15 Predictions for 2015
Greetings to all, and welcome to my slightly-belated New Years’ prediction edition of this blog! For those who follow this blog regularly, my other blog engagement that I mentioned in December has been delayed due to technical problems. So, for the foreseeable future, please keep on checking in for my thoughts on the world this year.
Last year’s prediction were somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of success, as I’m sure this year’s will be as well. But what fun are safe predictions? So, here are my daring predictions on the New Year, with one foot hopefully planted firmly in reality:
1). Scott Walker will be the leading Republican hopeful at the end of the year. If 2012 was any indication, support for Republican candidates will be very fluid. Does anyone remember when Herman Cain was leading the pack? Walker will appeal to Republican voters who like conviction politicians and, Mitt Romney aside, politicians with an anti-elitist folksy side. The fact that he was a college dropout will mostly work in his favor for a Republican electorate that is eager to find someone relatable.
2). Northern Iraq will be under the control of the Iraqi government by the end of the year – sort of. Maybe the biggest surprise of 2014 was the swift takeover of northern Iraq by ISIS, when 20,000 or so ISIS militants routed a much bigger Iraqi security presence in a couple of weeks. At the time, the Iraqi forces were poorly led, poorly motivated, and caught off guard. With a year to regroup and reorganize, the shear advantage in numbers possessed by the Iraqi government, aided by the current multinational air campaign, should result in a successful offensive to recapture major cities like Mosul. Violence in Iraq, however, will still remain a sad fact of life as Prime Minister al-Abadi tries to coax alienated Sunnis back into more mainstream political life.
3). Predictions that the US economy will grow at about a 3-3.5% rate are about right. Not much of prediction when I agree with everyone else, right? Last year I argued that predictions for US economic growth were too pessimistic, but this year there are two large countervailing tendencies at work. First, as the the US economy begins to reach its productive potential, there is some really strong momentum leading into the New Year. With Republican control of Congress, it is probably also less likely that we would witness the same kind of uncertainty-creating debt-default, government closedown-type brinksmanship that we’ve witnessed during some years in the past. Low international oil prices should also add some wind to the US economic sails. On the other hand, much of the rest of the world, especially the EU, and to a lesser degree, China, is likely to witness subpar growth, which will represent a drag on the U.S. economy. My prediction for the first three quarters is an average rate of 3.3% growth and 4.7% unemployment by the end of the year.
4). Venezuela will see major instability in the wake of Parliamentary elections. I predicted this several years ago in one of my prediction blogs, and the prediction turned out to be incorrect (despite subsequent protests). Venezuela is an absolute mess, and lower oil prices will affect it more than almost any other country. Hugo Chavez may have acted clownish at times, but succeeded in being a larger-than-life figure respected by large swaths of Venezuelan society. His volatile successor, Nicolas Maduro possesses neither the charisma nor competence to maintain public support as the country’s problems deepen. It’s hard to see things going smoothly when elections are held later this year. Latin America, in general, will see a shift to the right in politics.
5). Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud come out successful in March’s Israeli parliamentary elections. A victory by parties led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni over Netanyahu’s Likud Party would representative a very positive change in Middle Eastern politics – especially in regard to the largely moribund efforts to bridge differences between Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, while it’s impossible to predict all the ins-and-outs of the complex Israeli electoral system and how much the left can “capture” the argument over Israeli voters’ economic disappointment, I predict that all the turmoil in the region will encourage Israeli voters to elect for a course of continuing to muddle through with a leader they feel secure with, if not particularly inspired by.
6). U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks will succeed. I’m going to stick by my prediction from last year, even though the obstacles to such an accord loom large. Even if the two sides can find compromises on key issues, conservatives in both the US and Iran will try to block any agreement that is reached. While President Obama, as is often the case these days, will likely find a way to bypass Congress, it’s less clear that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomenei will ever find it in his heart or his interest to trust the US. If the agreement is able to go forward, however, it will represent the triumph of state interests over individual ideologies and institutional chokepoints.
7). Tensions in Ukraine will lessen. Russia, which is under severe stress from international sanctions and loss of oil revenue, will lean on its associates in Ukraine to sign a new agreement with the central government that reduces tensions and allows for a larger voice and government with special group rights for the people of the region. The Crimea is gone to Ukraine for good, however, and its status will make it difficult for countries that have taken a harder line against Russia, mainly the US and EU, to reduce sanctions and distrust will continue to characterize the relationship.
8). There will be light at the end of the tunnel for the TTP by the end of 2015. With nuclear negotiations, the ability of negotiators to reach an agreement might be the easy part compared to it being accepted at home. On the other hand, the complicated negotiation around the potential Trans-Pacific Treaty, which have been in the works for five years, may finally begin look like they are coming to fruition. Such a treaty would likely make it through Congress and be signed by the President. But, I’m going to say probably not in time for years’ end.
9). Things in Syria will continue to be a mess. The Syrian move will make token moves to install figures associated with the opposition, but few militants will care and the fighting will continue.
10). Increased cooperation in Yemen. The US government will increase its cooperation with the now Houthi-dominated regime in Yemen, finding common cause against Al Qaeda militants there despite distaste with having to work with an Iranian-aligned group.
11). More hopeful times for Afghanistan. With new supplies and training, a new US support role, and, most importantly, new leadership there will be new energy among Afghan security forces during 2015. There may be a period of Taliban resurgence, but by the end of the year things will be looking hopeful in much of Afghanistan.
12). The Colombian government and FARC will finally reach a comprehensive agreement that ends the country’s four decade conflict (if an agreeable way to disarm the rebels can be found).
13). Remember when we were kids and we all thought we’d have holographic TVs by now (along with flying cars)? While I don’t think we’ll see that anytime soon, I think 2015 will be a pretty big year for 3D, well, stuff. TVs, video games, printers, medical technology – by a year from now 3D will be a term we use to refer to in reference to a lot more things than movies. Oh, and yes, as I predicted last year, smart watches will be a big thing – but it’ll remain to be seen whether they’re just a fad.
14). New England wins the Superbowl in a big, boring, blowout.
15). I’m feeling the Oscar prediction pressure this year after going 3-3 in recent years. This year’s field seems wider open than usual, with five movies: Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, The Imitation Game, and Selma all having a realistic chance of winning the picture Best Picture prize. Boyhood’s the slight favorite, and apparently President Obama’s choice. Since I haven’t seen any of these movie’s yet, I’m going to fall back on my reasoning over recent years that Academy Voters like two things about movies more than any other factors: 1). Movies with themes concerning oppressed groups; and 2). Movies about Hollywood. The Imitation Game and Selma meet the first condition, but not the second. Birdman meets the second, but not the first. I’m going to guess that voters will go with the movie they relate to more as Hollywood-types, as they have two of the last three years with The Artist and Argo. So . . . my Best Picture bet for this year is Birdman. You got it here first. Put all your money on Birdman for your Oscar pools.
So, those are my fifteen, mostly optimistic, predictions for 2015. Unlike 2014, which saw some major crises development around the world, I predict 2015 will be less eventful. Undoubtedly, though, there will be some surprises in store that no one has even considered.