Friday, January 02, 2004

Well, it's time to review my predictions for the past year, and issue new ones for 2004. First, last year's record:
  • A year from now, Iraq will be where Afghanistan is today: a troubled but largely ignored backwater where things are much better than before the US invasion, and American troops help minimize the chaos, but there's still plenty of turmoil, and the long-term political structure of the country has yet to be fully sorted out.
  • Correct, apart from the "largely ignored" bit. I still expect, though, that once US troops are no longer in Iraq in large numbers, Iraq will be as prominent in the news as Afghanistan is today.
  • Another terrorist "mega-attack" will occur, this time somewhere in Western Europe.
  • Fortunately, some excellent police work in several European countries, uncovering a number of terrorist cells primed for action, ruined the accuracy of my prediction. Al Qaida has focused instead on Middle Eastern targets (although the generous might be willing to consider Turkey part of Europe).
  • Yasser Arafat, Kim Jong Il, Ayatollah Khamenei and Hugo Chavez will (barring death by natural causes) still be clinging to power in their respective political entities at the end of the year, although perhaps somewhat more precariously than at present. The "engagement" strategies pursued by the UN, EU, OAS and other multilateralist organizations with respect to these leaders will have absolutely no effect on their strength or belligerence levels. Their satrapies will suffer further declines in living conditions, but will otherwise (and, particularly, in political terms) remain largely unchanged.
  • My most accurate prediction. Arafat had a bit of a scare, but came through with flying colors, while Chavez managed to postpone the reckoning till next year. Kim and Khamenei were never seriously in jeopardy, despite a few overstated rumblings in the blogosphere.
  • The major American market indices will experience yet another year of net decline, as will the US Dollar and real estate market. The American economy will have dipped back into recession by the end of the year, and the domestic American political debate will have largely shifted from international politics to economics. The president's popularity will suffer significantly as a result, although not as severely as his father's did.
  • Way off base, apart from the dollar. Of course, it's awfully tough to time the markets.
  • Japan will at last begin adopting some necessary financial reforms. Their short term effect on its economy will be markedly negative.
  • Some reforms have at last begun, but the American-led boom has so far cushioned Japan from the adverse consequences.

    Now for some predictions:

  • George W. Bush will soundly defeat his Democratic opponent, Howard Dean, in November. The Republicans will maintain control of both houses of Congress, with roughly the same margins as today.

  • Paul Martin will not win a majority government in a Canadian federal election.

  • US troops will still be in Iraq in substantial (though somewhat reduced) numbers at year's end.

  • Of the four leaders I mentioned last year, all will remain in power by year's end (Chavez by falsifying or ignoring the results of the upcoming referendum), barring death by natural or accidental causes.

  • This year the overpriced major American markets will experience a net decline (and this time, I mean it!). The US dollar will also fall, relative to foreign currencies. Inflation and interest rates will tick upward, in reaction to the falling dollar--but not by that much. Economic growth will slow substantially, but will not tip into recession until after the election.

  • Conflicts between the US and Europe will be overshadowed by conflicts between the US and China (over trade, exchange rates, weapons proliferation, North Korea, and human rights).

  • And now for a few more daring predictions:

  • As with "Soviet chic" in the early 1990's, "Iraqi chic" will prompt trendy Americans to don accessories bearing the image of Saddam Hussein.

  • The Atkins diet will be found to work best when combined with calorie-rich desserts, thus proving Woody Allen eerily prescient.

  • To boost the 2004 Olympics' sagging television ratings, the IOC will allow athletes from around the world to vote each other out of the Olympic village, awarding medals to the last remaining competitors in each sport.

  • Rioting will break out at the Academy Awards ceremony when the newly installed electronic voting system reports that "Gigli" has won the "Best Picture" Oscar.

  • The Bush re-election campaign will start a blog, in response to Howard Dean's, only to give it up after the president repeatedly refers in public to his "blob".

  • A terrorist will detonate a powerful chemical weapon in a French airliner restroom towards the end of a long transatlantic flight; nobody will notice.
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