“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” Robin Sharma
“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.” Nido Qubein
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Winston Churchill
Have you ever been totally thrown off guard or surprised? I have! I love surprises! I have this underlying feeling that 2022 is going to be a year filled with surprises. It is in this spirit of unexpected surprise that I write this week’s More than Meets the Eye. In the 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, Joanna Drayton, played by Hepburn’s niece, Katharine Houghton, is a 23-year-old white woman, returning from her Hawaiian vacation to her parent’s home in San Francisco with Dr. John Prentice (Sydney Poitier), a 37-year-old black widower.
This was one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, as interracial marriage historically had been illegal in most of the United States. It was still illegal in 17 states—mostly Southern states—until June 12, 1967, six months before the film was released. Roughly two weeks after Tracy filmed his final scene (and two days after his death), anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.
Perhaps that is more than you cared to know about the film, but I loved this film and remember it well from my childhood, and I believe the premise is an apt metaphor for the tumultuous and surprising year ahead.
Last week we reviewed several key regional conflicts which plagued the global community in 2021. We took a brief look at both state and non-state players and the ways they have carried out their nefarious schemes and political carnage. We also looked at how humanitarian crises have and will continue to be the devastating result of most of these conflicts. We concluded that should peace ensue for even a moment, there will be so much human destruction that the global community, already suffering the weight of donor apathy and a preoccupation with safety, will be faced with a challenge that has the potential to topple governments and crush economies already stretched beyond their ability to recover.
This week, now almost halfway through the first month of 2022, I want to forecast what might await us as we look forward to a year of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”-esque surprises.
As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economic recovery that began in 2021 will continue in 2022. It is likely, however, that there will be a slowdown due to factors including pervasively high energy and food prices, persistent supply chain bottlenecks, and tightening credit conditions. These same economic recoveries will provide the space for festering regional conflicts to blossom into full-fledged kinetic struggles. I have listed below what I consider to be some of the most significant potential conflicts in the world in 2022. Last year was only a season of preparation. It is likely that the global landscape will be dotted with a multiplicity of conflicts that will extinguish many lives as well as destroy economies on a regional and, possibly, even a global level.
Russia/Ukraine crisis– The tensions in Far-Eastern Europe will continue to rise as Moscow cranks up the heat on its geopolitical ambitions and venomous rhetoric. This is not going away anytime soon, as Moscow has for years been feeling the geopolitical noose tightening around its stiffening neck. Moscow has distributed a list of demands to NATO governments, steps that it maintains are necessary in order to deescalate simmering tensions along the Ukrainian border. The list includes: a ban on Ukraine’s future entry into the alliance; rolling back NATO troop levels in Eastern Europe to 1997 levels, including in member countries such as Poland and the Baltic states; and removing forward-deployed US nuclear weapons from Europe.
Taken at face value, most of the demands are diplomatic non-starters, and can only be meant as compromise fodder en route to Moscow’s overriding objective to obtain guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia will not one day end up in NATO (this has already been rejected in NATO capitals). However, one school of thought interprets the demands as merely diplomatic theatre, likely intended for the domestic audience, preceding a Russian invasion that’s now all but assured to take place sometime in early 2022.
Unstable Oil/Petroleum Output– This will cause many potential hotspots in 2022. These conflicts are possible in the most unlikely of places. Global energy supplies will remain tight to start the year, which may lead to significant price escalation in early 2022 that could undermine the global economic recovery and cause social unrest in some countries dependent on the importation of oil and natural gas. OPEC+’s conservative approach to production policy will probably keep a floor on global oil prices in the first half of the year of around $70 per barrel with the potential for prices to reach $80 or even $90 per barrel, barring omicron or another variant of COVID-19 causing a widespread lockdown and travel restrictions which would curb oil demand. Global LNG and natural gas supplies will be constrained in the first quarter as Russia withholds large volumes from Europe, making prices spike over $30 per mmBtu (roughly equivalent to oil prices above $175 per barrel) likely throughout the Northern Hemisphere during the winter, even though prices could fall substantially in the summer.
The risk of social unrest over high fuel prices in places like Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa will remain high, pressuring governments to expand subsidies, social spending mechanisms, or price caps to mollify protesters, risking widening fiscal deficits in the process. Higher oil prices will continue to improve economic conditions in major oil-exporting countries, though they will probably not erase some of the fiscal and economic challenges created by years of low prices.
China in the Atlantic– On December 5, the Wall Street Journal reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is seeking to establish a permanent military facility in the central-African nation of Equatorial Guinea. While both the Chinese and the Equatorial Guinea governments are denying that they are building this base, there are numerous indications suggesting otherwise. If China is able to construct a military base on the Atlantic Ocean it would significantly advance China’s current effort to build a global network of dual-use facilities that could be transformed into forward operating bases. The implications of China establishing a forward operating base in the Atlantic, which is considered an American/NATO Ocean, are staggering. This will become a significant matter in 2022.
Yemen– There are an estimated 24 million people who are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen. Approximately 4 million people have been displaced, either internally or externally, and these numbers are increasing daily. Since 2015, somewhere in the ballpark of 233,000 people, both combatants and civilians, have died in the Yemeni civil war. The UN estimates that 131,000 of those are the result of indirect causes like food insecurity and lack of access to health services. The expert opinion is that by the beginning of 2023, the only changes we will see in Yemen will be from bad to worse. Many more will die. They will die through starvation, drought, and conflict.
