Today’s commentariat is prone to ignore history, or to simplify past events to make them fit their current ideological preferences. The discourse of regime-approved conservative intellectuals and their mass media cohorts—such as Victor Davis Hanson and the tedious George Will—remains liberally optimistic and upwardly linear. The notion that our civilization is on a downward course is not allowed in this polite company. The world remains their oyster.
A similar spirit dominated Europe before the summer of 1914. Nobody expected a major war. All over the Old Continent, reputable authors argued that it was obsolete, that no great power could afford a protracted struggle for a host of financial and logistic reasons, and that there were no major unresolved issues anyway. France had quietly come to terms with the loss of Alsace-Lorraine which had happened almost half a century earlier. The Balkans, a potential powder keg, seemed calm enough after the 1912-1913 wars which pushed Turkey back to a sliver of Thrace west of Constantinople. Russia was focused on internal reforms after the 1905 revolutionary upheaval. Austria-Hungary was in a state of latent, yet manageable, crisis of relations between Vienna and Budapest, which everyone expected to be tackled once the octogenarian emperor Francis Joseph I left the stage.
The tragedy which followed the shots in Sarajevo was a sobering lesson in predicting the future. Of course, our inability to do this was also evident after the 1789 storming of the Bastille. It was palpable in the inability of seasoned Kremlinologists to predict the collapse of the Soviet bloc just months before it happened. This lack of foresight was most recently seen in the astonishing inability of United States intelligence agencies to foresee last summer’s rapid collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s regime and its lavishly equipped military in Afghanistan.
We can therefore only outline with humble awareness what may happen next year.
One focus must be the future course of the COVID-19 affair. If strangely resistant new strains of the virus continue to appear, if additional vaccine boosters become first recommended and then mandatory, and if all dissenting views about the restrictive measures and alternative treatments continue to be censored, then we can conclude that the “pandemic” is a global project managed by a shadow elite. Of course, it is possible that the Faucis of this world, the politicians, and their media cohorts pursue their narratives not because they are trying to manipulate us, but because they subscribe to a host of absurd notions. Perhaps they actually care for our welfare. This, however, seems unlikely.
Nothing much will happen on the climate change front. In defiance of the science of global warming, which has been elevated to cult status in the West, China will not give up its reliance on coal. Quite the contrary: The world’s second largest economy will expand coal production to avoid electricity shortages, and even some of the leading renewable energy advocates in Western Europe will come to terms with the impossibility of abandoning fossil fuels in the near future. Without coal, Chinese factories would no longer be able to produce daily necessities for billions of people around the world with high efficiency and at reasonable prices. While China remains officially committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2060, Beijing insists this will be done “in a balanced and orderly manner.” In other words, to all intents and purposes COP-26 in Glasgow was an irrelevant talking shop.
In Europe the current energy crisis will be managed primarily by significantly increased deliveries of Russian natural gas. This will lead to the final certification of Nord Stream 2 pipeline by the new German government, the “Traffic Light” (SPD-Liberal-Green) coalition which will include the insufferable Greens who had long opposed the project. French President Emanuel Macron will be reelected in April 2022, and he will relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors as promised. The new energy reality will also make West European governments less inclined to follow the United States’ lead in raising tensions with Russia over Ukraine or in the Balkans.
The current aggressive offensive of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomats to rearrange the former Yugoslavia to the taste of their Muslim clients in Bosnia and Kosovo will fail. The current U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar, will huff and puff, but he will not be able to force Belgrade to legalize the secession of its southern province of Kosovo. Over the years Escobar and his State Department colleagues have expressed the view that both Serb and Croat political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina need to stop acting as members of their ethnic groups and should put their loyalty to “Bosnia” first. And yet there is no record of the U.S. government advising Gerry Adams to be less “Irish” and become more British, or criticizing Sinn Féin for advocating unification of Ulster with the Republic of Ireland. But Escobar is constantly accusing Bosnian Serbs of harboring the hope of being united with Serbian kinsfolk.
Elsewhere in Europe, eastern Ukraine will remain tense but quiet. Neither Moscow nor Kiev has an interest in disturbing the status quo there, and Ukraine’s renewed bid for NATO membership would be rendered even more illusory if hostilities with Russia were renewed. Poland and the European Union apparat in Brussels will likely find a formula to align Polish domestic legislation on judicial appointments with the attempt of the European Court of Justice (a misnomer par excellence) to assert that its writ trumps all domestic laws and constitutions. Hungary will remain the chief bête noire of EU bureaucrats, but Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s position will remain unassailable in spite of George Soros’s efforts to undermine it.
We shall see more of the same in the Middle East. Nothing will happen on the Arab-Israeli front. The “peace process” remains dead, and the ruling Israeli coalition has no desire to ignite old controversies on the status and borders of the Palestinian entity. This could only facilitate the return of Bibi Netanyahu to center stage—and keeping him out is to a considerable degree what keeps the current coalition together.
The most unpredictable regional player is not Iran, nor the unstable Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia, but Turkey. After almost two decades in power, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resembles a cyclist who needs to keep turning pedals to stay in his seat. With signs of falling popularity at home, especially among younger voters, Erdoğan may engage in new foreign adventures. Over the past year he has intensified Turkey’s military engagement in Libya, prolonged the Turkish presence in northwestern Syria, and stirred up Azerbaijan against Armenia. The next hot spot could be in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey claims a huge economic zone, to the displeasure of Greece and Israel. If Erdoğan sends Turkish drilling ships to probe the seabed in that disputed zone, he could unleash a crisis of major dimensions.
Nothing of note will happen in Latin America, Venezuela and Cuba included. Africa will continue its long road to nowhere, nullifying modest economic gains through huge population increases. Africa is largely irrelevant to the rest of the world, except as a source of massive demographic pressure on Europe. That human cauldron is likely to explode into a massive migrant tsunami once the population pressure south of the expanding Saharan desert becomes irresistible.
The main area of potential conflict is the Indo-Pacific region. The key flash point remains the South China Sea, rather than Taiwan. The U.S. Navy will continue its risky “freedom of navigation” exercises around the artificial islands militarized by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) over the past decade. The Chinese Communist Party is not ready for a major confrontation with the U.S. and may not be willing to risk one for at least another decade. Its political confrontation with Taiwan will continue, with PLA aircraft routinely entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, but armed conflict—let alone an outright invasion from the Mainland—is out of the question. For the U.S. it would be advisable to avoid openly committing America to Taiwan’s defense.
The U.S. will continue its strategy of trying to contain China and keep it within the first island chain by building a string of rimland alliances, extending from Japan to India. But that edifice is far from complete. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not ready to turn the growing partnership with the rest of “the Quad” (America, Japan, Australia) into an actual alliance. Russia is still India’s major arms supplier, and Modi is aware that the U.S. would not likely help him if China retaliated by renewing pressure along the disputed Himalayan border. Modi is also aware that India’s perennial rival Pakistan has greatly strengthened its geopolitical position by helping the Taliban win in Afghanistan.
The biggest challenge to peace and security in the world may be that the Biden administration rejects all conventional criteria in its designation of America’s interests and threats to those interests. They are determined to try and keep America’s global primacy, based on the self-aggrandizing notions of “leadership” and exceptionalism. The result is, and always has been, a grand strategy that defies any reasonable definition of the American interest.
Let us revisit this summary at the end of 2022. I present it in full knowledge that we often think we know more than we do.
above: President Joe Biden during a breakout session at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit at the Glasgow Science Centre on Nov. 1, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland (Adam Schultz/White House Photo)