Predictions for 2013
2012 had its surprises, like the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare and the acceleration of the “Myanmar Spring.” Mostly, however, the year was notable for how many things remained status quo. The Syrian War continued; violence in Iraq and Afghanistan remained at largely the same level; the Muslim Brotherhood continued to dominate Egyptian politics despite its missteps; President Obama was reelected as was a Republican-majority House and Democrat-majority Senate; Chinese leaders chose stability over change; Hugo Chavez won convincingly in Venezuelan elections; European regained its economic footing a bit; and the world continued to dither on global climate change.
Will 2013 witness any big surprises? Well, as Nate Silver points out in his excellent book, predicting big political events is like predicting big earthquakes – you can only know that some happen over long periods, but it’s pretty impossible to say one is coming up during a given year. Still, it’s interesting to speculate, even if with a truckload of salt.
1). Prediction 1: People will still be fighting in Syria at the end of the year. While a former professor in my department at graduate school argues that the more-conventional nature of the Syrian conflict may lead to a faster resolution than typical civil wars, I would argue that this is mitigated somewhat by the “ethnic” nature of the conflict. Research suggests that ethnic wars (in this case the word “sectarian” would be more correct – but the dynamic is similar) last longer than non-ethnic wars. When groups like the Alawites of Syria fear that their survival may be at stake if they lay down their arms, the incentive to negotiate is greatly reduced. Even if President Assad goes, there may still be enough fear and hate, and weapons, for the fighting to continue past this year. I hope I am wrong.
2). Prediction 2: Iran will still not get bombed. I largely stand by what I wrote over a year ago when I blogged that “Israel can’t; America won’t.” It is hard to believe the Israelis would be able to overcome distance and logistics to act alone against Iran. It’s hard to imagine, on the other hand, watching the Obama administration launch a lengthy bombing campaign against Iran without overwhelming international backing – backing which is unlikely to ever be forthcoming.
3). Prediction 3: Mainstream Republicans will slowly back away from debt ceiling rhetoric weeks before the scheduled vote. No one emerged political winners from the debt crisis in 2011, but this time only one side has to run for re-election. While the true believers in the Tea Party will vote against raising the debt ceiling, enough reason will prevail among the Republican “establishment” to back away from a potentially disastrous economic and political situation.
4). Prediction 4: Congress will make strong progress on immigration reform. Republicans saw the lopsided loss of the Hispanic vote as a key reason for Romney’s loss in 2012, and fear for the political future of the Republican Party if the trend is not reversed. Political calculations and pro-business considerations will combine to push many Republicans toward a compromise with Democrats that includes expanded work visas and some sort of “amnesty” for the ten million plus illegal immigrants in the country.
5). Prediction 5: Argo will win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Okay, I know I’m going out on a limb for a movie that is a 6 or 7 – 1 odds longshot, but here’s my thinking about Oscar psychology. Argo, like the Artist last year, celebrates Hollywood – in this case giving it a role in releasing the Iranian hostages. Oscar voters love that just as they love period pieces. It’s also the movie with the fewest “problems” – Zero Dark Thirty has a torture problem, which won’t play well among voters, and Lincoln script and ending left some critics wanting.
So, that’s it – just five humble predictions this year. I’d love to hear any of yours!