression of the Turkish.speaking Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, which has been extensively documented in a number of Western media outlets, has hovered over the regime this year. China vehemently denies it.
Why does the Chinese dictatorship tighten its belt to such an extent, at such a rate, so often? Is her need for full control over all areas of life a result of anxiety about instability? Or is it related to political and military programs, which require full recruitment? Is it the result of a neo.Maoist cult of personality, centered on President Xi Jinping, a gray bureaucrat with little charisma, who has managed to concentrate more political power than any Chinese, certainly since Mao, perhaps since ancient Chinese emperors?
Chinese President Xi Jinping / Photo: Associated Press, Li Xueren
China’s rise and the aggressive directions of its policies have continued to guide the rest of the United States in the coming year. There is nothing new in this. The United States has been troubled for at least 20 years. The words “China is not a partner, it is a rival” came from George W. Bush in 2000.
“Fight to the bitter end”
The United States has been embarking on its worst internal crisis since the Civil War 160 years ago, 160 years ago. Donald Trump has refused to admit defeat in the presidential election. Millions of Republicans support him, including dozens of congressional delegates. Thousands of his supporters climbed Capitol Hill “and fought like hell.“
The question of whether American democracy was in real danger is important in itself, but cannot diminish the seriousness of the act: Inspired by an American president, an attempt is made to prevent the approval of legitimate election results. Eight months later, the defeated president continues not only to claim victory, but to be sympathetic, to enjoy his party’s almost complete loyalty, to collect donations, and to almost certainly prepare to run for the presidency again in 2024.
The United States continues to be torn and divided. Deep mutual suspicion characterizes its political life. Right and left are suspicious of each other in an attempt to seize power by force, and hold it undemocratically. No one knows what the next election will look like. The political system.
The sigh of relief was short
The change of government in the United States has produced a sigh of relief among most of its allies (possible exceptions were India, Israel, Poland and Hungary). In the minds of allies.
Expressions of disappointment tended to focus on the lack of preparations for an orderly evacuation, not actually the decision to end the war, although military decisions were also criticized, such as the hasty and incomprehensible evacuation of the huge air base in Agram in July. The disappointment in the United States with President Biden’s conduct has dramatically detracted from his personal popularity.
US President Joe Biden / Photo: Associated Press, Evan Vucci
From his first presidency, the President repeatedly spoke of the need to convince the world of the benefits of democracy. For this purpose he is about to convene a conference on democracy in December. He will probably have to work very hard to catch up with millions of skeptics in his enthusiasm.
Thirty years ago, in the days of incessant bad news, Queen Elizabeth admitted that she had had an annus horribilis, a “terrible year” (Latin). We are allowed to ask this combination to describe the coming year. Happy New Year, or at least a little less terrible.
Previous lists on yoavkarny.com and https://tinyurl.com/yoavkarny – globes
Tweets (in English) ontwitter.com/YoavKarny