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A Year of War and Little Peace

The year 2023 will be remembered as one defined by war, record heat, anxiety over artificial intelligence, and the continuing appeal of populism. And the best that can be said of the world's most important strategic relationship, between the US and China, is that both sides demonstrated an interest in calmer bilateral ties.

NEW YORK – The advantage historians have over journalists is that the passage of time offers them a perspective not available to those with immediate deadlines. But the year is about to end, which constitutes a firm deadline if the goal is to put 2023 into perspective. “Instant history” may well be an oxymoron, but it is worth the effort, especially in a year that will be remembered as one defined by war.

Two wars in particular stand out. The first is Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine. While Ukraine continued to hold its own against Russian forces and remains a viable, independent country that controls roughly 80% of its territory, the much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive accomplished little. All told, the second year of this costly war will be known less for what changed on the field of battle than for what did not; the map does not look all that different in December than it did in January. Meanwhile, some cracks appeared in support for Ukraine in both Europe and the United States.

The second war was initiated by Hamas against Israel on October 7. Surprising Israeli intelligence and defense forces, Hamas’s savage terrorist attacks killed more than 1,200 people, with another 240 taken hostage. Most of the victims were civilians.