The Year of the What?


Demonstrations over poor living conditions turned violent, with protesters setting tyres on fire and hurling home-made bombs at buildings [EPA]

The end of any year is a time of reflection; all of the major media outlets compose lists of the best and worse of every imaginable category for the outgoing year.  In our backward wisdom, we characterize and define the past, but when we apply that same great insight, brilliance and logic thinking toward the future, we never get it right.  There are just too many variables, too many variables in weather forecasting, in business budgeting and in sports handicapping (although bookies have a trick, they use both sides, one against the other); at the end of each sporting season, the most seasoned and informed observers take what they know and predict the winners and losers for the next season – they are, if not always, generally – wrong. That is the bad news, we can’t predict the future, but there is good news, we can always think of a reason to explain the past.

We are just two weeks into 2011, did anyone predict a state of total confusion and change in the Middle East?  Tunisia is in the midst of something dramatic, we don’t know what yet; but many of the observers in the region are wondering if it will not also impact other Arab states.   Lebanon is in an equally uncertain situation, a new government needs to be formed; that could mean a much larger role for Hezbollah and pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian factors.  And Monday the UN commission’s report and indictments is due which further threatens to complicated the situation- duck.  The citizens of Sudan are voting on a potential division of the country, but there are forces in north that are not going to allow that to happen without a fight.  Egypt is headed toward an election in the fall, however the government is still jailing the opposition and struggling to keep the violence between Copts and Muslims from getting worse; enough that surveillance camera are being installed all over Alexandria. We may not know what to call 2011, but we do know already that it will indeed be different than 2010, at least in the Sudan, Tunisia and Lebanon.

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