Three Trends to Watch in ’13

Thinking through the events of 2012 year, it was clear that a lot of events have occurred internationally. At home, President Barrack Obama was re-elected; though in the international sphere, candidate Mitt Romney had nearly identical policies. North Korea and Iran continue to be belligerent and reckless. Europeans may have reached the end of the beginning of the financial crisis (though the election of Francois Holland may not help France’s chances). China transitioned leadership, while continuing to cover up massive corruption throughout the entire Communist system. Meanwhile, both Japanese and Mexican voters went with conservative leaders from the party that ruled that country for decades. Syria took a low scale rebellion and turned it into a bloody civil war. Egyptians struggle with the challenges of democracy. In Latin America, Bolivia opened its sovereign debt to international markets and Chavez called it quits. In Canada, oil sands continue to be pumped to the US despite administration apprehensions on new pipelines. And right here in Chicago, we hosted the NATO conference with professionalism and grace.

So what does this all mean? I have identified three trends that you can expect see the results of in 2013.

First, 2012 was the year of ‘changing cultures.’ 2013 will be the year of personal responsibility. How can outrageously bad things happen so frequently when surrounded by so many good people? The consulate at Benghazi, Libya was constantly threatened with terrorist attacks. Despite calls from staff for additional security, the staff was forced to rely on local hired militiamen. The utter craziness of this dereliction of duty of multiple State Department bureaucrats manifested itself on September 11th. On that evening a group of terrorists approached the compound. It is not entirely clear whether those local hires simply ran away at the sight or actively assisted the terrorists, but the end result was tragically the same: 4 Americans including an American diplomat… were killed. A scathing report release just a few days ago listed multiple errors on behalf of the folks in Foggy Bottom, but it did not blame a single specific person, rather:

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

Sadly, this is not limited to faraway lands. After the cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children for decades at Penn State, the football program was allowed to continue to play after paying a fine. Only Sandusky paid any significant price for the actions – while no doubt countless people let this torture go on without personal responsibility. And I haven’t even gone into the banking sector that has been hit by scandal after scandal – billion dollars fees and losses!

Everything this year had to be systematic failures. There was a ‘culture of silence’ at State and Penn State – so they say. Yet, my gut tells me that politicians and the general public are both sick of it. Expect future scandals to be more or less handled as straight up criminal cases or, more likely, as good ol’ fashion witch hunt.

Jurisdictional Nonsense on the high seas: Here’s one heck of an international imbroglio, an Argentinean naval ship, Liberdad (‘Liberty’) was detained in Ghana by its government due to a court decision in the US. Why? Because the plaintiffs in America, NML Capital (a subsidiary of hedge fund giant Eliott Capital Management), said they were owed over $370M from Argentina’s default a decade ago. Rather than agreeing to a resolution of 30 cents on the dollar – they continue to pursue Argentina through the courts. In this case, they essentially held the ship ransom – $20 million for the vessel. The detention which nearly came to blows finally ended when a UN court ruled against the fund and demanded Ghana release the vessel.

Look for more use of courts getting engaged in politics including in tertiary countries. Not all the debtors are so excited about ECB debt actions for Greece. Will the holdouts take their own Liberdads? Also, keep an eye on Palestine. Newly recognized by the United Nations but weak at home, pursuing (or deciding not to pursue) UN court cases against Israeli leaders might be their ace in the hole.

And finally watch out for the Sahel…

Copyright Andrew Levin 2012
Copyright Andrew Levin 2012

The next terrorist hot bed: I have been watching with great dismay the fall of Mali. Twice this past year, the government was overthrown in a coup d’états. Worse yet, the first coup in March was just weeks before a legitimate democratic election. Worst, the chaos and incompetence of the strong men have led to the loss territorial control of the entire north of the country to the Tauregs. This has just added to the instability in the region with Mauritania (the black sheep of the region) on one side and large-scale terrorist attacks by Boko Haram just down the road in Nigeria. This area has the potential of going much farther south very quickly. Like any contagion, this disorder is want to spread and the next country that will be affected is Burkina Faso. This author has traveled extensively in West Africa, and his experiences do not bode well for its chances. While the Burkinabe people are very warm, they are run by the autocratic Blaise Compaoré. Civil society is nearly non-existent, and less than 20% voted in the President’s last sham election.  Hope for the best but expect trouble in the Sahel. The UN has already authorized an African force. The good money is on military advisors from Africom as well heading that way in the new year before the region becomes a new Taliban Afghanistan (complete with sharia law).

Happy New Year to everyone and expect some great blog entries soon on gun control something close to every Chicagoan’s heart: gun control.


One thought on “Three Trends to Watch in ’13

  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, its rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

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