Monthly Archives: January 2012

Twelve Predictions for 2012

Twelve Predictions for 2012

I enjoy all the prediction columns that come out each year.  Most of the time predictions say more about those doing the predicting, and the most interesting ones are usually wrong.  With those caveats, let me go on-the-record with some of my thoughts for 2012 before we get too far into it:

1). Iraq was the last country I blogged about.  Without a U.S. presence, is it bound to fall into civil war (again) between the minority Sunni population and majority Shiite population?  I don’t think so.  The U.S. largely succeeded in its goal of building up a large Iraqi security force that is acceptable to most of the Shiite population.  The Iraqi national army should be able to keep the restless Sunni minority in check, even if extremist bombings still occur (although they too will begin to subside).  Iraq will be an ugly democracy, like Russia, but, problems aside; it should remain stable this year.

2). Iran is the country people ask me most about when they find out what I do for a living.  It is going to be by far the biggest foreign policy issue in the 2012 U.S. election.  As I stated in my blog a month ago, I find it highly unlikely that the U.S. will take military action against Iran.  Despite the bluster of some Iranian leaders about the Strait of Hormuz, I also do not think Iran will engage in much more than saber-rattling meant for domestic consumption.  As new sanctions bite harder, though, I think Iranian leadership will renew calls for negotiations with the United States.   Romney (the future Republican nominee – don’t buy into the recent Gingrich hype) will rebuff the idea, while Obama will put off any reciprocation until after the election.

3). Egypt will witness the consolidation of power by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood, now “liberated” by the movement of hardliners to the Salafist Al-Nour Party will surprise many with their moderation, and model their efforts after the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey and An-Nahda in Tunisia.  Reporters and analysts will even begin to stop using the term Islamist, a term usually reserved for those advocating strict Sharia law, to describe the party.

4). Syria’s Bashir al Assad will cling to power (I think I’m the only one predicting this).  The Arab League will help broker a peace of sorts, with a power-sharing arrangement or similar compromise between Assad and opposition leaders like that arranged in Zimbabwe three years ago.  Like Zimbabwe’s leader, Robert Mugabe, Assad will manipulate and ignore the compromise once it’s put into place.  Instability will continue as holdout groups like the Free Syria Army continue sporadic attacks.

5). Boko Haram in Nigeria will become a household name (in at least some households) by the end of the year.  While Al Qaeda is on the decline in much of the world, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has had an active year with attacks throughout Northern Nigeria, including a bombing attack on the United Nations.  Nigeria is a tinderbox of sectarian division, and Boko Haram will successfully set off higher levels of inter communal violence as well as attempt major terrorist attempts in the south (although probably not against the United States or the West, yet).  Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan probably has one of the more dangerous jobs in the world in the upcoming year.

6). For the first time in years, Al Shabab in Somalia is on the ropes.  Renewed efforts by the African Union in cooperation with Kenya and Ethiopia are finally taking its toll on the group.  By year’s end, the group will be holed up in small pockets of the country, and only capable of hit-and-run guerilla-style attacks.  There might finally be light at the end-of-the-tunnel for the country.

7). Chaos will hit the streets of Venezuela following presidential elections in October.  The election will be close and Hugo Chavez will be declared the winner.  Opponents, frustrated with a falling economy, rampant crime, and all-around flaky leadership, will take to the streets arguing that (rightly or wrongly) the election was stolen.

8). Pakistan will continue to muddle along, but not fall apart.  I think eventually the military will again seize power again in the country, but probably not by December.  General Kiyani, who leads the country’s armed forces, has been fiercely protective of the reputation and dubious actions of the nation’s military, but has pointedly tried to stay out of politics.  Pakistan may again approaching a tipping point, and one disputed election, assassination, or major civilian protest movement will likely change Kiyani’s outlook, but not this year.

9). In the United States the Supreme Court will find against the individual mandate of the Affordable Healthcare Act in a 5-4 decision that splits down the expected ideological lines.  One school of thought suggests that Justice Scalia, who has in the past supported a broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause, will surprise some and uphold the law.  I find it more likely that, as usual, the justices’ arguments, no matter how legally sophisticated or historically grounded, will be designed to support their underlying political views.

10). President Obama will edge out Mitt Romney in the presidential election.  While a lot of factors, including a real lack of support for Obama among independent voters, favor the Republicans, it is hard to imagine Romney out-campaigning or out-debating President Obama. So, Romney, along with his running mate Florida Senator Marco Rubio, will take the vote in Florida, but Obama will win Ohio, Virginia, and enough other battlegrounds to win the election.  He’ll win the popular vote by only 2-3%.  How confident am I of this?  Not at all – how confident can anybody be in reading the future minds of a couple of percentage points of the electorate in a handful of states?  The more confidently someone predicts this election, the less you should pay attention to them.

11). “The Artist” will win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Hollywood types love it when a movie celebrates them…

12). The twelfth prediction is yours. . . let me know what you think will happen!  We’ll see how we did in December.