The Ulf Nilson column in Nordstjernan, December 2011
Toward the end of a most tumultuous year, Kim Jong-il died. Score one less for evil. At almost the same time Vaclav Havel, the author who became the president of the Czech Republic and a bit of consciousness for the rest of the world, died, too. Score one less for goodness.
Both men were, of course, important, and newspapers, television and radio all over the world—not to mention the bloggers—said so. But at the same time, it appeared clear that in 2011 events, hardly groups or individuals were in command. By which I mean that the near bankruptcy of Greece could be blamed on quite a few government ministers and bankers, but also on millions of ordinary citizens who loaded up with loans but forgot to pay back.
Indeed, same in Italy, Portugal, France, Spain and various other countries. Plus the USA. Indeed, 2011 was the year of overspending, clearly driven (not the least) by the need to pamper certain groups to receive their votes in the next election.... Democracy became the great vote-buying machine: larger pensions, more sick care and so forth. Worthy causes, to be sure, but out of balance; simply, too expensive.
Some countries (read Greece and perhaps soon Italy), have in effect already collapsed, but so far refused to recognize it. Further-off lands, like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and, of course, Syria, are not only bankrupt, but in complete turmoil if not chaos. The same, of course, goes for Iraq, which most American soldiers have now left, making it almost certain that hatred and violence will carry the day in 2012.
2012 is the year when the Mullahs in Theran have, at last, their atomic bomb. This will mean the power balance in the area becomes unbalanced. The danger for Israel, small and vulnerable, increases while at the same time, of course, the risk that the Israelis would utilize their own nukes to castrate the Iranians is rather high. Quite simply, I mean that 2012 could (note that I write c o u l d) see the first use of atomic weapons in the world since 1945.
In other words: Whatever happens, don't expect much good news from the Middle East in the new year. Very little from Europe, either—Sweden being one of the luckier nations, but still beset by scores of problems, of which two are dominant: an enormous influx of immigrants and a population that is aging fast, so that from the 2020s on, pensioners will become a greater burden.
A long way from Europe or the U.S., China continues to grow. It's fair to say that this behemoth, where common folks have nothing to say to the bureaucrats or party members, becomes mightier and mightier by the day.
China already dominates much of Asia and it will continue to seek greater influence in both Asia and the rest of the world, watched wearily by the Japanese, the Americans and—to a lesser extent—the Europeans.
All things considered, I don't think there will be a big war in the new year. I certainly hope not but we have to expect many small ones and—this is always a possibility!—a fairly big one in the Middle East if the conflict between Israel and its neighbors gets out of hand (if Syria collapses or Egypt is commandeered by the Muslim Brotherhood, or …).
All in all, I think the most important thing is that the West gets its economies in order. Unemployment must go down, dependencies must shrink and politicians must realize that you can't have something for nothing. So be prepared for higher taxes and harder work in the new year. That is if things go right.
Let's hope they do!