I can see the future. My amazing ability happens to be limited to our war in Iraq, our war on terrorism and the 2004 elections but I see it nonetheless. I’d like to think my ability is remarkable and soon I’d have a TV show on the SciFi Channel next to John Edward but there is no magic about it. It’s not hard in the least. All you have to do is look at facts on the ground, look at our history, look at geopolitics and it becomes a no brainer. I am disturbed (but not surprised) that what is obvious to me is not obvious to what passes for leadership in this country.
My first prediction is easy: our occupation of Iraq will turn into a quagmire. Some of you might be saying, well, it’s already a quagmire: duh! Quite right but I had predicted this before we invaded in the first place. I never doubted we would win a military victory, but I never believed we could win the peace. The only question now is how long we hang in there before we throw in the towel. The reality will be a lot like Somalia, only over a much longer time. Our troops will continue to die from sniper fire in a long war of attrition. Our desire to enforce a peace will mean little freedom of movement for Iraqis who consequently will continue to be unemployed and suffer greatly. It will resemble more and more the West Bank with endless checkpoints and military patrols. This will in turn build resentment that will feed on itself, resulting in more attacks, more resentment, more skirmishes. If we had used our brains instead of our brawn we’d be trying to get the United Nations to come in and take over for us. But that won’t happen of course because it might mean we’d have to admit we can’t take on the world unilaterally. Eventually, probably about a year after Bush loses the 2004 election, we’ll withdraw. The Pundits will call it “Iraqization” but effectively we will slowly withdraw and let the country return to the anarchy it effectively has right now. But hey, Saddam won’t reimerge, or will he?
Why is this prediction so easy to make? Just go a thousand miles to the east and look at what we are doing in Afghanistan. At least there we effectively limited our occupation to Kabul and got mostly foreign troops to do the police work. But there simply wasn’t the will to really make a genuine peace and there won’t be the same will in Iraq.
Next prediction: the roadmap to peace will fail. Again this is an absurdly easy prediction to make. I wish it would succeed but it can’t. There are lots of reasons but perhaps the biggest reason of all is that the Palestinians have no means other than persuasion to get groups like Hamas to stop terrorism. The Israelis, of course, insist that the Palestinian police force can go in and root out these terrorists. But of course there are a zillion Israeli checkpoints so what little remains of a Palestinian police force cannot get from place to place. But effectively there IS no Palestinian police force. Virtually all their police stations have been destroyed by the Israelis. The Israelis are the only real power on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They have the best trained police force in the world and they can’t stop all these acts of terror either. And yet Israel and in fact our own government says, with a straight face, that Palestinians themselves can stop the terrorism.
Not going to happen. Because even if Palestinians were armed to the teeth like the Israelis they would still have the same problem. You can’t make a terrorist stop being a terrorist through force of arms. The best you can do is through a police state limit the damage. But of course there is something in the human nature that the more you oppress a group the more determined they are to show they still have power. Suicide bombings didn’t just happen. They were a direct result of all other forms of resistance not working. Peace marches didn’t faze the Israelis in the least. They just kept building more settlements and bulldozing more Palestinian dwellings. So nice try Bush and Powell; and I’m glad that Bush at least came out for the idea of a Palestinian state in principle. Unfortunately that’s all it will be because the dynamics of the conflict will not change. To truly change the situation Israel would have to end the occupation and remove its settlers, and then it would have to endure years of terrorism anyhow. It would have to give up other things it doesn’t want to give up, like 80% of the water it takes from the Jordan River. But eventually with a lot of international aid the problem would grow less severe over time. This is not a tradeoff that will ever be made in my lifetime. One cannot get Israelis to accept the notion of withdrawal and continued, though declining terrorism. It would be seen as defeat. But over ten years or so it would largely solve the problem.
Prediction Number Three. Bush loses in 2004. Yeah, I see the poll numbers. But he isn’t doing as well as his father did at the same point in his presidency. Reuters has him at 57%, so he is approaching levels of popularity he had before the war started. For some of the factors that will cause him to lose, see above. But the real reason he will lose will be the economy. Yes, it might improve but two million lost jobs cannot be erased between now and Election Day. Iraq will continue to be a quagmire that will slowly sap his popularity. The budget deficit will demonstrate he is utterly lacking in financial management skills. People are scared at the unaffordability of health insurance and want it, but he doesn’t have a clue and it is anathema to his ideology. On Election Day 2004 it will be a no brainer. Will we better off than we were in 2000? Not a chance. Do we feel more secure and safe in spite of 9/11? Nope. Is our country headed in the right direction? Not with historically high deficits, lack of national health insurance, obscene giveaways to the richest people, and a continued degradation of our environment. I’d like to think that in addition to losing reelection we’ll get a Democratic congress again but that is much less likely. The $200M war chest Bush is creating for his reelection will narrow the margins. But four years will be enough and we’ll be fed up enough to vote in numbers large enough to throw him out; it’s not like he came into office with a mandate in the first place. Enjoy clearing brush on your ranch in Texas, George. That seems to be something you can do well.