As we start up the new year, it is important as this year ends for us to realize that much has occurred outside of not only our close groups in which we celebrated the holidays, but in the world as a whole. Much has changed in international diplomacy throughout 2011, and now is a good time to look at how the past 365 days will have gone down in the history books, to remember when these events impact us again in 2012.
THE ARAB SPRING
Beginning in fact in the December of last year, 2011 was when the movements for independence in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya fully took hold and resulted in the collapse of tyrannical governments in favor of democracies. Ousted were Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and Libya’s Muammar Gadhffi. Protestors spread across numerous nations shared the same goals and means of protesting, desiring an end to the governments and leaders who placed their own wealth and power above providing citizens with a voice in policy, a stable economy, or even enough food or drink to safely survive. America, and our own taxpayer dollars, began to play a role in March as we offered military forces to aid Libyan rebels in taking control of their nation, ultimately coming to fruition in October as Muammar Gadaffi was killed. It would be foolish to consider the Arab Spring over just yet – Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain have seen protests rise over this year with the expectation that the Arab Spring model will continue. America began to debate the safety of these regimes, pointing to Mubarak’s history of a stable American ally, and the election of Muslim political parties in the newly established Middle East democracies. America now looks with both inspiration and apprehension as a region embroiled in conflict follows a yet-to-be-decided path.
The world welcomed its newest nation in the form of the Republic of South Sudan in July of this year, as Southern Sudan held a referendum ending with a new nation led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit. While the declaration of ones own government is always a major boon for the people – see the Arab Spring above – the new nation and President Mayardit face a host of problems outside of diplomacy with their northern brothers. South Sudan also entered into the lists of the worlds poorest nations, with not only a dangerous health care shortage but also a lack of order – South Sudan also marked the year with over 600 dead in conflicts over cattle. However, South Sudan boasts the vast majority of the oil contained in the whole of Sudan, which indicates an unstable path to prosperity – with a shocking 98% of South Sudan’s revenue coming from oil alone, it will be difficult for Sudan to avoid having its success or failure based on turbulent oil markets.
AMERICA LEAVES IRAQ
After more than 8 years of military involvement in Iraq, the United States military left Iraq behind, partially motivated by the Iraqi government’s promise to end legal immunity for US troops after 2011. With estimated costs of over a trillion dollars, a massive loss of diplomatic support for America, increased oil and thus gas costs, and thousands of casualties for combatants on both sides and civilians, the war has profoundly changed how America views the rest of the world, how the rest of the world views America, and how America views itself. Our withdrawal points towards a growing concern with more domestic issues, as Americans begin to be too unsure about our own country’s future to worry about those overseas.
America’s dedication to maintaining an alliance with an increasingly isolated Israel was tested as Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian government moved for statehood at the United Nations. Supported by a majority of UN States, the bid was ultimately doomed to failure as the United States vowed to use its Security Council position to veto any application. However, pressure was placed by the international community on the United States to find a solution to the peace process that was not the status quo bickering between Palestine and Israel, and Palestine’s UNESCO acceptance gave it more legitimacy that increased domestic priority of our own alliance with Israel, seen as Republican primary candidates have put Israel first in discussing foreign policy.