Friday, January 02, 2009

New for the '09: Top Ten Predictions

In the afterlife gladiators meet their maker
Float through the wheat fields and lakes of blue water
To the next life from the fortress
Away from the knives and slaughter
To their wives and daughters
Once more before the Lord judges over all of us
Cos in this place you'll see me
Brace yourself, cos this goes deep
I'll show you the secrets, the sky and the birds
Actions speak louder than words
Stand by me my apprentice
Be brave, clench fists.
--The Streets

Here are my predictions for 2009:
1. There will be all out war in Afghanistan. The most under-reported story of 2008 is the comingmassive surge planned for Afghanistan. With Gates at the helm, the US will attempt to learn from its painful Mesopotamian experience by applying counter-insurgency practices from Iraq, Vietnam, Algeria, and Chechnya. The US, Canada, Britain and France will suffer record losses, but will push the Taliban to the edges of Afghanistan, achieving a broader mandate for the central authority to exert control. This will result in....

2. ...A civil war in Pakistan. With the US shoring up the Afghan side of the border, and India and the central Pakistan government at odds with Lashka-e-Taiba, there will be full confrontation between the various factions of Pakistan as pushing the civil war outside its borders becomes less of an option. Expect more events like the Red Mosque Incident.

3. The Housing Bubble will not completely deflate in 2009, and probably will not deflate fully until 2011. As you will recall, the tech bubble deflated over the course of 2 years (2000 - 2002). These assets, the stocks in tech companies are some of the most liquid assets on earth. Perceived changes in value are immediately reflected in asset prices. Houses on the other hand, are the most illiquid assets of the general population, and price changes take years to be reflected because of that. The US' housing meltdown is well underway, and Canada's is about to get far worse.

4. The Recession will not end in 2009. The problems of the economy are structural, hard to fix and with paper and housing losses decimating personal perceived wealth, consumer confidence will wane even more. The Recession will not become a depression simply because the US and China have committed to major spending initiatives early, but overall negative GDP figures in the G8 will be standard.

5. Oil Prices will take the wind out of the sales of Iran, Venezuela and Russia. Expect less militancy out of these regimes as internal problems and budget emergencies make external belligerence less viable. I would say Putin, Ahmadinejad, and Chavez will be keeping a lower profile in 2009, and one of them may exit the stage.

6. FARC will be all but dead by year end. The loss of soldiers, the propaganda war, resources and Venezuela's backing mean FARC will reach its lowest ever levels of support, land and tactical strength. Turncoats, losses of hostages, and tactical successes by Colombia's government mean that FARC is on its last legs.

7. Obama will lift the Cuban Embargo. The winds of change are blowing and with the strategically important Florida Cuban population shifting towards reconciliation with Cuba now that Castro is out of the drivers' seat, there is an opportunity to strike a bold new bilateral agreement with Cuba and relieve the suffering on the island. Engagement will mean influence and possibly moving Cuba out of the enemy column of the US' shitlist. That is not only a political win, but a smart move when your enemy is a short boat ride from the Florida coast. This is a bold, smart, and strategically
important move for the US.

8. The Liberals will win a general election this summer. The Conservative leadership has failed the party and the country, playing politics with the budgets and generally being out of step with the electorate on cultural and moral issues. With new leadership for the Liberals under Ignatieff and some thoughtful new policies, 2009 may see the return of the Liberals to power. I personally hope they leave the corruption of the Chretien era behind and follow a new path.

9. The environment will cease to be a top issue as long as the economy is in the tank. This is a long term trend - whenever people worry about the rent, they don't have time or resources to take up the cause of polar bears and melting polar caps. This is not because I wish it to be so, but because it is the truth. Al Gore became VP to Clinton because in the early nineties, environmentalism was deemed important, but the election became a referendum on the economy ("It's the economy, stupid" was the mantra of the late '92 Clinton campaign.)

10. Not all of these gloomy predictions will be right.

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