How the World has Changed in 2021
The 21st century is no longer new. As preposterous as it sounds, 2040 is now closer on the calendar than the year 2000. For two decades, we have been living in a new century AND a new millennium. Those who have come of age over the past 20 years (like myself) would benefit from realizing how the world is rapidly changing. Both foreign and domestic affairs in the United States are undergoing a dynamic change not seen in the last 50 years, or perhaps ever before. Events such as the global war on terror, the rise of China, the coronavirus pandemic, and the polarization and idealistic changes of both the Democrat and Republican parties has led the U.S. to a critical turning point.
In a little more than a month, the United States will remember an infamous day that has defined and justified much of our government’s foreign dealings for the last two decades: 9/11. “The end of history,” was a familiar term in the U.S after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the turn of the 20th century. Many believed, as America was the only superpower, that democracy would run free and there would be no more conflict. After the calamity of 9/11, the U.S. found itself thrust into a clandestine war unlike anyone had ever seen before. Ever since that tragic day, counterterrorism has become the point of convergence for the national security community. In 2021, the broad support for counterterrorism missions is dwindling, the U.S prepares to finally depart Afghanistan after two decades. As America shifts its focus, our counter terrorism apparatus begins to look for purpose.
As the conflict in Afghanistan winds down, China’s economy has grown for the past 50 years primarily due to large changes in its domestic policy. We should look at China with skepticism after some rather questionable international dealings; shady business loans with African countries for its Belt-Road Initiative and proclaiming ownership over the South China Sea. Government- owned Chinese companies have also played a large role in global espionage charades with many Chinese operatives spying and stealing from American businesses and institutions. China’s comprehensive agenda remains a mystery, but its overt deviations and defiance of international law and agreements is increasingly worrisome. As tensions rise and China attempts to expand its reach, it certainly poses a very real threat to America.
Perhaps the most current threat to the United States, COVID-19, continues to ravage American communities across the country. Believed to have originated in China, the disease has forever altered the course of human history and has caused controversy over the very basics of American society. The division over the virus is so widespread that even its origins have been called into question. Many believe the virus originated in a Chinese lab in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic. Life as we know it was altered in March of 2020 as gatherings of more than 10 people were said to be potentially deadly due to the highly contagious virus. Since then, a variety of restrictions and advisories have been imposed by many local, state, and federal authorities with the implementation of mandatory face masks being the most iconic symbol of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus pandemic rattled American society, a presidential election loomed in the distance and with it, an ever-increasing partisan political climate.
The Republicans, who elected outsider Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 brought in a wave of populism that has largely supported the firebrand former President. His “America First” policies have become a staple of grassroots Republicans and he is still largely supported as a leading figure in the party, even after the Trump supporters stormed the capitol on January 6th on claims of election fraud. As Republicans old and new struggle with an identity crisis, the Democratic party sways closer and closer towards a socialist agenda. An agenda that sees big government as the solution to recent problems including the public health concerns caused by the pandemic. Both parties have established different ways of handling current issues, all of which contribute greatly to the divergence of bipartisan process and results.
In short, the United States faces a drastic change to the challenges it faces compared to the last 20 years. The world of the past exists no more. Today we live life largely crowded by fear of new imposing threats that seem to have very limited answers. We live in a world that would see a fundamental change in the basic ideals that tie us together as a country. We must realize this fundamental change and cling to that which makes us great even in our rapidly changing world.