Cynics and pessimists are annoying because they’re usually right. 2018 will be a very good year for them.
If we look ahead, through an appropriately jaundiced eye, we can see a year filled with crises unresolved, political maelstroms and too much unaccomplished. In short, a pretty normal year.
Let’s start with the obvious.
The media, in their war against Donald Trump, have not yet begun to fight. Impeachment talk will run parallel with their breathless expectations for the Mueller investigation, which will continue at least past the November election. More indictments are coming but none will be on anything remotely connected to any conspiracy with the Russians to sway the 2016 election.
The Democrats will roll out their old, tired, wounded and lame as presidential contenders for 2020. The media will amuse themselves with polls of each in opposition to Trump, each other, and lots of meaningless rot. Hillary Clinton will start making noises about a 2020 run, as will Joey Biden, Bernie Sanders and Fauxcahontas. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently compared himself to Edison and Gandhi, will hint at running, which is almost as funny as ol’ Bernie’s ambitions.
Not to be outdone, Sen. Jeff Flake, Gov. John Kasich, and several other Republican squishes will say that they aren’t interested in running against Trump in a 2020 primary, but if they’re “called on by the people” to do so… (See Episode One of the BBC series, “Yes, Prime Minister.”)
Congress will return to find that it’s even less capable of doing anything than it was last year. The Republican majority in the Senate is nothing of the sort. At best the 51-49 split is really a 49-49 tie because of the frequent and lengthy health-related absences of Sens. John McCain and Thad Cochran.
Mike Pence won’t be needed to break many tie votes because the Repubs won’t get sixty votes on anything where it’s necessary to break the filibuster to pass. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will change Senate rules to end the filibuster when pigs grow wings.
The president is going after legislation to stimulate the economy. It’ll go ugly early.
The 2017 tax bill — coupled with Trump’s regulatory actions canceling Obama’s economy-killing regulations — is already doing that far better than another stimulus package possibly could. Any further stimulus will be as successful as Obama’s, which is to say not at all. If the president really wants a stimulus bill, the Dems will extract huge compromises on immigration, including DACA, as well as even more spending on their domestic programs aimed at increasing the number of Dem voters.
Nothing else will be done — including the spending bills — without major compromises with the Dems, meaning that the legislation that results, however trivial or important, will be written by Chuckie Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
The requisite fifty votes for judicial executive confirmations will be held hostage by the Contumacious Caucus (Collins, Murkowski, Flake, Corker and McCain when he’s able to vote). Thanks to them, the president’s next Supreme Court nominee will fail to get confirmed as will the presumably conservative nominee to replace Ninth Circus Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired over sexual harassment accusations.
There will be even more open warfare among Republicans. Steve Bannon will organize primaries of several Republican senators, resulting in the return of Senate Majority Leader Chuckie Schumer in 2019.
The president will refuse, again, to recertify Iran’s compliance with Obama’s nuclear weapons deal but he won’t revoke it as he promised he would. His advisors will succeed in doing everything they can to prevent him from revoking the deal, as will our allies.
And that’s the easy part. The bad guys — Russia, North Korea, China, Iran and many more — will be doing their best to do their worst, but there will be amusing moments.
March will bring us the next Italian elections, featuring the return to politics of 81-year-old Silvio Burlesqueoni, he of the “bunga-bunga” sex parties envied by Bill Clinton. The Italian economy is a mess, but Italian politics are fun to watch.
Just as fun to watch will be the continued Brexit negotiations. British PM Theresa May will last them out only because no other Tory wants to be the designated javelin-catcher in the negotiations with the EU, and most Brits are still too sensible to elect loonie-lib Jeremy Corbyn to the top job. May will be thrown out of office quickly after a truly lousy deal is made.
Andres Lopez Obrador, a hard-core lefty, will be elected president of Mexico after a campaign of anti-wall Trump bashing.
Russian interference in our 2016 election consisted of planting disinformation in social and mainstream media to discredit our democratic process. That was just the beginning. The Russians are ever-mindful of Stalin’s statement that it doesn’t matter who votes: it matters who counts the votes. In the 2018 election the Russians — joined by the Chinese, Iranians, and North Koreans — will not only continue their disinformation campaigns but will try to interfere in states’ computerized vote counting. MSNBC will continue to function as if it were an arm of the FSB.
