Yet another risky exercise in speculative prognostication
Year’s end prediction columns are always problematic: my last one wasn’t all that accurate, as it turned out. I was dead wrong on the Big One — war with Iran, to which I assigned a 65 percent probability. This year, however, it looks as if the issue — like a huge, festering boil — is coming to a head. Others seem to agree.
One reason I’ve been pushing the nomination of Chuck Hagel to head up the Pentagon is that this trial balloon is clearly a signal of President Obama’s reluctance to start yet another war in the Middle East — one that could easily morph into a regional conflict, or even a world war. The economic consequences of bombing Iran would be a deterrent to any President, especially one trying to dig us out of the economic hole his domestic policies have exacerbated.
Related to this is the ongoing civil war in Syria, which is in reality a proxy war between America’s allies in the Gulf and Tehran. Here it looks like Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered, and it’s only a matter of time — and not much time, at that — before the Ba’athist regime falls. The likely result: the Lebanon-ization of the country, which means the de facto break-up of the Syrian state, with the country’s many ethnic and religious factions each establishing their own enclaves. Which means: continued fighting, and the increased possibility of increased Iranian intervention on behalf of their beleaguered allies. This will set up a tripwire for open conflict between Iran and the West.
What’s interesting about this is how the “international community” will respond. My prediction: some kind of international force, under UN auspices, will “police” the remnants of the old Syria, possibly including Turkish, Jordanian, and Qatari forces (no Americans, however).
The big change, I believe, will come about in regard to Israel: everyone can see the Israelis are moving rapidly in the direction of an ugly ultra-nationalism, and the Israeli government that comes out of the elections at the end of January will no doubt be the most right-wing to date.
However, that isn’t really news. The real news is the world’s reaction to this ominous development, both in the US and Europe: increasing revulsion. With 60,000 refugees from Africa locked up in what are effectively concentration camps, and the most revolting anti-black racism coming from “mainstream” Israeli politicians on this explosive issue, the world will witness the spectacle of Israel increasingly coming to resemble the deep South in the days of George Wallace and Bull Connor. Aside from alienating the world community in general, this horrific trend will also put yet more distance between Israel and their most important international constituency: American Jews.
I’m stealing this next prediction from Ahmed Moor over at “Open Zion,” who writes: “Next year, the Swiss, French and Palestinians are going to provide unimpeachable evidence that Yasser Arafat was assassinated by someone with access to Israeli polonium.”
Actually, I wrote about this back in July, but now that Arafat’s remains have been exhumed and are being analyzed by reputable scientists, we may have an answer to the mystery of just what (or who) killed the Palestinian leader in short order. What’s interesting, to me at any rate, is that the pro-Israeli “spin” campaign is already in motion, with most recent articles on the subject downplaying the possibility of poisoning (without confronting or in any way refuting the Al Jazeera investigation, which revealed the polonium factor in the first place). Time inexplicably avers the conclusion to be drawn from the investigation “is not a matter of science.” But of course it is: if polonium poisoning is the diagnosis, then that leaves only a few countries where the assassins could’ve procured it — the US, Russia, and Israel. The question of which of these had reason to assassinate Arafat answers itself.
What this means is not good for the “peace process”: the news could trigger a new intifada, and play directly into the hands of all the most radical nut-jobs in the region — not only Hamas, but also the Naftali Bennetts of Israel, who are looking for an excuse — any excuse — to annex most of the West Bank and establish their crackpot dream of a Greater Israel.
My predictions for 2012 were actually quite on the mark when it comes to the issue of America’s relations with Russia: I gave a 99 percent probability to the notion that the relationship would go further downhill, and with the passage of the ill-conceived Magnitsky Act, and the Russian ban on American adoptions, it looks like I was right.
On the other hand, my crystal ball fogged up a bit when it came to predicting the trajectory of the “Arab Spring.” True, I was right about the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — which didn’t exactly require Nostradamus-like foresight — but was only partially right about Morocco, where a combination of repression and concessions tamped down protests, and Jordan, where the movement has yet to attain the kind of heft required to overthrow the monarchy.
I was off the mark with my prediction that “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.” While it’s true that we were indeed subjected to a veritable orgy of China-bashing in 2012, it wasn’t due to any such “high profile incident” — it was, instead, occasioned by a high profile election, in which both candidates for President used China as a convenient punching bag and did their best to blame the Yellow Peril for problems created right here in the good ol’ US of A.
Which just goes to show that the art of successful prediction requires the artist to be as vague as possible.
I was dead right, however, when I predicted (at 85 percent probability) “the rebirth of Al-Qaeda,” with a special focus on Africa. Benghazi, anyone?
