Terry Glavin looks back:
There’s no getting around it. The year 2016 was a dirty, filthy year. A look back over the annus horribilis reveals a bleak and broken corpse-strewn terrain. There were rays of light, and there is a case to be made for optimism in the long run. We’ll come to that. But first, the hard part.
Never in its 71-year history has the United Nations proved so useless to the solemn declarations set out in its founding covenants. Vladimir Putin, a petty thug presiding over a decrepit kleptocracy with an economic footprint smaller than Italy’s, finally broke the UN’s back in 2016. He was aided and abetted at every turn by Xi Jinping, the princeling megalomaniac who oversees an increasingly dystopian Chinese police state.
A half dozen times since 2012, Putin has used Russia’s veto to block United Nations Security Council efforts to staunch the hemorrhaging in Syria. Worse, the explicit instructions of the UN’s 192-member General Assembly to the Security Council regarding Syria have been rejected or simply ignored by the Security Council a dozen times. Because that’s what Vladimir Putin wanted....
After eight years of retreating from its role as the world’s sole superpower in the course of Barack Obama’s pursuit of calamitous foreign-policy vanity projects, most notoriously his attempted rapprochement with Iran’s “moderates,” the United States ended up with the Kremlin-fancying Donald Trump getting himself elected president in a campaign that 17 American intelligence agencies concluded was hacked by Russia in collusion with the Wikileaks counterculture superstar Julian Assange.
That so many Americans were prepared to vote for a reality-television gargoyle and real-estate swindler in the first place, though, should tell you something about the state of America in 2016. It’s not just the United Nations that’s broken. The Republican Party is riven with resentments and the Democratic Party has all but collapsed. American power is broken....
The European malaise derives in no tiny measure from the arrival of about a million refugees by boat in 2015, perhaps half of them from Syria. Thousands drowned in the effort. The good news is that 2016’s flotillas brought only about 300,000 refugees across the Mediterranean. That’s mostly because Ankara struck a deal with Brussels to keep the refugees from leaving Turkey by sea, or by land into Bulgaria, and also to take them back if Europe didn’t want them. But that’s also the bad news.
On the pretext of an absurdly quixotic and quickly failed military coup last July, Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan has been remaking himself in the image and likeness of a tyrannical Ottoman caliph. He has accelerated a brutal war on Turkey’s Kurds, jailed thousands of judges and opposition leaders, shuttered newspapers, summarily fired tens of thousands of teachers, purged the civil service, and obliterated civil rights.
Last month, Erdogan threatened to let loose as many as three million Syrian refugees in Europe if Brussels didn’t accede to his increasingly deranged demands for Turkey’s full admission into the EU. Opportunistically, Erdogan has at the same time pulled Turkey ever deeper into the Russian-Iranian orbit.
Throughout the world, democracy is in retreat, for the tenth year in a row, the blue-chip foundation Freedom House reports. Freedom of expression, the rule of law, and freedom of association are shrivelling. Press freedom is at its lowest point in 12 years. In the Western democracies, Islamist lunatics spent 2016 driving buses into holiday crowds and blowing things up and plotting bedlam and driving wedges between innocently devout Muslims and everyone else, from Berlin to San Bernadino....
Oh well. Happy new year.