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The Impact of 2011

2011 is almost one for the history books, but its legacy is more about the foundation it has set down for the future rather than what was achieved on its own.

Image by George Cassutto
Copyright 2011
Used with permission

2011 will go down in history not just as a year where momentous things happened, but also as a year that led to even more momentous events as a result of what took place during the year. For many people, cultures, and nations, 2011 was a turning point in social, political, and economic development. The events of this year seem to lay the foundation for future events that will have an even greater impact on the people of the world. Here is both a look back and a look forward to see how recent history will change the course of the near future. 

The Arab Spring: Goodbye Kaddafi, But What about Syria?

The mass movement in the Middle East known as “the Arab Spring” has brought down totalitarian leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and the nations of Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria continue to experience protests and bloody crackdowns by their respective governments. While aspects of the movement have been peaceful, the uprising have brought about the deaths of protesters at the hands of members of the military and state police, most notably in Syria, where upwards of 5000 protesters have been massacred. Arab League observers have been dispatched to Syria, but the government of Bashar al-Assad has restricted their movements and reduced what they can see in respect to government repression of peaceful protests. Assad should be on notice regarding how long such a bloody crackdown can last. The people of Libya waged and successfully concluded a civil war that led to the overthrow of their dictator and the establishment of a transitional council. Elsewhere, the United States is now officially out of Iraq, where the Bush Administration imposed democratic government by force.  What role Iran will play in the power vacuum left by the reduced Americans presence is unclear. Whether or not democracy will take hold in Iraq, Libya, or in a future Palestinian state is another question. One thing is for certain, the wave of popular sovereignty in the Middle East will continue to cause paranoia on the part of remaining repressive autocrats and uncertainly for American foreign policy makers.

Occupy Wall Street 

In physics, each action has an equal and opposite reaction. The same can be said for economics and politics. In 2010, the United States saw the rise of the political right in the form of the Tea Party. They captured the House of Representatives, and threatened to bring down the US economy in defense of their agenda to reduce government spending and remove a “socialist” president from office. The reaction: a lurch to the left among the voting population in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Critical of income disparity between rich and poor in the United States, and taking their cue from the protesters of Egypt’s Tahrir Square, average and unemployed Americans pitched tests in public squares in cities across America in the hopes of bringing attention to the plight of “the 99%.” Their protests are also aimed at the control big money and the financial industry has over American politics and government. The Occupy protests often began peacefully, with a whole regimen of protocols for carrying out business within the movement, but all too often, exasperated police and public officials moved against protesters occupying and often desecrating public spaces. The Obama campaign has expressed sympathy for the goals of the movement, but it is reluctant to embrace it fully lest the movement resort to violence. Nevertheless, “the protester” was identified as Time Magazine’s “person of the year” for 2011. The power of the Occupy Movement cannot be underestimated as the US economy lurches and stutters toward growth in the coming year.

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