Thursday, 31 December 2009

Predictions for 2010 – a new start, or more of the same?

As we end a decade in which the world has changed immeasurably, we enter 2010 hoping for a year of peace, reconciliation and progress. The first of these we may have to wait a long time for, with the conflict in Afghanistan due to carry on with no end in sight, claiming for and more British lives. The United States’ deployment of 30,000 troops to the area will provide a boost, and can have one of two possible effects. For the optimists amongst us, reinforcements will take the pressure off over-extended forces in some of the most dangerous regions, including Helmand Province where the majority of British soldiers are stationed. However from a less positive point-of-view President Obama’s decision could serve to turn the Afghanistan conflict into ‘another Vietnam’, at least to a certain extent. I say this because if the extra troops fail to have a significant effect on the war, the United States will likely pour even greater resources and manpower into Afghanistan, due to its strategic importance in the Middle East and the need to ensure the Taliban do not gain a political foothold. Given the unpredictable and uncertain nature of the conflict, and the successful use by Taliban forces of tactical roadside bombs, I cannot predict how the conflict will pan out. We can only hope the sacrifices made by British soldiers are not in vain, and that the extra deployment has the desired effect on turning the war to our advantage. In the meantime the people of Wooton Bassett will probably be forced to endure the deeply saddening images of fallen soldiers passing through the town, having given up their lives to ensure our freedom and that of others.

Whilst the citizens of the United States have already been afforded the opportunity to decide who ought to lead them through this time of acute economic crisis, and chosen wisely in my view, such a privilege has yet to be afforded to us in Britain. With Gordon Brown required to call an election before June 2010, the next few months will be both economically and politically crucial. With the majority of opinion polls still indicating that David Cameron’s Conservative Party are due to claim victory should an election be called, the performance of the British economy over the first three or four months is vital to Gordon Brown’s chances. If the figures were to indicate an economic recovery, Brown could rightly ask the British people, “why let the Conservatives ruin it?” Whereas if statistics were to show that the United Kingdom remains mired in recession, with no clear signs of recovery present, he will find it very difficult to sell his party to voters. With both Germany and France having brought themselves out of recession in the second quarter of 2009, the government could face difficult questions on exactly when the United Kingdom can expect to do the same. It is probably too early to have a clear idea of exactly which road the three main parties will choose to follow with regards to solving our economic difficulties, but the forthcoming election will certainly be one of the most important in British history. With difficult decisions to be made on immigration, economic policy, the renewal of our nuclear defence system in the form of Trident, and our role in the global ‘war on terror’, whoever triumphs in the summer will almost certainly require a good deal of luck to “get Britain moving again”.

Following the failed Copenhagen summit the issue of climate change will in all likelihood be put aside by many world leaders whilst assuming even greater importance for not only those in developing nations heavily affected by it, but also those who realise the need for a global agreement. The abject failure of our leaders in Copenhagen doesn’t exactly bode well for the future of the planet, nor does the “meaningful” tag attached by President Obama to the five-nation agreement to limit temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius. Whilst the ‘deal’ between the United States, China, Brazil, South Africa and India promised to “take action to meet this objective”, it remains unclear what action, if any, will be taken. The view of Tuvalu’s lead negotiator, Ian Fry, that his country was being offered “30 pieces of silver” to sell its future, is unfortunately one I share. Given the presence of many in the American political sphere who doubt the existence of climate change and global warming despite significant evidence to the contrary, and the Chinese attitude that they ought to be allowed to industrialise in the manner of the developed Western nations, a fair point, a worldwide agreement will remain impossible for a long time. Yet it seems that most countries are unwilling to take steps to reduce their own power, economic output, industrial capacity, and emissions for the sake of others. If this is the case, a number of world leaders must therefore prepare to see many world islands simply disappear off the map, formerly rare natural disasters become commonplace and temperatures rise to unbearable degrees. The most 2010 can provide is renewed attempts by those right-minded individuals intelligent enough to realise some sort of binding, effective and far-reaching agreement is fundamental to the future of the planet to achieve such an agreement. Yet like many other bold attempts to change the world it will likely fail in the face of the sort of intransigence, selfishness and blind stupidity demonstrated by our leaders at Copenhagen.

With abhorrent celebrity circus Big Brother having been mercifully axed by Channel 4 earlier this year, 2010 will be the last time we are subjected to gormless, empty-headed morons displaying their personality short-comings for the entire nation. Yet this unfortunately doesn’t mean the celebrity-obsessed nature of society will suddenly come to an end. 2010 will in all probability see an even greater obsession with ‘celebrities’, many more opportunities to become ‘famous’ and if possible, an augmented concern with exactly how Lindsey Lohan, or any other filthy-rich vacuous Hollywood starlet’s latest spell in rehab is going. For me, the rise of Heat, Now and Hello magazine is one of the worst legacies of the 2000s and production of all three along with any other similar publications ought to be discontinued immediately. Although perhaps 2010 will surprise us, and people will suddenly become interested in talented and interesting people who deserve our attention, or dare I say it, politics and the sort of issues that are actually important to our lives. Sadly this will probably never be the case, and society will continue to indulge us with celebrity gossip and shield us from what is actually going on.

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