Predictions are always problematic – there’s that pesky notion of “free will,” [.pdf] not to mention the stubborn refusal of reality to conform to our preconceptions. Yet they are obligatory for a columnist this time of year, and so what I’m going to do is assign a probability to each “prediction.”
1) War with Iran – One could argue we are already at war with Iran, what with US support for the terrorist Jundallah – a Sunni extremist group with links to al-Qaeda – which is attacking Iranian civilians and wreaking havoc in Iranian Baluchistan. Also, the sanctions we have imposed on Iran are, in themselves, acts of war – and we’ve seen how Iran is responding with threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, which a great deal of the world’s oil must pass through. The odds of a minor incident in this volatile region blowing up into a major confrontation are quite high. Adding fuel to the fire: continuing US efforts to destabilize Syria, an Iranian ally, could prove to be the tripwire that drags us into war with Tehran. Moves by Hezbollah to shore up the Syrian Ba’athists could bring in Israel – and ultimately the US.
In line with my theory of “libertarian realism” – the idea that domestic political considerations determine a nation’s actions on the international stage – I’ll note that the number one force pushing for war with Iran is the indefatigable Israel lobby, which has been beating the war drums for years now and has the full support of both parties in Congress. Sure, the American people don’t want war – but since when have they had any say in our foreign policy?
2) Deteriorating relations with Russia – This isn’t really a prediction, it’s a reality. The recent Russian election brought the downgrading of Russo-American relations to the fore, but the fact is that this has been the case ever since Russian strongman Vladimir Putin rose from the ashes of the Soviet collapse and imposed some semblance of order on a nation in the midst of a meltdown. American antipathy to Russia is largely a matter of habit – after half a century of the cold war, fear of the Russians is embedded in the consciousness of the American elites – but much of it has to do with distrust of any foreign leader who seems too strong for our own good. The Americans thought they could gobble up the pieces of the shattered Soviet empire with little or no trouble, and were surprised when Putin pulled his country out of the trash bin of history and started challenging the American would-be hegemon. While war is not an option, internal subversion most certainly is, and if any enterprising journalist wants to trace the financial links between the US government and the various Russian “dissidents” at the head of the “democratic” opposition, he or she will uncover a thriving industry.
3) The “Arab Spring” comes to the Kingdom – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that is. We have already seen some of this in the Eastern, predominantly Shi’ite provinces, but the coming rebellion promises to be broader. There is simply no way for the Kingdom to block the influx of democratic-secular ideas flooding into the region, and the regime’s vaunted economic invulnerability is increasingly threatened by the global downturn. The emirates and sheikdoms of the Gulf have already been hit with protests, and what is happening in Bahrain may provide, in miniature, a look into the Kingdom’s future.
4) The “Arab Spring” comes to Jordan, Morocco, and even Israel – Jordan and Morocco, two pro-US Arab states ruled by monarchs both capricious and servile, are due for large-scale turmoil. The same worldwide economic downturn, combined with complaints of corruption, that brought down the pro-American dictator of Tunisia threatens the Moroccan monarchy, which has only made cosmetic changes in an attempt to head off an open rebellion. In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood is out in the streets protesting police brutality – which they call “official terrorism” – and seeking to duplicate their success in Egypt. By the end of 2012, the era of kings may be nearly over in the Middle East.
Israel is also headed for a major confrontation with its Arab citizens, of which there are over 1.5 million. The rise of Jewish extremism, the popularity of parties calling for the expulsion of all Arabs, and recently proposed legislation that calls the loyalty – and basic rights – of Arab Israelis into question are all factors fueling this imminent explosion. The Israelis built a wall to keep the Palestinians out – but what will they do when their own Arab population rises up? It will start as a nonviolent protest, and when it escalates it isn’t going to be pretty.
I’m going to give two probability ratings for this item, one for the Jordan-Morocco prediction:
And one for the Israeli Arab prediction:
5) A high-profile “incident” involving US spy ships or military aircraft and the Chinese in or near the South China Sea will set off another round of China-bashing in the US – You may remember the previous incident off Hainan island, in which an American spy plane was shot down: look for a replay this coming year. With the US reasserting itself in the region in a high-profile (and typically high-handed) way, expect an increased US military presence to provoke a response from the Chinese, who are probably sick and tired of being dressed down, insulted, and impinged upon by a country trillions of dollars in debt to them. Chinese nationalism is on the rise, and the irony is that if China goes democratic, and finally throws off one-party rule, its foreign policy is apt to be increasingly assertive – and even “anti-American,” i.e. resistant to US demands.
6) The rebirth of al-Qaeda – This is happening as I write, with “Al Qaeda in Iraq” claiming responsibility for the recent series of bombings in Baghdad. However, the real area of growth for followers of the late Osama bin Laden is in Africa, or at least that’s what the usual propaganda outlets are pushing. As the Obama administration wades into the African savannas, under the combined rubric of the “war on terrorism” and a “humanitarian” campaign to lift the African masses out of their longstanding misery, expect the US military footprint to widen considerably. We’re already in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and most recently Uganda: the list of African nations with close military ties to the US includes Algeria, Botswana, Zambia, Gabon, Mali, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Ghana, Namibia,Kenya, Uganda and Sao Tome. The US military has set up a special command, “Africom,” to coordinate its planned interventions. We’re primed, and ready.
The Chinese are already there, although their interest is entirely entrepreneurial: true to form, the Westerners are out to grab what they can, using whatever means they can to do so. By aligning with dictators like Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, we are ineluctably drawn into the complex web of tribal feuds and historic injustices that continue to afflict the African peoples. A propaganda-meme justifying this expansion of the Empire will feature a revived, Africanized “al-Qaeda” which has supposedly migrated to the dark continent and set up base camps in whatever country the West has its eyes on. This aspect of the “war on terrorism” will soon take on a “humanitarian” aspect, however, as the Obama-ites exercise their “Kenyan anti-colonialist” sensibility in reverse.
7) The only antiwar presidential candidate will be continuously smeared, demonized, and eventually driven out of the GOP by the party Establishment – If Ron Paul even comes close to winning Iowa, he will have everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him by a grand alliance of neocons, Obama cultists, and Beltway fake-“libertarians.” First they’ll blame the weather, then they’ll blame the “fanaticism” of Paul’s army of volunteers, and finally they’ll blame the voters, who are supposedly so poisoned by “resentment” that they must be declared officially mad. Delegates won fair and square will encounter “problems” with their credentials. Gloria Borger will team up with a famous psychic to divine who really authored the infamous newsletters, and fresh non-scandals will be unearthed by enterprising “journalists.” In the end, a coalition of neocons and Romneyites will issue an encyclical, excommunicating Paul and his supporters from the Republican party – and opening the way for a third party bid that will threaten to put the GOP nominee in third in November.
Well, my crystal ball is clouding up, inexplicably albeit inevitably, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get more than seven “predictions” out of the spirits this time around. In looking back on my previous adventures in clairvoyance, usually indulged in this time of year, my record, I see, is fair but hardly Nostradamus-like. Not bad, compared to some.