Looking Forward, Looking Back

Welcome to the New Year — a good time to look back and look forward.

Here are a few of the predictions I made last year, to keep myself honest:

On EGYPT, AUGUST 2:

“Dozens of groups are contending to gain popular support, organize competitive parties, and marshal their supporters for the coming elections. In the history of revolutions, this is the phase during which an initial ‘honeymoon’ of joy and cooperation often gives way to sectarian conflicts and threats of counter-revolution.”

Sadly, this proved all too true — Egypt’s military council has engaged in violent counterrevolution against continuing protests; and as I worried, this counter-revolution has given stronger impetus to Islamists and extremists.  Threats to the treaty with Israel, to women’s rights, and to Egyptian Christians, are greater than ever before.

On the SUPERCOMMITTEE, AUGUST 12:
“The only way the supercommittee will come up with something useful is if Obama gets aggressive and holds it accountable. The President has to say — “every poll shows that two-thirds of the American people want a major reduction in our deficit, and they want to achieve it with a combination of budget cuts and tax increases on the highest income brackets. Either this supercommittee responds to the will of the American people or I will hold it accountable.” (See my post “Lessons in Negotiation for Obama”).  … Unfortunately, that has not been Obama’s style. His nature seems to be to wait, assuming that the facts of the situation will inevitably propel the subcommittee to a ‘reasonable’ outcome. But the problem here is that the most reasonable outcome for the Republicans on the committee is to hold fast to their no-tax position and claim that any failure is wholly due to Obama’s insistence on raising taxes in the midst of a recession (never mind that Republicans are in favor of a much larger tax increase on ordinary workers by opposing extension of the social security tax cuts). So if Obama sits back and waits for a ‘reasonable’ outcome, he will get another defeat.

Again, this proved all too true, as Obama stayed in the background and the supercommittee gave up without accomplishing anything.  Was this a defeat for Obama, or for the Republicans?  We won’t know that for sure until the election in November.

On RICK PERRY, AUGUST 17:

“So could Rick Perry be the US’s Margaret Thatcher? It remains to be seen whether he has the intelligence, political skills, and policy success that distinguished the Iron Lady. But at the least, given the zeitgeist of the US, Perry should be taken very seriously as a candidate for President.”

On this one, I have to give myself a raspberry.  Sensing a shift to the right in US politics, I thought that Rick Perry — a sitting governor with a good record on jobs and great financial support — would capture the voters looking for a conservative saviour.  I underestimated the impact of televised debates and Perry’s lack of on-camera skill.  So it now appears the beneficiaries of that shift to the right will be the even more extreme and unelectable Ron Paul and Rich Santorum (we will see how they fare tonight in Iowa’s caucases).

On LIBYA and SYRIA, AUGUST 18:

“They will soon put the final squeeze on Gadhafi, and we can expect the morale and solidarity of his supporters to further decline. He may hold out in his bunker in Tripoli a bit longer, but my earlier predictions that his regime would not last to the end of the year still look accurate.

In Syria, things have much further to go. But the Assad regime has not been able to extinguish protest, and this week the US, UK, and France stepped up their sanctions and the US has finally plainly called for Assad to give up power (See my post “Syria — US will say Assad has to go”). It will take a few weeks for the new sanctions to start to bite, but they will hurt the business class that has been the last major prop for Assad. It may take a few months further for their support to start to peel away, but this is a major turning point, and from here it looks to be a downhill slide for Assad.”

It seems that Assad may last a few months longer, but these forecasts were pretty much right on.  Gadhafi’s regime collapsed within a few days of this posting, and Tripoli was in the rebel’s hands by August 24.  Syria’s resistance has grown while Assad’s support throughout the region and in Syria continues to shrink.

Syria, update on 27 September:

“All of which means the Syrian protest is not dying down; rather it is entering an even more brutal and extreme phase.  The regime is creating martyrs; the conflict is beginning to touch the key economic center of Aleppo; and there are early (but still minor) signs of cracks in the security forces.   I believe strong international pressures will keep these trends going further, as will continued economic slippage.  This will be a difficult struggle, but it is far from over and the odds are still, in my view, against the regime surviving another full year.

So we shall see if Assad is still clinging to power in summer of 2012, or gone, as I predict.

I wish all of my readers wonderful things to come in 2012; but I also caution you to be prepared.  We have not seen the end of European crises, nor of the struggle between counterrevolutionary and radical forces in the Arab world.  There is a housing bubble even larger than that in the U.S. or Europe that is now bursting in China. The U.S. is no closer to solving its housing, debt and budget problems.  I fear it is our curse is to live in interesting times.

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
This entry was posted in The Middle East Revolts, U.S. Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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