From Afghanistan to Latin America: International Politics in 2021

While 2020 has been a time of fear and breakdown, 2021 served a harsh truth of the established order to people across the world.


From Afghanistan to the Sahel

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan signalled a subtle change in American military strategy. The continued occupation of Afghanistan had two important functions. First, it was a strategic place, being between Chinese, Russia and Iranian spheres of influence. It also was an inevitable direction for NATO to continue to justify its existence in the post-Cold War era. The withdrawal and the movement towards the Pacific with the AUKUS alliance mean that the American military establishment might change the focus away from a global network of allies and occupied and towards a direct blocking of China’s sphere of influence.

American troops leave Afghanistan

France also withdrew its military from the Sahel region in the Saharan region, meaning that energy monopoly is becoming less of a concern to the global powers. There has been a strengthening of radical militant Al Quada offshoots from western Africa to Afghanistan. Notably, Idris Deby of Chad was killed by militant forces after his fourth election victory as President of Chad.

2021 also saw heightened tensions in Eastern Africa, with civil war breaking out in Ethiopia, and developing conflicts over the control of the Nile.

Arab Spring 2.0

2021 also marked a decade from the Arab Spring, and in Northern Africa and the Middle East, mass protests have continued the resurge.

Many have called the period from 2018 to 2021 the second wave of the Arab Spring, where people have come with more developed demands, including changes to the constitution, revision of relationships their countries have had with colonial powers and a more nuanced perspective on religious fundamentalism.

A new generation of Left in Latin America

Student leader Gabriel Boric delivers a speech during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera’s government to improve public education quality in Santiago, on August 28, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Claudio SANTANA (Photo credit should read CLAUDIO SANTANA/AFP/GettyImages)

Latin America has seen a broad movement towards left-liberal politicians and parties in 2021, most notably in Peru, Honduras and Chile. In 2022, Brazil’s elections will come, and there is an expected return of Lula. Across Latin America, leftist electoral politics is balanced by mass protests outside. In recent years, mass movements have focused on areas of feminism, police violence, and public welfare.

Looking to 2022

2021 has been a year of disillusionment in terms of politics. While 2020 has been a time of fear and breakdown, 2021 served a harsh truth of the established order to people across the world. While many countries have seen mass demonstrations leading to substantial changes in their country, it hasn’t been seen as the end-all change that was seen as years past. This year, people are learning that the growing wealth inequality means that a lot of the suffering of the Covid pandemic was unnecessary and requires deep introspection and change in the way things are done.

As 2022 dawns, movements across the world will need to go beyond disillusionment and towards new forms of resistance. As the struggles of 2020 and 2021 have shown, resistance creates alternatives. Resistance means not accepting how things are, nor following a path of how they should be, but looking for new ways to challenge the path we are on. Be it regarding tensions in Eastern Africa, growing militancy in the Sahel, mass movements in the Middle East, electoral politics in South America, or the polarization seen in South East Asia, movements across the world see a new future where the old ways are not possible.


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April 2024


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