What’s interesting, however, is that this rebirth is largely the result of “blowback” from US policy in the region. Our deepening involvement in Africa, our support to the Libyan jihadists who then turned on us, and our ongoing support for the Syrian rebels — all this points to the lesson we didn’t learn in Afghanistan. When Ronald Reagan hailed the Afghan jihadists as noble “freedom-fighters” in their battle against the commies, and we armed them with heavy weaponry, we created a large pool of jihadists out of which sprang the monstrous Al-Qaeda. That the process is repeating itself in Libya and Syria is yet more proof that our “progressive” policymakers are heedless — even disdainful — of the lessons of history. When it comes to American foreign policy, hubris knows no party.
Another prediction for 2012 that was right on the money:
“The only antiwar presidential candidate will be continuously smeared, demonized, and eventually driven out of the GOP by the party Establishment.”
This is precisely what happened: Ron Paul was subjected to a campaign of calumny very similar, in tone and content, to the smear campaign now aimed at Chuck Hagel. At the end of it, they deprived the Paul campaign of delegates fairly won, and took administrative measures to ensure the Paulian insurgency would never rise again. Although my own hopes for a third party run came to naught, I was right in the general sense that the growing anti-interventionist/libertarian wing of the GOP would become totally alienated from the neocon-run Establishment. If Romney had done the smart thing and courted the Paulians, instead of crushing them, a good number of the millions of primary voters who pulled the lever for Paul might not have sat on their hands Election Day. But then again, I was right about Romney, too — he never wanted to be President, as one of his sons has now testified. The Republicans threw the election — just as I said they would.
Okay, Mr. Smart Guy, so you told us so — feel better now? (Here I am talking to myself, and in public yet: do I need a vacation, or what?!)
Well, yes, I do feel better, but not because of any imagined smartness on my part: I’ll leave my readers to decide that question on their own. I feel better because years of writing, of organizing, of fundraising, is finally beginning to pay off.
Since 1998, we here at Antiwar.com have been warning Americans against the hubris of those policymakers who believe they can direct the course of distant nations: we’ve been challenging the bipartisan interventionist consensus, and exposing the various lobbying groups that have made that consensus nearly invulnerable to attack. Now it looks like those millions of words, and many thousands of working hours, are finally bearing some fruit.
On “Meet the Press” this morning, the President of the United States defended Chuck Hagel against the War Party’s coordinated smear campaign, and confirmed his nomination as Secretary of Defense is still under consideration, although no decision has been made. In view of the ferocious assault on Hagel launched by the Israel lobby and its useful idiots (hello, Log Cabineers!), these comments are significant, especially for a President with a notable lack of spine.
I won’t venture any specific prediction as to the outcome of all this — although I’ll note Malcolm Hoenlein’s prediction that an announcement of Hagel’s nomination will be made on Monday. However, it is worth pointing out that this episode marks a big defeat for the Israel lobby — and the larger militarist community — no matter what the President decides. The public debate over his possible nomination has drawn a clear line of demarcation between the Israel lobby and much of the rest of the foreign policy commentariat, isolating the former and expanding the influence of those who oppose our long march to war with Iran. It has also proved to be an invaluable educational experience for ordinary Americans, who would not normally pay attention to such matters, but who wonder why an enlisted man with two Purple Hearts and a history of skepticism about two wars they overwhelming oppose is having such a hard time of it.
While we don’t have a lot of time — the announcement is going to be made one way or the other pretty soon, I would think — it’s still vitally important for you to sign the White House petition in support of Hagel. As of this very moment (10:15 Sunday morning), we have 2, 305 signatures! If we can just get those numbers up a little, it would help greatly: I’ll bet the White House is monitoring this effort, as well as a similar effort by VoteVets. So please, go here now and sign.
I’ll make another prediction, and it is this: if Hagel is nominated, it will be the bloodiest — and most significant — fight over the future of American foreign policy this country has seen since the Vietnam era. And the White House petition in support of Hagel will be even more relevant to the outcome of that fight. The War Party is going to fight this one to the death: we, on the other hand, cannot afford to be less determined. Because what the debate will quickly turn into is a dress rehearsal for the congressional vote on whether or not to go to war with Iran. Indeed, this will put the whole campaign to isolate and destroy Iran on trial in the public square: abstention on our part is not an option.
To all those who supported us in 2012, and to the thousands of new regular readers we’ve acquired, a big thanks is due. We here at Antiwar.com labor every day to keep your confidence and earn your support, both moral and financial. Let us look to the coming year with confidence, yet without illusions: it’s going to be a hard fight, but then again that makes it all the more worth winning.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon.
Buy my biography of the great libertarian thinker, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, here.
Scheduling note: I’ll be off on January 1, so that means no column the next day – unless, of course, Something Big occurs. I’ll be back on Friday.
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