Special 2009 Prediction Edition
This was so successful last year...I guess I got lucky...that I thought I'd do it again this year.
1) India/Pakistan - This I think will be the most important story of 2009, what happens on the subcontinent. We saw the beginnings of a serious conflict starting with the assassination of Bhutto in December 2007, and moving right through the Mumbai attacks last year. Already today, India is accusing Pakistan of a soft touch in dealing with terrorists. This could be a horrendous situation and if I had to pick the flash point of the next world war, this is it. Remember, they are both nuclear powers. Pakistan is bordered by China and Iran, as well, so not good.
2) Israel/Palestine - Sort of a no-brainer, to be sure, but a challenge to President Obama, nonetheless and likely to be dominating the news this winter and the end of the year, I think.
3) The Economy - Again, a no-brainer. What hasn't been talked about much in this country is how global this downturn truly is. China has already enlisted the aide of several western economic consultants to guide it through this recession, but as the Bush administration has shown, there's a flu in the economy that swamps even seasoned policymakers. China becomes the linchpin of the global economy, because while America is still the strongest economic force, much of that is due to China's willingness to do just about anything to make a buck.
4) Energy - I'm going out on a limb here, but my guess is Barack Obama will deal with two birds using his stone of economic recovery: the bad economy and US energy policy. Universally, it is agreed that the US has to shed its dependence on foreign fossil energy sources, and while there is a strong dispute coming from the neaderthals still, over global warming, it seems pretty clear that renewable energy will play a much bigger role in our policy than ever before.
5) Obesity - With a healthy (if smoking) President in office who has the attention and respect of the country, and can shed his shirt without embarrassing himself, I think the country will finally begin a serious dialogue regarding obesity. That the recession will have people reconsidering their food choices to begin with will help, altho fast food is cheap and easy to get and that will hamper efforts to deal with this problem head-on. Governor Patterson of New York state is already calling for an "obesity tax" tax on sugared soft drinks. I expect this will be expanded to include fatty foods.
6) Africa - I dropped this from number one to number six this year, because I think things have stabilized a bit, with the Zimbabwean elections now passed, even if the results are muddled. The impact of the economic downturn on the Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan nations like Somalia will play a big role in whether things heat up again or not. I don't think the effects of the downturn filter to Africa until 2010.
7) Weather - Calling nature twelve months out is always risky, and I was tempted to moderate this topic by calling it "Global Warming", but the fact is, I think we're in for a helluva ride from Mother Nature this year. When you have tornadoes at Christmas in Alabama (not exactly in Tornado Alley), you have the set-up for a horrendous early Spring.
8) Terrorism - I agree with Joe Biden. I think Barack Obama will be challenged early in his term, just as both Bush and Clinton were, by a terrorist attack, possibly on US soil. Now, this does not mean the attack will be successful, just that there will be an attempt. I think Obama one-ups Bush and Clinton and foils it.
9) Afghanistan - The winding down of the US presence in Iraq will bring renewed attention to the tenuous situation in Afghanistan, particularly now that Pakistan has re-opened the Khyber Pass. Taliban forces are already making a mockery of the US efforts there, with Kabul being one of the few places where people can go about their business freely. Obama has already stated his intent to increase his focus on that situation.
10) Cuba - This one will create some waves, but I predict the US will finally end its ridiculous embargo on Cuba. In terms of the side effects of this policy, as the BBC article I've linked to points out, it is a symbolic gesture, largely (I regularly bring Cuban cigars and rum into the US and Customs doesn't even blink an eye, altho if they read this, I expect I'll be strip-searched in two weeks when I return from my trip), but the signals that it sends will be massive.