Scoring my 2012 predictions
Well, it’s almost the end of 2012, and it’s time for me to look back at my predictions for the year that I made in January. I’m going to give a brief summary of each prediction, but you can click on the January 2012 link if you want to see full explanations. Let’s see how I did:
Prediction 1: Iraq will muddle through and be more stable at the end of the year at the beginning. Verdict: Half right/half wrong
Despite some of the more dire predictions, Iraq has not fallen apart in the wake of the US withdrawal. Sadly, violent deaths were slightly higher this past year than in 2011. Tensions between the Shiite-led government and Sunni and Kurdish groups continue to threaten the country. Considering the fact that in the final years of US involvement in Iraq troops were mostly confined to their bases, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been very little difference in the situation this year versus last year.
Prediction 2: No one will bomb Iran, but negotiations would have to wait until after an election and would be more likely if Obama won.
Verdict: Mostly right
The Iran question is likely going to come to the fore in the coming year, but it remained on hold during 2012. After some feelers earlier in the year, the US election did indeed preclude any serious efforts to deal with Iran diplomatically. Immediately after the election, however, the Iranians sent the message again that they would be willing to negotiate. How plausible successful negotiations might be is something I’ll save for my next blog.
Prediction 3: The Muslim Brotherhood will consolidate power in Egypt and surprise the outside world with its moderation
Verdict: Still out
Although it was not entirely clear at the beginning of the year, it seemed likely that the Muslim Brotherhood would largely dominate politics in 2012. That has indeed occurred, for better and for worse. President Morsi played a productive role in helping to defuse the Israel/Hamas conflict last month, but has angered opposition at home with his disdain for the judiciary and his support for a new Constitution that many feel has been rushed and threatens civil liberties. The verdict is still out on how moderate the Muslim Brotherhood will end up governing.
Prediction 4: The Syrian government will cling to power and will agree to a negotiated peace that it will then violate.
Verdict: Half right/half wrong
Most predictions at the beginning of 2012 underestimated the strength of the Syrian military vis-à-vis the opposition and the determination of much of the Alawite community to prevent the ascension of the Sunni majority. Although it will likely not last through next year, the Syrian government is still in power and looks like will fight to Assad’s bitter end. As for negotiations with the opposition, I was wrong that the government would not at least make a serious effort to reach out and try to at least make a pretence of peacemaking.
Prediction 5: Boko Haram, an extreme Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria, will become much more prominent
Verdict: Mostly wrong
Boko Haram did not meet its objectives in 2012, and is probably weaker now then it was at the beginning of the year. Although it killed more people than ever this year, its leader was possibly killed and the Nigerian security forces, with aid from the US and other countries, seem to have made inroads against the group – albeit while committing human rights abuses of their own. The Nigerian people are to be credited as well for mostly not allowing BH attacks to stoke widespread secular conflict between Christians and Muslims in a country where people take their religion very seriously (cite).
Prediction 6: Al Shabab, Islamic extremists in Somalia, will be largely defeated by year’s end and reduced to hit and run attacks.
The nascent Somali army and forces associated with the African Union have chased Al Shabab out of every major town in Somalia. Although Al Shabab still maintains a presence in the countryside, after a year of losses the group is a shadow of what it once was.
Prediction 7: Chaos will rock Venezuela after Hugo Chavez it perceived by many to have stolen a close presidential election in the fall
Well, I did a lousy job of predicting Chavez’s margin of victory over his opponent, which ended up being a decisive 11-point victory. For a man presiding over an increasingly dysfunctional economy, Chavez has remained impressively popular.
Prediction 8: Pakistan will continue to muddle through as a democracy
This was a pretty boring prediction, but the Pakistani government looked more fragile at the beginning of 2012 then it does now. Despite corruption, extremism, a conspiratorially-minded culture, poverty, and many other problems, democracy in Pakistan still manages to survive. Somehow.
Prediction 9: The US Supreme Court will strike down the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act
Verdict: Wrong – narrowly, narrowly wrong
I find it disturbing to think that so much often rides on the opinions of one or two Supreme Court Justices. It’s been that way throughout US history, and this year was no exception. Chief Justice Roberts found that the individual mandate, and the tax penalty that will be associated with it for not buying insurance, was acceptable based on the US government’s power of taxation rather than the Constitution’s commerce clause resulting in a 5-4 decision in favor of universal health care. Apparently, in reaching that conclusion, he changed his mind from his original opinion against the mandate. And there you go . . . or nation’s whole health care system and tens of thousands of lives determined by one man changing his mind. Some things defy prediction.
Prediction 10: Mitt Romney will choose Marc Rubio as his running mate leading him to win Florida. Romney will still lose other swing states like Virginia and Ohio, and go on to lose the election and the popular vote by 2-3 percentage points.
Verdict: Mostly right
Not bad for a January election prediction. Romney went on to choose Paul Ryan as running mate instead of Marc Rubio, a move that very well may have cost him Florida, which he lost by less than one percent. President Obama won pretty much every swing state and the election by 3.7% of the popular vote.
Prediction 11: The Artist will win the Academy Award for best picture.
. . . and it did.
So, how did I do out of 11 predictions? If I was honest with the ratings I gave myself, I got five predictions right or mostly right and three wrong or mostly wrong. The other three were somewhere in-between or undecided. Not exactly Nostradamus, but not quite as bad as Karl Rove. Check back in January and see my predictions for 2013!