Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sorry for the Absence

My apologies for the long absence. I'd like to blame it on the holidays, and I suppose I can to an extent. I get terribly depressed around this time of year, and (combined with a nasty case of the flu) that kept me down for a couple of weeks. It was all I could manage to finish my article for Rule Set Reset (the monthly journal of the New Rule Sets Project). I'm quite happy about that. I consider having a 1000 word article next to articles by Thomas P.M. Barnett, TM Lutas, and Mark Safranski (Zenpundit) to be an honor. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why Tom asked me to write for them, but, hey, I'll take the exposure without asking too many questions.

Tom and Critt, thanks for asking me to be involved. Bob Jacobson, thanks for the outstanding coaching and editing. I'm proud to have worked with you.

If it's quite all right with the NRSP kids I'll post the article here when the Feb. issue of RSR comes out. Assuming that I keep getting a soap box in RSR, I'll try to publish the articles here as the following issues come out.

Esther Dyson and Jeff Jarvis on NPR

I hope at least some of you managed to listen to Esther Dyson and Jeff Jarvis on NPR this morning. There was some really serious insight into how the Internet (and blogs in particular) are changing everything from disaster relief to the media. It was all the guff that bloggers already know, but it demonstrated that NPR has really begun to get globalization. I also particularly like that a major media outlet is giving play to serious blogs, and that Wonkette's flirtation with a certain Capitol Hill hussy will no longer be the way that outsiders remember blogs.

The New Year

The calender insists that this is a new year, but I view time as a series of events rather than just a series of dates. So, by my reckoning it's New Year's Eve. About three hours ago the Palestinians started voting. Since I count the Tsunami (and the initial flow of aid) as the final event of 2004, I'm counting the Palestinian elections, or rather their completion, as the first major event of 2005. When the votes are in and a successor to Yassir Arafat has been declared, I'll call it '05. Get ready for a high bit rate for the next few weeks. The Tsunami pulled the vast majority of media and policy attention for a couple of weeks, but this election and the begining of this session of Congress are going to start a massive flow of pent up political energy. I'll save my immediate predictions as they're all fairly obvious, but I suppose I'll make a few big ones for '05.

1) Sharon's shaky government will collapse and the Palestinian peace process will require the intervention of an outside negotiator. Sharon will survive politically, but he probably won't be the PM. This will all happen after the settlement pullouts are largely complete, and the trigger will be budgetary in nature.

2) The attention that the Tsunami has brought to the Tamil Tigers will draw a third party negotiator to help bring about an end to that conflict. The Tigers will gain enough legitimacy in international eyes to become more of a political party and less of an insurgency.

3) Costal areas hit by the Tsunami will rebuild rapidly. By 2006 they will contribute at least double their previous percentages of their respective GDPs on average. These regions will attract massive investment due to the restructuring of local property laws and the creation of new physical infrastructure.

4) Iraq will be headed for trifurcation, though it will remain Iraq. The national government will exist, but it will serve as little more than a political battleground for the three regions to argue over oil rights. While the Shiites continue to stabilize and prosper the Sunnis will wage an undeclared civil war. We will, in response, train a largely Shiite military which will further alienate the Sunnis. The end result will be a bloody conflict management which will not improve until the peacekeeping force is made significantly more multi-lateral. The violent conflict in Iraq will only improve when continental Europe gets off its high horse and helps. That in turn will only happen when the Bush and Blair administrations ask politely. We might be waiting until 2007 for that. Another possibility is that the Islamic world, led by Turkey and Iran, will stage a serious effort to bring about peace in Iraq, but that sort of help will be linked (indirectly) to Turkey's EU ambitions and Iran's bomb.

5) The European Union will deal with more homegrown Islamic terrorism than ever before, prompting leaders to involve Europe more deeply in the Global War on Terror. This could prompt reconcilliation between the US and Europe over Iraq if Bush plays his cards right. As Europe will find itself the new home of massive terror networks, the epicenter of this reconcilliation will likely be interagency cooperation between US and European intel agencies. This one's an outside bet, but I'll still throw some cash on it.

6) This will be a weak year for national domestic policy due to massive partisan debate in Congress. The Hill will be full of sound and fury signifying nothing, but state governments will use the chance to seize the limelight, starting a decentralization of power. The rising stars of both parties will come from state governments, dashing the hopes of more than a few members of the House for political advancement.

That's all I'll predict for'05. This is going to be a tedious year in a lot of ways. Very little will come to fruition, but we'll see the emergence of quite a few patterns. Oh, one last one, North Korea will implode with less fanfare than expected. China will deal with that handily enough that the US barely gets involved until after the dice for the future of the country are already thrown.
Well, we'll just put that on to simmer for a year, and we'll see how well my crystal ball works later. Time for me to crawl back into my bottle of NyQuil. See you all after the votes are counted in Palestine.

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