A few years after he was removed from office in 1890, Otto von Bismarck remarked that “Europe today is a powder keg, and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal.”  At present, the Iron Chancellor’s dictum is applicable to the entire planet.

The most important event by far this year has been Europe’s abdication of immigration controls along its vulnerable Mediterranean coast.  The newcomers, overwhelmingly Muslim Arab and sub-Saharan African trespassers in Italy, are being resettled all over Western Europe, with no thought of repatriation.  This year alone their number will exceed the size of Napoleon’s half-million-strong Grande Armée in 1812.  The boat invasion total for 2013-15 is already equal to the strength of Hitler’s Barbarossa divisions.  They do not come with guns but with Islamic beliefs, unpleasant habits, and natural abilities and long-term ambitions that are at odds with those of most Europeans.  The invading horde comprises mostly aspiring welfare-state parasites.  They will turn ever more banlieues into the mirror image of their horrid homelands.  Combined with the long-established and exponentially growing Muslim diaspora of some 30 million in the European Union and the continuing collapse of native Europeans’ birthrates, it is an even bet that Europe’s terminal demise will be complete by the second half of this century.

My January prediction in this space that “in the Greater Middle East the Islamic State will not be defeated” has been proved tragically right.  Some tactical defeats of ISIS in early spring, heralded in the U.S. media as the turning of the tide, were spectacularly reversed with its capture of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria in late May.  This was, in Pat Buchanan’s accurate estimation, “a stunning setback for U.S. policy.”  Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was forced to admit that “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.  They were not outnumbered.  In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight . . . ”

This is a tacit admission that a year of sustained U.S. effort to make the Iraqi army a viable fighting force and eight months of USAF attacks on ISIS targets have not changed the strategic equation.  As I have repeatedly pointed out in these pages, a serious anti-ISIS strategy urgently requires greater clarity regarding two key regional players: Iran and Bashar al-Assad.  A decent deal with Iran needs to be sealed on nuclear issues.  And no successful anti-ISIS campaign can be pursued in Syria while there is an ongoing U.S. ambivalence about the only military force capable of countering the jihadists on the ground: the Syrian army.

The Middle Eastern equation is further unbalanced by the Saudi military intervention in Yemen, with support from Washington.  It was launched, according to Riyadh, to “restore the legitimate government” and protect the “Yemeni constitution and elections.”  In reality it is an attempt by the horrid desert kingdom—arguably the second-worst hellhole on earth (after North Korea)—to assert its dominance over the entire Arabian Peninsula, some 30 million Shi’ites included.

The coming endgame in Afghanistan looks equally unpromising.  Kabul is desperately attempting to recruit local militias controlled by a bunch of seriously nasty, old, pre-U.S.-intervention Islamic warlords—an open admission of the inability of Kabul’s military and police units to counter a determined Taliban onslaught from the southeast.  It also discredits assurances by U.S. officials that the security forces were holding their own against the Taliban.  Whoever emerges victorious in Kabul will wear short trousers, trimmed beards, and send girls back from school to their fathers’ sharia-compliant homes.

The war in Afghanistan was as futile as the one in Iraq, albeit less costly.  A surgical operation against Al Qaeda and a brief occupation of Kabul in the aftermath of September 11 should have been enough to demonstrate American resolve and to satisfy public opinion at home.  Making Afghanistan peaceful, democratic, and prosperous was never an attainable goal.  That war was always a tragic mistake.

On the grim geopolitical horizon there is a ray of hope over Ukraine.  Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Sochi to meet Putin and Lavrov in May, and Victoria Nuland’s subsequent visit to Moscow, indicate that the futile and self-defeating attempt by the President to isolate Russia is over.  The Donbas region is becoming a frozen conflict zone, one of many in the post-Soviet world.  The potential for sudden and uncontrolled escalation has been reduced.  The key driver in the U.S. government’s reassessment is twofold: Ukraine’s financial collapse, and her military’s inability to crush the East.

This may be the least bad outcome for some years to come.  It is also, geopolitically, the most important development of the year.