India and Pakistan– America’s goal of maintaining relations with both South Asian nuclear powers has suffered during the war in Afghanistan and the widespread concerns in Washington of duplicity in Islamabad. The shift in balance spilled out into the open during the Trump presidency, when the White House appeared to adopt a more overt preference for its relationship with India, renaming its U.S. military headquarters for the region as “Indo-Pacific Command” and pushing the previously untethered democracy into greater lockstep with Washington’s regional ambitions. That slide has only accelerated under the Biden administration, accelerated by new concerns that Pakistan appears to be increasingly operating under the influence of Beijing. Tensions will only continue to rise as an already precarious humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan worsens under the governance of the Taliban and the potential for conflict between India and China heats up in contested territory on their shared border in the Himalayas. We can expect to see an escalation of tension in this region between two nuclear powers. This does not bode well for the region.
Israel (US)/Iran– The two Middle Eastern powers have waged shadow warfare against one another for decades – hostilities that occasionally emerge in public, such as the news in late December that Israel carried out airstrikes in neighboring Syria, a hub for Iranian proxy militia forces. Dynamics in the region were set to change dramatically a day later when national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced during a trip to Israel that the U.S. had privately set a date to end the option for diplomatic talks with Iran over its nuclear program, prompting new questions about whether the Biden administration and its allies may turn instead to military force to counter Tehran’s ambitions. Also, Iran has not yet indicated whether it believes it has successfully avenged the Trump administration’s brazen decision to kill Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who died in a U.S. airstrike in 2020. Jan. 3 marks two years since that event.
Iran is determined to develop its own nuclear weapon. It believes that this is the only way that the world will respect them as a nation, as well as the only way that they will be able to exert their Shi’ite brand of islamic influence on the region. They have tried for decades to ingratiate themselves to the Sunni world by keeping a low-intensity conflict alive between themselves and Israel. Clearly, their strategy has not worked. Instead, they have vilified themselves into being a middle eastern bully, funding terrorism at a staggering rate, that floats just beneath the turbulent waters of middle eastern relationships. 2022 will continue to see a recalcitrant Iran who will continue to deceive the rest of the world into believing that it only wants to develop nuclear technology for medical purposes. On the other side of this equation is a tiny ally, Israel, who is equally as passionate about keeping nuclear technology out of the hands of Iran. This will continue to fester and stir into a volatile pot of “nuclear carnage soup.”
I am going to stop here even though we could discuss further several other brewing conflicts such as Libya, Syria, China/Taiwan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and the US/China. All of these are teetering on the verge of tipping into crisis. 2022 will be an interesting year as a handful of crises will unfold and inevitably play themselves out.
“There is some good news for 2022. By some measures, war is in retreat. The number of people killed in fighting worldwide has mostly declined since 2014—if you count only those dying directly in combat. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, figures through the end of 2020 show battle deaths are down from seven years ago, mostly because Syria’s terrible slaughter has largely subsided.”
The number of major wars has also descended from a recent peak. Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tyrannizing Ukraine, states seem to be rarely going to war with one another. More local conflicts rage on, but they tend to be of lower intensity. For the most part, 21st-century wars are less lethal than their 20th-century predecessors. If it weren’t for the fact that so many civilians are dying from the consequences of conflict, that would indeed be good news.
“A more cautious United States might also have an upside. The 1990s bloodletting in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia; the post-9/11 Afghanistan and Iraq wars; Sri Lanka’s murderous campaign against the Tamils, and the collapse of Libya and South Sudan all happened at a time of—and, in some cases, thanks to—a dominant U.S.-led West. That recent U.S. presidents have refrained from toppling enemies by force is a good thing. Besides, one shouldn’t overstate Washington’s sway even in its post-Cold War heyday; absent an invasion, it has always struggled to bend recalcitrant leaders (former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, for example) to its will. Still, if these are silver linings, they’re awfully thin.”
Pay attention. The worst thing you can do is to hide your head in the sand. Before traveling, study to find out what is happening in the region you are planning on traveling to.
If you are doing business globally, make sure you don’t skimp on having the counsel of a local helper. Their services can be indispensable to help you navigate the minefields of the cities and districts that you may find yourself working in.
Do your homework. The world is increasing in complexity and you can leave yourself easily exposed to all kinds of threats that you might not even consider.
Use proportional technology. One of your primary vulnerabilities is your technology. Just think for a moment how much of your life is contained in your technology, whether it is your phone, your laptop, or your iPad. Invest in these essentials. Keep your technology updates current. Invest in a good Virtual Private Network (VPN). They are indispensable and easy to use. Use a secure messaging system on all your devices. Some messaging systems just lack the ability to ensure your privacy. Services such as Wickr, Signal, and Wire can keep your conversations and documents secure. Systems such as McAfee and Norton can keep your devices secure as well by encrypting your hard drives and email. This is not a good area to go cheap.
Private Group Keeps Afghanistan Evacuations Flying Despite Ground Halt… https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2022/01/private-group-keeps-afghanistan-evacuations-flying-despite-ground-halt/360591/
Dynamics in the Middle East are Shifting, but in which Direction?… https://www.thecipherbrief.com/dynamics-in-the-middle-east-are-shifting-but-in-which-direction?utm_source=Join+the+Community+Subscribers&utm_campaign=755269c968-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_01_11_03_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_02cbee778d-755269c968-122487553&mc_cid=755269c968&mc_eid=5c234a7378
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org