While the United States and the rest of the world were worrying about the use of chemical weapons in Syria and Iranian nuclear aspirations in 2013- the two international stories that dominated the news along with a leftover from 2012 (Benghazi)- five stories went largely overlooked by the media. Four of these were recently highlighted on Realclearpolitics. I added an overlooked fifth.
1. The story: Poverty in decline in the world. In terms of global economics, the crisis in Greece probably was the major story of 2013. With the economy limping along in the United States, good news was in short supply. However, a couple of studies showed that there was amazing progress against some of the worst poverty in the developing world. One study out of England predicted that at its current pace, the horrendous poverty in places like Rwanda and Bangladesh would be a thing of the past in 20 years. Furthermore, a United Nations report stated: "...never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically so fast." The IMF predicts that as the developed world's economies move along at an average growth rate of 1.2%, economies in the developing world are growing at an average 4.5% annually. Naturally, foreign aid afforded many of these countries some help and breathing room, but more importantly is what these countries did with that foreign aid.
Why It Is Important: With regards to foreign aid, most of these countries received that aid with strings attached which they followed through on. Those strings were capitalist and market-based reforms. This proves that a rising tide certainly does raise all boats. With these improvements in their economies, these countries have invested in education, the health of their population, and free trade programs. Formerly, those funds were used to line the pockets of despotic rulers. International pressure, not some epiphany by these rulers, caused these changes. This bodes well for the developed world since there will be less reliance on foreign aid in the future freeing up necessary funds. It is ironic that as Obama advances a socialist agenda, more Americans are living in poverty while as other countries adopt capitalist reforms, poverty is decline. Food for thought.
2. The Story: The Success of the Mexican Economy- There has clearly been an economic renaissance south of the border. Since being elected in 2012, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has embarked on a major reform agenda. His biggest achievement was no small feat as it involved taking on the most entrenched special interest in Mexico- the state-run oil monopoly. As a result, that monopoly is a thing of the past. With it out of the way- or at best, just another competitor- this should usher in a period of investment in the billions. Although Mexico sits on vast reserves of natural gas and oil, their technology and know-how have been lacking. With foreign investment, that should change. With a growing and fully exploited energy sector, the Mexican economy should improve even more.
Why It Is Important: How the Mexican economy performs directly affects immigration policy here in the United States. Since the primary reason people cross the southern border illegally is to seek economic opportunity, by keeping that "opportunity" south of the border the incentive to come to the United States is less and less. Although Obama touts the fact that illegal crossings at the southern border have decreased, most likely that is because of the tepid nature of the American economic recovery. With less illegal crossings (thus, less illegal immigrants), there is less pressure to rush into immigration reform. The best way to keep an illegal south of the border is one of two methods: (1) have a crappy American economy or (2) have a robust Mexican economy.
3. The Story: Sectarian Violence in Myanmar- The mainstream media is great at reporting on the sectarian violence between Muslim sects in the Middle East and elsewhere. In Myanmar (formerly Burma), there is a different series of violent acts occurring- Buddhists in that country have been on the rampage against Muslim villages. These actions have the potential to undermine recent democratic reforms in Myanmar. We have seen this scenario play out in other countries when an authoritarian government falls (think Iraq, Yugoslavia, Syria, Egypt, Libya).
Why It Is Important: If this turn of events stayed within the borders of Myanmar, that would be one thing, but that is not the case. Already, Muslims in Indonesia have attacked an ancient Buddhist temple there and they have attempted to bomb the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta. In neighboring Malaysia, several Buddhists have been slaughtered by Muslims in retaliation for actions in Myanmar. Not only does the violence in Myanmar threaten their democratic reforms, but it opens the door to Islamic terrorist groups looking for a lawless region in which to gain a foothold. Furthermore, refugees fleeing sectarian violence threatens to upset the governments in neighboring countries. If left unchecked, terrorists may very well set up a network across Southeast Asia.
4. The Story: A Sort of Peace in the Congo- Since 2003, there has been a steady peace in the Congo, a country torn by civil war. However, a group called M23 had been waging a bloody battle and series of attacks in the eastern half of that country. Their goal was to create a new country. As recently as 2012, they captured the eastern provincial capital of Goma and held it for 11 days. But, instead of descending into chaos, the Congolese government sat down with international intermediaries and decided to root out the M23. Because of this show of power- aided by other African nations- they forced M23 to the negotiating table. There are still other unconventional separatist terrorist groups operating in the Congo, so the entire peace process still needs to be played out. Still, the signs are encouraging.
Why It Is Important: The Congo is rich in natural resources, but as long as there is violence and a civil war, there will be no investment. Despite the numerous human rights abuses and bloodletting there, we did not once see people like George Clooney begging Congress to do something. This is an African nation with a uniquely African problem. Most encouraging, it is being solved with an African solution. If nothing else, this proves that the United States does not have to intervene in every civil war around the world. This could be a lesson that unless serious American interests are at stake, regional solutions may be a better method than US intervention.
5. The Story: Muslim attacks on Christians- Unfortunately, it took almost the entire year for the mainstream media to start noticing the Muslim attacks against Christians in the Middle East, northern Africa and in other places like Nigeria and Pakistan. These were not attacks against "the great Satan- the United States." These were attacks directed at people who did not adhere to the Muslim faith and instead believed in Jesus Christ. When Morsi was ousted from power in Egypt, the defeated Muslim Brotherhood went on a campaign of terror and destruction against the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Christian villages in Syria have been decimated, priests slaughtered, nuns paraded nude through the streets and innocent families threatened with death if they did not convert to Islam. This is the work of the so-called Free Syria Army- the new BFF of John McCain.
Make no mistake- this is not an attack on the West or western institutions. These are attacks on another religion by a religion that practices intolerance at its worst. A look at the following chart shows the situation:
Nigeria- 356 dead; 206 wounded
Iraq- 60 dead; 92 wounded
Syria- 153 dead; 264 wounded
Egypt- 45 dead; 254 wounded
Pakistan- 99 dead; 125 wounded
Tanzania- 8 dead; 65 wounded
Other countries- 39 dead; 65 wounded
TOTAL- 760 dead; 1071 wounded
These were not innocent bystanders in a civil war, but individuals sought out by Muslims because they were Christian, and then killed. Lobbing bombs in a crowded church during a Sunday service is not evidence of collateral damage in a civil war. In some cases, they were first tortured and then beheaded. There were three attacks in the United States itself included under "other countries" above. Yet, the mainstream media is largely quiet if not ignorant of this fact. These deaths were perpetrated by the alleged "religion of peace." Most appalling is the deafening silence regarding the almost daily carnage in Nigeria. If there was any coverage, it was about Egypt and although bad enough, the number of dead Christians in Egypt pales in comparison to those in Nigerian graves.
Why It Is Important: As I have mentioned in previous articles here, Christianity teaches one to turn the other cheek. Islam teaches one to strike off another's head with a sword. This is not a religion of peace but one born by the sword and one that continues to live by the sword. This is the reality of today's world and the world which this administration seems hell-bent on appeasing and "apologizing" to.