The year the world turned upside down

By: Rachel Marsden

Looking back on 2015, it can be remembered as a year in which conventional wisdom and expectations were inverted on an astounding number of fronts.

THE RISE OF THE POLITICAL OUTSIDER: People are so fed up with the establishment that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has been able to maintain a wide lead by ripping up the traditional Washington playbook. This phenomenon will last as long as people aren't beholden to the kind of fear that makes them reach for a more conventional security blanket.

PERENNIAL OIL BOOM GOES BUST: For decades it was the easiest way for a country to get (and stay) rich: Drill holes in the ground and watch liquid cash shoot out of them. Although oil prices had already dropped at the start of the year, they continued to fall and have now sunk to less than $40 a barrel. Major oil producers such as the U.S., Canada, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been forced to quickly adapt to the new reality or face economic hardship.

Some of these countries have squirreled away reserves from boom times to either coast on the savings or invest in other sectors that can grow enough to recoup lost revenues over the long haul. The more hands-off a government is with respect to business in general, the more that country's oil industry and the ecosystem that it feeds will be forced bear the burden of adaptation. Forbes estimates that the collapse in oil prices has already meant the loss of 200,000 jobs in the oil industry worldwide. In Canada, the cost has already been passed along to consumers at the pumps.

SELF-PRESERVATION IS NOW CALLED SELF-DESTRUCTION: For some people, civilization cannot possibly do enough to weaken itself against insidious threats that would tear it apart from the inside. Billionaire George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations, is apparently one such individual. Soros wrote recently in an op-ed for The Guardian: "Open societies are always endangered. This is especially true of America and Europe today, as a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, and the way that America and Europe, particularly France, have reacted to them."

As someone who lives in Paris only a few miles from the site of the November terror attacks that killed at least 130 people and injured hundreds more, I see the reaction of the French government as being extremely conservative. It has finally re-established controls at its borders, and it has explored the possibility of limiting or monitoring the movement of those identified as imminent terrorist threats.

An "open society" that includes overly lax immigration policies and unenforced borders is what led to Europe's current state of insecurity. Russian authorities have rejected such advocacy, with the Russian Prosecutor General's Office officially proclaiming the Open Society Foundations a threat to the foundations of Russia's constitutional order and national security, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in Open Society projects. Remember when it was the Russians, not the think tanks, who were unreasonable?

PUNISHING THOSE WHO ARE FIGHTING OUR ENEMIES: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced this week that Russia has seized 12.5 tons of Iran's enriched uranium, in accordance with the nuclear agreement struck earlier this year. Meanwhile, Kerry is two-facing the country that's conducting the most effective airstrikes against the Islamic State by telling Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in an early-December phone call that economic sanctions against Russia will be maintained, according to Poroshenko's press service.

IRAN OPENS FOR BUSINESS TO THE WEST: After years of negotiations, the U.S. and other Western nations decided that the best way to manage Iran would be up close, by engaging them economically. "Death to America" has been reduced to little more than theater. As former CIA Director of Operations Jack Devine recently told me, if Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, didn't want the deal, it wouldn't have happened.

RUSSIA BECOMES THE WATCHDOG AGAINST 'CREEPING ISLAMIZATION': Having already been proven right about the war in Syria giving rise to more terrorists, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a reference at his year-end press conference in Moscow to "creeping Islamization that would have made (founding Turkish President Mustafa Kemal) Ataturk turn over in his own grave." Putin also questioned Turkey's position in the fight against the Islamic State: "I am not saying if it is bad or good, but I admit that the current Turkish leaders have decided to let the Americans and Europeans know: Yes, we are Islamizing our country, but we are modern and civilized Islamists. Remember, what President Reagan said about (former Nicaragua dictator Anastasio) Somoza in his time: 'Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.' Just keep it in mind, 'we are Islamists, but we are on your side, we are your Islamists.'"

It's been a bad year for those with unwavering expectations and an uncompromising worldview. Such people may be ringing in the New Year with a cognitive dissonance hangover. Being open to surfing the shifting sands isn't a bad resolution to make heading into 2016.