2016: The Year In Review
While 2016 certainly wasn’t ‘the worst year ever,’ it was filled with many disasters. At the same time, it was a landmark year, filled with some astonishing and unpredictable events. Here are five trends that defined 2016.
Continuing Terrorism and Radical Islam
One of the most obvious and disturbing trends of 2016 was the enduring influence of radical Islam, which resulted in hundreds of terrorist attacks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – radical Islam has been involved in a death struggle against secular humanism for most of this century. What is surprising is the number, geographic extent, and ingenuity of the vicious attacks carried out this year.
From the Orlando nightclub shooting, to the truck-driving attack in Nice, France, to the massive explosion in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, terrorism has startled the world. Indeed, while we still notice the major attacks, we almost forget that smaller attacks are happening every day, mostly in the Middle East, but also in the Western World that we live in every day.
The immigration policies of liberal governments make the situation grim indeed. There was a time when people argued that immigration would have no effect on terrorism – now the verdict seems clear: mass immigration from the Middle East has spread the seeds of terrorism throughout the world. This does not, of course, mean that every immigrant is a masked Jihadist – the vast majority are innocent civilians trying desperately to lead normal lives. Yet there are still radicals, and many others who are in danger of being radicalized.
Obviously, terrorism is a horrible evil. It results in suffering, death, chaos, and anarchy. Yet there is one positive that results from this evil. Terrorism is revealing the impotence of liberalism.
Popular Nationalism Revives
How is the world reacting to terrorism and radical Islam? From the Philippines to the US, from Moscow to London, the nations of the world are becoming increasingly patriotic, placing an emphasis on law and order, and reviving their national heritage.
In the previous half century, liberalism spread like wildfire. It spawned the creation of international organizations like the UN and the EU. Blind to the realities of life, this social philosophy directly sparked Islamic terrorism, without providing any answers to it.
In response, nations are turning strongly to an emphasis on law and order. From the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who advocates the killing of thousands of criminals and the withdrawal of his country from the UN, to the election of Donald Trump, with his outspoken and hard-line views, citizens are voting for candidates who appear capable of halting the increasing violence in the world today.
Popular nationalism rears its head in other ways. In Britain, the Brexit vote astonished millions, as the island nation revived its sense of national sovereignty. It is safer – the thinking goes – to make our own decisions, rather than let an international organization decide our laws and open our borders to the world.
While popular nationalism has some good qualities – especially in undoing the philosophies of liberalism – it also has its negatives. In Russia, freedom of religion was effectively voided when the Duma passed an ‘anti-terrorism’ law that made it a crime to share one’s faith anywhere outside a church building. What does this have to do with nationalism? It cements the Russian Orthodox Faith as the primary religion of the nation, attempting to preserve that religion as the unifying force and tradition of the nation. This populist return to national heritage, then, has its own problems: such a trend is more in favor of blind patriotism than liberty.
Power Struggles and ‘Cold-ish’ Wars
The cold war may have ended, but it is replaced by several tense situations across the globe. While Obama may have thawed America’s relationships with Cuba and Iran, far more challenging situations remain.
First, North Korea remains a loose cannon in the world stage. The rogue nation performed several missile and nuclear tests as it attempts to create an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of a nuclear attack on American soil. No one – from its sworn enemies America and South Korea, to its most friendly neighbor, China – is able to control this volatile and dangerous nation.
China continues a policy of expansion, at the expense of her neighbors. The US remains the most powerful force for China to contend with, and the relationship was frosty more than once this year. Just a few weeks ago, for example, China seized an underwater drone, operated by the US. While China agreed to return the drone, the incident showed that this Asian nation is perfectly willing to enforce its territorial aspirations. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s contact with Taiwan was the perfect provocation to China, which only recognizes the independent nation as a rebellious province.
Russia also desires a larger influence on the world stage. From the Ukraine to Syria, Russia is hard at work, and the fall of Aleppo – one of the bloodiest battles of the modern world, finally ended as a Russian victory several weeks ago.
Interesting, Russia is increasingly taking the place of America in the Middle East. By sending troops and air support into the battle with ISIS, Russia finds herself in the unenviable position of the ‘meddler’ in Middle Eastern affairs. For once, America is not in the spotlight, and Moscow feels the resentment of many – forcibly expressed by the assassination of her ambassador to Turkey.
While the Obama administration has been strongly anti-Russia, Trump’s friendliness toward Putin could result in a thaw. But the American military still prepares for anything – including the possibility of Arctic war.
Liberalism is Dog-Paddling
When 2016 started, liberalism appeared to be doing well. Obama took the opportunity to push forward legislation and interpretations that were startling leftist, from the inclusion of transgendered individuals in the military, to a directive that public schools must allow anyone to use any bathroom.
It is not just Obama who continued to push liberalism. State and local governments, and the general citizenry, showed clear support for liberal practices, such as the acceptance of assisted suicide and the legal sale of marijuana. Support for abortion, while not quite as high as usual, remains widespread, and Planned Parenthood saw plenty of support when undercover videos questioned its legality.
Yet 2016 saw a startling reversal in support for liberalism. Primarily fueled by terrorist attacks, citizens began to question how a philosophy that opens borders and hesitates to ever use military force could possibly prevent escalating violence. When liberals were more interested in defending Islam than condemning terror after the Orlando nightclub shooting, some people began to see that the philosophy has its problems. When liberals used a terrorist knife-stabbing event on an Ohio campus as a reason to push gun control, the trend was even clearer (the only one who used a gun in the incident was the police officer who responded by shooting the terrorist!). This reversal was most clearly demonstrated by the rejection of Hilary Clinton and the election of Donald Trump.
People are tired of such a senseless philosophy that does not actually take care of problems. Far from the classical liberalism of the past, social liberalism is more interested in licentious ‘freedoms’ than actual personal liberty. The best thing that liberalism can do is continue in its current path: remain disconnected, irrelevant, and clueless about the problems of the modern world.
Hackers Can Change the World
For better or worse, hacking showed itself to be a particularly powerful way to change the course of world events.
On October 21, 2016, a major event happened that you probably didn’t even hear about. A DoS (Denial of Service) attack took place that made much of the internet unavailable for several hours throughout the US. Major companies, from Amazon to CNN to Paypal, were affected. While the evidence of who carried out this attack is unclear, it may be a protest against pressure applied to Ecuador to cut internet access to Wikileaks. The attack shows how fragile the internet really is.
You might view hacking as a good thing, since it reveals hidden information that needs to come to light. When hackers revealed Hillary Clinton’s emails, they revealed secrets that the presidential candidate hoped would never be revealed to the public. When hackers revealed that Mrs. Clinton had rigged the primary to keep Bernie Sanders from winning, many were justifiably outraged.
On the other hand, hacking is, by definition, a breach of privacy. The fact that Russia probably played a part in the hacking is concerning, even to those who are most opposed to Hillary Clinton. Besides, hacking isn’t always used to reveal information – sometimes it is used to steal information, as when Yahoo revealed that over 1 billion accounts were compromised.
Whatever way you look at, hacking remains a potent force in a world that relies so heavily on electronics and technology.
2016 was another year, filled with what every year is filled with: uncertainty, chaos, and sorrows. Of course, it had its good times, but overall, we remember its disasters more than its triumphs. Yet in the midst of change and uncertainty, I am reminded of Malachi 3:6 – “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
The world is changing, but God’s faithfulness endures. He is always the same. All things are sustained by Jesus Christ, as we are told in Colossians 1:17. That is why the world did not implode; the planets remained in orbit; life continued on earth. The earth, we can clearly see, is full of God’s mercies.