The year 2008 will be remembered as one of the most turbulent of our times. Yet the year started rather benignly, with few warning signs of what was in store in the final five months.But when August came around, things got hot all over the world. As the Beijing Olympics began under tight security with world leaders in attendance, a regional conflict broke out in the Caucasus between Russia and Georgia. That was followed by the financial crisis that touched every corner of the globe, including faraway places like Iceland. As governments scrambled to bail out their respective economies, terrorists struck in Mumbai, killing hundreds of civilians and heightening tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
The U.S. election brought a watershed moment as Barack Obama became the first black president in the nation's history, yet the world he will inherit continues to be besiged by crises. Africa seems to be spinning out of control, with piracy on the Horn, rigged election in Zimbabwe, civil war in the Congo and finally, a military coup in Guinea. Not to be outdone, the Middle East in the waning days of 2008 regained its well-earned reputation as the powder keg of the world, with a new conflict erupting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.
We can't predict the future, but we can at least see what problems lie ahead for the coming year. How might these questions be addressed will determine where the world would be headed in the year of 2009.