Monday, October 15, 2007

What's Likely to Happen

THE AMERICAN WAY. One thing that's really missing from our national political dialogue is serious contemplation of the future. That's because both major parties are locked into their own discrete time zones. The Democrats occupy a fantasy time past that could be called "What shouldn't have been allowed to happen," in which they rail about irrevocable decisions they would have made differently, thus preventing the unacceptable present. The Republicans confine themselves to the crisis-driven time present of "What can't be allowed to happen," in which their view of the future is blocked by one or two possible outcomes so terrible they believe everyone must dread them as fearfully as they do. The mainstream media straddle these two zones, creating an unreal superposition of past and present which projects the impossible proposition that the only way forward is to somehow repeal the recent past and initiate a do-over. Life as a video game with a reset option.

But there is no reset option. Regardless of our preferences, the future will unfold before us, good and bad, and it is not entirely unknowable. The propensities of key players are far from mysterious. All we have to do is recognize those propensities and consider how they will probably play out. Here's an example of that process.

1. Bush has won his last major battle in office. The war will continue and the Democrats will shift their focus to electoral victory in 2008 rather than American defeat in Iraq. In all other respects, the administration is too paralyzed and impotent to undertake serious action against Iran or the terrorist regimes in Syria and the Palestinian territories.

2. The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton. She's the supreme symbol of the fantasy past they long for -- that very brief moment in history after the Cold War and before 9/11, when America could hold the world at bay with vaguely worded treaties and concern itself with domestic prosperity and feel-good social policy gestures. Further, they have fierce, irrational faith in her ability to punish Republicans for the brutal termination of what they simply cannot see as a mere intermission in the incredibly costly and nasty interactions between America and the rest of the world.

3. The Republicans will nominate Rudy Giuliani because they simply must have a warrior candidate -- first, to have any kind of chance against the incredibly unscrupulous and dirty campaign Hillary will run against any Republican, and second, to stop the unthinkable from happening if he should somehow be elected president. Romney doesn't have the cold-blooded aggression to pull the trigger on enemies foreign or domestic. Thompson is just too comfortable to rouse himself for any kind of fight. So Giuliani will get the nod, the religious right will remain true to their own rigid fantasy of turning back the clock, and they will stay home on election day.

4. Hillary will win the presidency. She will campaign on a platform of domestic giveaway programs, international negotiation to restore American popularity in the world, and doing all the right and necessary things to head off the catastrophe of global warming. Giuliani will try to make voters care about the need to defeat Islamic fascism, and he will promise to give away money too, though less than Hillary. But the voters are tired of Islamic fascism and wish it would just go away. They also think it's better to get more stuff for free rather than less stuff. And since Hillary won't be able to give them the maximum stuff without a veto-proof Congress, they will give her that, too. It's time for a change.

5. Hillary will give a great inauguration speech that will remind everyone of FDR's New Deal. During her honeymoon period she will finally pass legislation taxing the evil rich enough and use the money to pay for a new national health care program. Congress will take the lead in repealing the Patriot Act and passing new laws extending constitutional protections to illegal immigrants and foreign nationals. The Guantanamo facility will be shut down, its prisoners set free or remanded to civilian courts for due process. As Commander-in-Chief, Clinton will take a wait-and-see approach in Iraq, while senior officers resign in droves from the U.S. military, and re-enlistments plummet in every branch of service. Troop drawdowns will therefore become absolutely necessary, regardless of the military situation in Iraq, and the Clinton administration will respond by launching ambitious negotiations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria to obtain a pan-Arabian treaty securing stability in Iraq. As one of the necessary terms of the treaty, the administration will coerce the exhausted Israelis into accepting the final steps of partitioning Jerusalem, granting the "right-of-return" to exiled Palestinians, and recognizing Hamas as the rightful government of the Palestinian state.

6. When the troops begin to come home from Iraq, sectarian violence will increase dramatically as Syrian and Iranian reinforcements rearm al Qaeda and insurgent militias. The military will be embarrassed by humiliating and bloody tactical blunders, as well as emerging scandals of corruption, malfeasance, and civilian atrocities. Military morale will reach an all-time low. Congress will launch investigations of senior military officers. Assad and Ahdumjihad will deny involvement in the renewed Iraqi violence, although they will eventually be compelled to send in peacekeeping troops to "support" the failing Iraqi government. All-out civil war will ensue.

7. Belatedly, the European nations will express concern about the dramatic increase in Iran's nuclear program, and they will put up a fairly united front in objecting to Vladimir Putin's overt technical and military aid to Iran. The Cinton administration will conduct multi-lateral negotiations with Putin to obtain a treaty securing their cooperation in stabilizing the middle east, part of which will involve decommitting the U.S. to missile defense. At some point, while all this negotiating is going on, the Musharaff government will be overthrown, and Pakistan will fall into civil war. The administration will ask the U.N. for assistance in ending the violence, resulting in endless talks, and U.S. troops will be transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan in a show of force designed to deter extremists from exporting or otherwise exploiting Pakistan's unprotected nuclear arsenal.

8. In the dwindling period before Palestinians begin returning to Israel, Ahdumjihad will launch a surprise nuclear strike on Israel which will be only partially successful. Over a million Israelis will die outright, and another million will be poisoned or sickened with radiation. The partially successful Israeli counterattack will likewise kill a million Iranians and stop the flow of Iranian oil to the west. The Clinton administration will threaten the use of American military power to prevent Syria from invading crippled Israel. American aid will flow to Israel and Iran, and elsewhere in the world, nations will send aid to Iran. The U.N. will meet to condemn the actions of both Israel and Iran in using nuclear weapons.

9. Vladimir Putin will dramatically raise the price of Russian oil while the middle east writhes in chaos and Islamists worldwide launch terrorist attacks on targets of opportunity, including Iraqi and Saudi oilfields. This will catalyze a worldwide recession that causes governments to fall in Europe in favor of political coalitions seeking to placate Russia by breaking their alliances with the U.S. The sudden economic downturn in China will also convince that government to secure its own oil supply by forming an overt alliance with Putin's Russia and providing military "aid," including troops, to Pakistan and Iran.

10. To protect Americans and prevent a wider war, the Clinton administration will recall the U.S. Navy to guard the American coasts. As rumors of missing and stolen nukes proliferate, President Clinton will also declare a policy of immediate nuclear retaliation against the country of origin in the event of any terrorist nuclear attack on the U.S. The planned emergency evacuation of surviving Israelis will, regrettably but unavoidably, be cancelled. American academics will be jubilant about the sudden end of "the American empire." The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and all the television news networks will produce multi-part series explaining why and how all these events are George W. Bush's fault. After many congressional investigations and a televised criminal trial, he will be sentenced to a federal SuperMax prison for life. Dan Rather will pull his comfy old sweater out of mothballs and return to the anchor chair at CBS News. At the end of his first newscast, he will utter his old valedictory, "Courage."

How do you like the future so far? No wonder none of our leaders wants to talk about anything but the past and the present.

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