Apologies for the delay, but I thought it would be a good idea to offer a few of my predictions for foreign affairs in 2009. They range from the hugely beneficial to the barely relevant to our daily lives, and pose a very diverse range of challenges to our new President and the world order.
This is part one of a three-step path to peace in the Levant. Syria and Iran have kept the Palestinian fire stoked with increasingly powerful weaponry for use against Israel. If Syrian support ends and some arrangement can be worked out with Iran, the table is set for a real solution to the Israel/Palestine question. Luscus is most in favor of a hybrid state (surprisingly similar to that presented by Pres. Gaddafi recently at a teleconference at Georgetown University, his published 'white book', and in an op-ed for the NYT).
2. Pakistan comes dangerously close to another military coup. Going against conventional wisdom, military intervention in Pakistani politics has generally been a net positive. While I will not dismiss the gross violations of human rights that have occurred in 1958, 1977, and 1999, the military has been a main secular force in promoting stability and limiting corruption. Aside from jailing the Chief Justice of their supreme court, Iftikhan Chaudry, Luscus has been a fan of Musharraf. With the current presidency of "Mr. 10%" Asif Zardari and the rise of the Paksitan Muslim League, several circumstances could arise in which the military might feel necessary to intervene: breakdown in US-Pakistan relations, political and military failures in the North-west Frontier Province and/or Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, or economic collapse. The latter has been stemmed by a $7.6b loan from the IMF, but in this economic climate, who knows if that is enough?
3. Civil war in Sudan. The 2005 peace agreement allows for a popular vote on secession to occur in 2011, but a combination of pressure for action on Darfur, spillover from the Congolese conflict or northern Uganda, and the issue of the mysterious arms shipment hijacked by Somali pirates from Kenya in September 2008 could lead to preemptive action by Khartoum. However, as President al-Bashir is already under indictment for war crimes, he may be hesitant to engage in further military action. But on the other hand he might feel that he has nothing to lose.
4. Military coup in Philippines. It seems that every year sees a new plot to overthrow President Macapagal Arroyo and the government of the Philippines. With rumors of US Special Forces being taught Tagalog (don't ask), this may be signal of preparation for a larger conflict.
5. Violence in the Crimea possible talk of secession, or Russian irredentism. With both the Russian and Ukrainian navies based in Sevastopol, this ethnic-Russian conclave of Ukraine might see movement to rejoin Russia (the Crimea was added to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev should the political situation in Ukraine continue to deteriorate, or if Russo-Ukrainian tensions escalate due to the ongoing dispute over gas transfer and payments.
6. Resurgence of violence in Congo. This is perhaps the easiest prediction, what with three major conflicts inside or along DR Congo's borders.
First, that the winding-down of the Ugandan conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army (caused by the death of General Joseph Kony's spiritual inspiration, Alice, and breakdown of ceasefire talks between the government and Kony's son) does not occur, and fighting breaks out and spreads on both sides of the border. Second, the pursuit into DR Congo of Hutu militias by the Rwandan government, accused of complicity in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis. In 1996, the Hutu groups, fleeing from confrontation at the end of the Rwandan conflict, ran rampant through then Zaire, sending it into civil war and causing the transfer of power from Pres. Mobutu to Pres. Laurent Kabila (father of current president Joseph) and the re-naming of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lastly, this could be a pure collapse of government authority within the borders due to pressure from groups which have become entrenched and seeking greater permanence within the political structure.
7. Potential collapse of Mexican state. This is unlikely to occur in totality, but any increase in power held by the Sinaloa and Gulf drug cartels could threaten the government's legitimacy and definitely threaten state control of at least two of its northern provinces. President Calderon being a strong ally of the United States, as well as the proximity to our southern border and Mexico's rising preeminence in the flow of drugs to the US, expect increased American support.
8. Great Britain bankrupt. Considerable attention was paid during the collapse of Iceland's economy and government, what with the country's banking sectors making up a far larger share of its GDP than sustainable by its central bank. Other finance-intense economies have definitely taken notice. While this isn't 100% likely, the role played by 'the City' in the United Kingdom's economy is congruent to the situation in Iceland, albeit on a larger scale. Should the economic situation worsen, it remains to be seen how far the UK can remain solvent. Without a strong American manufacturing industry to fall back on (as has been the case in past crises), the increasing talk of joining the Euro should be taken as a sign of desperation. But on that point at least, the mood is not very different elsewhere.
On a financial level, a new New Deal is foolish as a single package, as is now favored by the Democratic majority. A quick stimulus, combined with both the Judicial restructuring of mortgage rates to prevent foreclosures and a slow, gradual, ad hoc investment in our interstate commerce infrastructure (read: not simple handouts for individual states). As is a 'Bretton Woods II', as the global economy is too complex to be managed via a gold standard, or any alternative non-national reserve currency. Toward that end, greater transparency in accounting practices combined with a tightening of the screws on tax-havens and the abuse of FDI for market manipulation should put us on a more even keel.
This by no means is an exhaustive list - merely one that has compiled some of the major areas I have been following. Insight into the immediate futures of India and North Korea - perhaps the two elephants missing from the list - would be too complex, requiring a diplomatic sequence of Rube Goldberg proportions.