Following a bitter and divisive election in the United States, one that continued the populist wave that began with the so-called "BREXIT", it's time to retrench, and look over the status of the world.
The battle against the so-called "Islamic State" continues, with allied forces continuing bruising slugfests in Kobane, Aleppo and Mosul - the first major city in Iraq to be captured by the terror group - the last hampered in no small part by an ill-advised series of press conferences that provided far too much information to the enemy.
As well, the combat operations area in Syria remains a Great Power flashpoint, as US and Russian forces attempt to conduct uncoordinated combat operations in close proximity to each other, operations that seem, to external viewers, as contradictory in focus. And this, while Russian and NATO forces stare at each other from the borders of Poland and the Baltic States - including (and dangerously so, Kaliningrad) the illegally annexed former state of East Prussia, now considered a Russian territorial exclave - creating a heightened sense of impending war. Indeed, NATO command went so far as to place 300,000 member-state combat troops on an elevated state of alert some two days prior to the US election, in a scene reminiscent of a bad 1980's action movie...but unsurprisingly, given remarks made by Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the campaign:
In Europe itself, the migrant crisis continues to drive the rise of populist and far-right political groups. The main response by Brussels has been to accelerate the conversion of European Union member state military forces into a pan-European force. This effort, rather bizarrely, has been blamed on BREXIT, although the potential problems inherent in a military force with the potential to walk out on strike would appear to be a much deeper problem.
Elsewhere, the balance of power in the Pacific Rim is in flux, with the erratic behavior of newly-elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seeming to flip between abandoning the Philippines' close relationship with the United States in favor of the People's Republic of China, then appearing to attempt to move back towards the US following the election victory of Donald J. Trump. This, coupled to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's loosening of weapons restrictions on Japan's peacekeeping forces, and an apparent olive branch - of sorts - from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, have all combined to leave the question of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea even murkier than at the start of the year.
In South Asia, the sudden decision to attempt to rein in the country's largely cash-based economy has not played itself out in full. As it currently stands, the potential for economic disruption reinvigorating a flagging Naxalite movement is very high.
In Africa, the grind continues, with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb - along the North African Mediterranean coast - and Al Shabbab in Somalia continuing operations, as Boko Haram continues to bedevil Central Africa, and isolated jihadist attacks on Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi's regime.
Finally, in the Americas, it seems that other than post-election rioting by disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton, little actual violence is likely to occur. South America, too, is quiet, although the agonizing, downward spiral of the Venezuelan state apparatus and the rejection of a peace deal with the FARC guerrilla army by the population of neighboring Columbia both remain areas of concern.
Overall, although 2016 has brought the world closer to all-out war than at any time since 1983, things could be far worse.
Hope still holds, that conditions will improve in 2017.
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