Open thread: what will 2008 bring?
The introduction to Stratfor's 2008 forecast make an interesting starting point for discussion. Is al-Qaeda really on its last legs? That might very well be true but irrelevant, as I argue in an earlier post. Russia is certainly at the center of dramatic developments in the middle of the Eurasian continent, where a new Great Game is under way. China has now become dependent on the world economy and its energy resources. And the 2008 elections promise to be one of those events which will sample the subterranean currents that measure which way the wind blows. Here are the introductory paragraphs for what they are worth. Are these the forces that will shape 2008? Will it be true, as Stratfor argues that "this will be a year in which the United States achieves more success in its foreign policies than it has since the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan in late 2001. But the actions of others — most notably a rising Russia — rather than U.S. achievements will determine the tenor and fury of the next major global clash."
There are three major global processes under way that will continue to work themselves out in 2008. First, the U.S.-jihadist war is entering its final phase; the destruction of al Qaeda’s strategic capabilities now allows the United States to shift its posture — which includes leveraging the Sunni world to finish the job begun in Iraq — and enables Washington to begin drawing down its Middle Eastern forces. Second, an assertive Russia is re-emerging and taking advantage of the imbalance in U.S. power resulting from the war. Third, oil at historical highs and continued Asian — particularly Chinese — exports have created a massive redistribution of financial might that is reshaping the international financial architecture. These processes intersect with each other, as well as with a fourth phenomenon: It is a presidential election year in the United States, which remains the center of gravity of the international system. These are the trends that shape our global forecast.
Normally in an election year, U.S. attention on global affairs dwindles precipitously, allowing other powers to set the agenda. That will not be the case, however, in 2008. U.S. President George W. Bush is not up for re-election, and there is no would-be successor from the administration in the race; this frees up all of the administration’s bandwidth for whatever activities it wishes. Additionally, Bush’s unpopularity means that each of the White House’s domestic initiatives essentially will be dead on arrival in Congress. All of the Bush administration’s energy will instead be focused on foreign affairs, since such activities do not require public or congressional approval. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, 2008 will see the United States acting with the most energy and purpose it has had since the months directly after the 9/11 attack.