Equally dangerous — and more successful — will be Russian interception of and tampering with information transmitted through transatlantic cables.
Since they learned that, in the 1970s, the U.S. Navy secretly wiretapped a key Russian undersea cable to intercept their most important naval information and other military communications (google “Operation Ivy Bells”), the Russians have been trying to return the favor. They are — right now — tapping transatlantic cables (including fiber-optic cables) that carry everything from personal, business, banking, and military communications.
And that’s not the half of it. They have — or will soon have — the capability not only to intercept communications but also to hack them — i.e., change their content — resulting in massive miscommunications that could upset Western stock markets and banking systems. That practice will be very hard to detect and the damage they do even harder to unravel.
Russian aggression in Ukraine will continue, as will their expansion in the Middle East. Turkish President Erdogan will continue his pan-Arabist campaign to be top dog in the Arab world with Russian and Iranian help.
At the same time, the Russians will continue to cement their sovereignty over much of the Arctic seabed, building more military bases and oil drilling facilities there, adding to the ones already built. Under the Arctic is about twenty percent of the world’s untapped oil and gas. The Chinese will try to claim parts of it, though they aren’t an Arctic nation.
Now that Chinese ships have been spotted delivering oil to North Korea, perhaps the president will finally see that if anything can be done about North Korea, we — along with the South Koreans and Japanese — are going to have to do it.
As others have written, in 2018 North Korea will define America’s role in the world. Nevertheless there is, contrary to popular neocon opinion, no need to rush into another Korean War. That’s a war we need to avoid. Not at all costs, but avoid if we can without sacrificing our — or our allies’ — vital national security interests. The Norks will try to goad us into a showdown, and they just might succeed.
Less than a week after Groundhog Day, the South Korean Olympic Games will begin in the unpronounceable (and nearly unspellable) city of Pyeongchang. Shortly before the games start (or timed with the opening ceremony) the North Koreans will launch several ICBM salvos and detonate at least one nuclear weapon, disrupting the games. Several nations will withdraw their athletes for fear of war.
The Norks have tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles successfully and may do so again in their counter-Olympic demonstrations.
At this time, the Norks don’t have submarines that can sail far into the Pacific, though they are trying to develop that capability. When that happens, we will try to track them with our own subs, though it is exceptionally hard to do so because the Nork subs are diesel-electric and — submerged — very hard to find. If a Nork sub capable of launching such missiles is spotted near, for example, Guam or Hawaii, that will raise the threat level above the tolerable.
ISIS, despite having lost 98% of its caliphate, isn’t dead. The ideology that propels it — and all the other Islamic terrorist networks — is very much alive as is ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula and elsewhere.
There will be at least a dozen significant terror attacks, each taking many of lives — either connected directly to the Islamic terrorist networks or inspired by their common ideology — in the UK, France, America, and other Western nations. Drones will be used in some of these attacks as substitutes for suicide bombers.
No crystal ball is needed to predict that the Middle East will have another year of small wars that could blow up into really big ones.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, aided by ISIS, will fail in protests, as will their possible armed revolt, against President al-Sisi. His reign will end, probably by assassination, before the decade is over.
The proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia and between Iran and Israel will grow hotter.
Crown Prince bin Salman’s efforts to reform Saudi Arabia will fail. Saudi support for Islamic terrorism will continue unabated. But the Saudis and some other Arab nations, terrified of Iran, will continue quietly to ally themselves with Israel.
Hizb’allah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror network, will fire hundreds of missiles into Israel, igniting another conflict like the 2006 war. The difference between the 2006 and 2018 wars will be the involvement of Iran. Iran has bases in Syria very close to Israel which directly threaten the latter’s security. If those bases are used in the Hizb’allah attack, the Israelis will be forced to destroy them.
China will continue its expansion into Pakistan through the “China Pakistan Economic Corridor” initiative. In mid-December high-ranking Chinese met with their Pakistani counterparts to cement their agreement to construct a naval base and airport on the Jiwani Peninsula, near the city of Gwadar. Pakistanis living near it will be forced to move.
In sum, 2018 will be another trouble-filled year, the normal way of the world since about 1822. Happy New Year everyone, in spite of it all.