In 2001 and 2002 I was such a radical liberal. Actually I was in 1999-2000 as well, but I didn’t seriously think George W. Bush had a chance, so I was complacent. When I went to Ukraine for a visit in 1999, I brought with me a cover of Time magazine showing George W. on the cover. I showed it to Ukrainians (who had no idea who he was) and said he would be the Republican nominee and had a chance to be president. But in my mind I never actually believed this.
I visited Ukraine again in 2001, and I told my friend Olesya my belief that Bush was an idiot, but as long as he didn’t involve us in a war, I would be happy. I didn’t care if he ruined our economy…as long as he didn’t get us in a war. I didn’t believe the US could seriously entertain such a notion, but Bush was a weak leader. If a Secretary of Defense or policy advisor planted the idea in his brain, he wouldn’t be sufficiently critical of the idea. That was the difference between Bush and Gore.
In 1999 I was writing various emails and sending them to friends about our foreign policy (mainly Kosovo). But I wrote one about Iraq, the ludicrousness of our attempt to lord over the country and make idle military threats. I said (and I’m sure I could produce the email), If US did take unilateral action against Iraq, there would be such opposition in Europe that it would destroy NATO as we know it. Formally NATO still exists of course; it is an important strategic relationship. But I think the gist of my prediction was accurate. We have lost the goodwill of our allies and our semi-friends (Russia).
My mistake was in thinking that an Iraqi war would be the sole cause of it. Instead, Bush has done a lot of other things to make Europe mad. Tariffs, extraordinary rendition, veto of the International Criminal Court and our utter rejection of Global Warming (and a host of other issues).
Although I am generally an opponent of space-based defense, in 2001 (September 11, 2001, to be exact), I had a change in outlook. Having a ABM to defend against missiles from rogue states did make sense (well, if the technology were moderately effective–something I can’t be confident about even today). A limited deployment to protect US from Pakistan or Iran or North Korea (instead of China or Russia) sounded like a good idea in principle–though I wasn’t sure it was worth the expenditures.
Now in the New York Times, I read about a Bush initiative to deploy limited ABM on European territory. It is not a bad idea really. It seems to involve Russia in it and might actually be multilateral enough to be effective. (I really am not up on our ABM systems; I have no idea what we’re actually capable of at the moment). But just because it’s a decent idea means it will ever be adopted. Frankly, it is next to impossible that Russia (or even Europe) will go along with it. We just haven’t built the trust relationships necessary to embark on something like this. Occasionally a good idea comes out of the White House (to name a few: immigration reform, freezing North Korea’s bank account etc), but the White House lacks the credibility to get them off the ground.
Since my predictions in the past have been so head on, what predictions could I make about today? Really, I have no idea. I’ve become almost apolitical; ever since Harold Pinter launched his diatribe against Bush imperialism, I have decided that more competent people than I are focusing on the political sphere. I do watch the news shows; I feel suitably bored. I am inclined to dismiss the percentage of the population who voted for Bush. These are the damned who are not worth saving; better to focus on younger generations. I was pleasantly surprised at how readily Americans changed their attitudes towards Iraq and global warming; who would have ever predicted that? (Yes, it was inevitable, but I never anticipated it would have happened so quickly). To make clear my political prescience, here are some random predictions/attitudes/intuitions which go against the grain:
- Though I’m confident of a landslide victory by Democrats in 2008, I’m a little unhappy with Democratic candidates. Obama is an engaging smooth-talking candidate, but he is more style over substance. Still, he uses rhetoric carefully and precisely; that counts for a lot in presidential leadership. Hilly is a political machine (let’s hope she doesn’t get the party’s nomination). 2nd tier candidates like Bill Richardson might do a better job in enacting policies, but Obama has the skills to marshal support for his policies.
- I am somewhat optimistic about Iraq. The fighting won’t diminish altogether, but the US will find a way to bow out by 2010 (starting in 2008). The Arab world will forgive us a little, and despite its instability, Iraq will show democratic tendencies.
- Fareed Zakaria should be given a high level position within the new administration. He is the voice of reason with amazing insights into world affairs.
- Immigration reform will pass; it will make a lot of people mad, but ten years later people will look back and say, gosh, why didn’t we enact it sooner?
- Ibid for global warming/carbon taxes/raising CAFE standards.
- The U.S. will look increasingly more foolish at its demands that China reform its economy/current/environmental record/human rights record.
- I honestly have no idea how the US will get out of its budgetary mess. Certainly Social Security reform or health care reform is not in the cards with our current predicament. Some sort of downturn seems inevitable, and the weakened feds will be perceived as ineffectual.
- My next work of fiction (due in about two months) will be a major international bestseller (just kidding: my first short story collection –to be released under a pseudonym –will be free on the Internet with a creative commons license). Stay tuned on this spot for info. It actually isn’t that big a deal, but last year my web fiction received 130,000 unique visitors (10,000 visitors a month approximately); for the next year I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of unique visitors rises to 200,000. This doesn’t translate to money (or fame –for various reasons I won’t go into), but these things don’t worry me. Not yet at least.