Hopes, Fears, and Challenges for 2018 – the Global Landscape
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(29 December 2017) — In 2018 the international community – not an abstract term, but humanity – will face serious challenges to international peace and security, human development, and human security. There will be new challenges, but most are being carried over and are a result of, or exacerbated by lack of responsible leadership and timely action to ameliorate or prevent increasing threats to regional and global security. This will include challenges which stem from natural disasters which, in some cases, have become more acute due to lack of responsible action to ameliorate their threat to human security.
The scope of the challenges will be far greater than they were in 2017. At the same time, there is gradual degradation of institutional capacity and lack of moral global leadership than perhaps at any other time in recent human history. Yet, with each New Year comes an abundance of hope that there will be a new paradigm from which new leaders will emerge imbued with moral and courageous characteristics, and a willingness to act responsibly so that fears and pessimism may be transformed into hopes and optimism.
The Ward Post (TWP), throughout 2017, attempted to provide informed perspectives on many of the challenges facing the global community generally, with some attention given to issues affecting the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean region. In particular, TWP identified the role of the United States on all of the relevant platforms and highlighted the lack of responsible political leadership at the national, regional, and international levels. Regional and international organizations and institutions, normally bastions of hope for disadvantaged peoples and states, often were marginalized by super power selfish pursuit of geopolitical influence and control. Arguably, lack of moral leadership and accountability for irresponsible actions negatively impacted and exacerbated these challenges.
This article is not intended as retrospective, blaming, or finger pointing, but rather to identify critical issues that will engage our collective attention, and demand for responsible national, bilateral, regional, and international responses.
The world faces greater challenges now more than at any other time in recent history from so-called rogue states with significantly greater capacities to do harm. These states seem determined to defy international order oblivious to international norms developed by the international system over several decades to maintain international peace and security – to avoid another World War. There is a proliferation of hot spots – conflict situations which have grown worse in the past year – and a lack of consensus on ways to deal with them.
Beyond a doubt, in 2017, President Donald Trump abandoned U.S.’s central role in providing leadership on most of the challenging issues facing the international community. This is not to suggest the U.S. has the right to, or should impose its wishes on the international community. It is recognition of the reality the U.S. is the only country in the world with the capacity to bring about positive outcomes when it engages responsibly. It is also important to acknowledge that when regional and international institutions and organizations seek collective resolutions of challenging issues, the leadership, commitment, and support of the U.S. is often essential to success.
The challenges facing the international community spans many issues across every region. How geopolitical and security issues are managed in 2018 will determine whether peace or war, international security and stability, and global advance of human security. TWP will follow these and other pertinent issues throughout the year ahead.
We will be facing the challenges of a nuclear-armed and threatening North Korea, and we will be concerned about possible U.S. response to this threat. It will be important to follow the roles and responsibilities of South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan and whether collectively these major players can find common ground through the UN Security Council, or other appropriate forum to deal diplomatically with the North Korea threat without resort to a military response.
All available evidence so far support the view the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) is working. Irresponsible leadership in Washington could, in early 2018, create significant challenges for the international community should the U.S. scrap the deal, as President Trump has threatened to do. U.S. unilateral actions on Iran could lead to devastating conflicts in the region and beyond. There are many dangers that will be unleashed – Iran’s response will have implications for, and reactions from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional players. Other partners to the JCPOA such as the UN, China, France, Russia, and the U.K. are supportive of the deal and are likely to abandon the U.S. on what is considered to be a dangerous, ill-advised path.
The recent announcement by President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv has raised tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and with Arab countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. Rising tensions in the region also will have a bearing on future actions in Syria and Yemen, efforts to curb Iranian influence in the region, and combating ISIS and other terrorist groups. Russia and Turkey will become more engaged in the ME which will prove to be unhelpful in advancing peace and stability in the region.
There are Western Hemispheric issues which will bring new challenges to regional stability and human security. These include: further erosion in the governance and rule of law, economic hardships, and additional U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela; reversal of Obama era rapprochement with Cuba, and change of Cuban leadership – from Castro to a new generation of leadership; disastrous effects of climate change and natural disasters on small island and coastal states; transnational crimes and security threats; as well as the increased influence of China and Russia which will raise geopolitical tensions in the region.
There is increasing fears the U.S. will act in its own perceived interests regardless of the implications for affected states or the international community. This will lead to further significant erosion of trust in the U.S. acting responsibly – in the interests of the international community. Political leaders and the peoples of the world already have valid reasons to distrust Trump and U.S. global leadership is being diminished. There is no reason to believe the U.S will change course under President Trump. The U.S. president’s ‘America First’ myopic view of global affairs in which all countries are expected to fall in line with the U.S – you are either with us or against us – will face increased challenges in capitals around the world.
© 2017/2018 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post