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Foreign Correspondent

by international syndicated columnist &
broadcaster Eric Margolis

29 December 2008


2008, to borrow the pithy phrase of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, has been an `annus horibilis.’ A propos, 2009 might be a good time for the old lady to give up the throne and cede it to her poor, long-suffering, 60-year old son, Prince Charles. What is she waiting for? His 80th birthday?

This past year will be remembered for the great financial panic of 2008. It looks likely to share , with 1929, the distinction of being the day the sky fell in.

However, next year may be even worse. The fast-deteriorating world economy, the reckless, medieval financial and fiscal remedies being applied to stop the decline, and the disastrous legacy of the Bush administration will combine to produce one hell of a dangerous mess.

World hotspots we should be watching in 2009.

  • America’s $13.7 trillion bubble economy will continue to deflate. After decades of intoxication on the steroids of reckless borrowing and cheap credit, America faces a monster hangover and rehab. Call it, Saddam’s Revenge.

    While America currently faces deflation, the US Treasury’s reckless printing of billions and billions must eventually create a storm of inflation. A debased US currency, rising unemployment, and wiped out savings will encourage extremism and political violence in the US, and around the world. The ongoing riots in Greece by hooligans, unemployed, leftists, and anarchists may be a foretoken.

    The Pentagon may not get $534 billion it seeks for this fiscal year to keep dominating the globe and waging the $15 billion per month wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama is already backing away from his election promises to withdraw US forces from Iraq. There is no end in sight to either conflict.

  • Russia is in a surly mood, feeling under siege by NATO and convinced that fruitful cooperation with the west is not possible. US and NATO’s foolhardy attempts to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance risk igniting a truly dangerous crisis. Thanks to the ruinous squabbling of Ukraine’s democratic politicians, that wobbly nation courts possible breakup, civil war, even re-absorption into Mother Russia.

  • Nuclear armed India and Pakistan, who fought three wars over divided Kashmir since 1947, are again poised for conflict over the Himalayan mountain state. Tensions are rising fast. Pakistan’s Army is growing restive at being forced to serve as a mercenary force to support the US war in Afghanistan.

    The Mumbai massacre last November, likely conducted by Kashmiri separatists, underlines the urgent need to settle this crisis. Kashmir remains the world’s most dangerous nuclear confrontation. Between 40,000-80,000 Kashmiris, mostly Muslims, have died since an anti-Indian independence struggle erupted in 1989.

  • Iran continues to advance its nuclear program to the point where it could make weapons, if it so desired. Israel is pushing the US to attack Iran even though US intelligence says Iran has halted weapons programs. Israel may attack on its own, hoping to draw the US into war against Iran. This would expose US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to heavy attacks and even closure of the Gulf, which supplies 40% of the world’s oil. The new Obama administration’s polices toward Iran may not be much less hostile than those of Bush & Cheney.

  • Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis is not in Darfur but in Somalia. Half its ten million people face starvation. Somalia’s only modestly effective government in the past decade, a moderate Islamic movement, was overthrown by a US-Ethiopia invasion two years ago, creating anarchy and the ongoing wave of Somali piracy. The US and Britain may soon intervene militarily in Somalia and Zimbabwe.

    China is dipping its toe into the Indian Ocean by sending a three-ship flotilla off the Horn of Africa to combat Somali pirates. This is the opening salvo of a major Indian-Chinese naval rivalry.

  • The 60-year struggle Palestine conflict will continue, dashing hopes for peace. American supporters of Israel’s right wing parties, led by Likud, have already blocked efforts by the new Obama administration to press Israel into land for peace concessions. This conflict will keep poisoning America’s relations with the Muslim world.

  • The 80-year old Husni Mubarak’s long, US-backed dictatorship in Egypt may finally end in 2009, igniting a major power struggle. Egypt could face an Islamic revolution led by the Muslim Brotherhood, or a nationalist uprising led by a later-day Gamal Abdel Nasser.

  • Iraq will remain a violent, splintered wreck, under some form of foreign occupation. Large numbers of US troops appear set to remain. Meanwhile, Iran is tightening its grip on eastern Iraq and over the US-installed puppet Shia regime in Baghdad.

  • Afghanistan will be to President Obama what Iraq was to George Bush. Pentagon plans to double the number of US troops there by spring will intensify the war and spread it ever deeper into Pakistan, which is already a smoking volcano of violence and rebellion.

    Obama’s pledges to expand the war in Afghanistan have deeply dismayed many supporters. New US bases are being built in Afghanistan for what US Defense Secretary William Gates says will be a `prolonged commitment.’ In other words, the American Oil Raj will push into the resource-rich Caspian Basin, antagonizing Russia and China.

  • China’s exports were the engine of its near 10% annual growth. Now their sharp decline is sparking growing social unrest. If China’s `social capitalism’ falters, watch out for an internal explosion. Watch also for rising tensions in Thailand and Korea, where the death or overthrow of ruler Kim Jong-il, followed by `unanticipated reunification,’ scares the wits out of Seoul and Tokyo.

The only good thing one dares say right now about 2009 is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will finally be gone. But the far rightists they planted in the heart of the US government and legal system will continue to undermine America’s freedoms and threaten world security.

For all his dulcet words, we are not quite so sure that president-elect Barack Obama is really the apostle of peace he claims to be. He has about him a lean and hungry look, and speaks with the tongue of the Bush administration.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2008.

Published at since 1995
with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here
Current column:
FAX: (416) 960-1769
Eric Margolis
c/o Editorial Department
The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East
Toronto Ontario Canada
M5A 3X5

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