Friday, January 25, 2013


"Seen from a European standpoint, the French military intervention in Mali illustrates what the fight against radical Islamists might look like in the years ahead. While Western democracies are disengaging from their long, costly, and frustrating Afghanistan operation, they are still facing immense threats from groups much smaller than al-Qaeda that have shifted both techniques and targets. As states engage in operations to combat these post-Afghanistan threats within new political and budgetary environments at home, their strengths and limitations tend to show more acutely, while resource pooling and sharing becomes a necessity. Since early 2012, Islamist insurgents have controlled northern Mali. On January 11, France launched airstrikes to halt the insurgents’ advance further into the country, and West African nations have also approved the deployment of troops to confront the rebels. This French-African operation might provide a blueprint for international counterterrorism policies to come.... According to French official statements during the past few days, the Malian Islamist groups are highly mobile, and they have effective weaponry and motivated fighters. In addition, they are funded in part by kidnapping foreign citizens for ransom, a pattern which is likely here to stay. They aim to seize vast expenses of territory, and in Mali they are challenging the very existence of the state, taking advantage of the political impasse in the capital, Bamako, and of the weakness of the armed forces. Their ultimate goal is, no doubt, to extend their grip on other countries, as incidents during the past two years in Mauritania, Niger, and northern Nigeria have illustrated. In the worst-case scenario, Africa, Europe, and the West could be faced with the dire prospect of a destabilized West African region, with some countries or regions formally headed by radical religious groups while others will be permanently threatened by those groups. Such a destabilization of West Africa would also pose wider dangers, potentially threatening the sustainability of the region’s economy, the continuation of development and humanitarian projects, and the safety of expatriate workers. In that sense, the French intervention in Mali is an almost inevitable consequence of these terrorist groups’ strategy, especially as the insurgents decided to move swiftly toward Bamako. There are other factors at play that made the intervention possible, which becomes clear when the situation in Mali is compared to other conflict situations, past or present, including those in Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. The United Nations Security Council unanimously supports the preservation of Mali’s territorial integrity and an international, mostly African force deployment. The only reason the French intervened on their own ahead of the creation of the multinational force was the Islamist insurgents’ sudden advance. In this emergency phase, France is the de facto leader, primarily because preexisting positioning of troops and air assets in several African countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal—gives it a decisive operational advantage over other Western countries. An EU operation in support of training and modernizing the Malian army is still in the organizational phase and will be implemented later.... Without entering into futile predictions about the length and depth of the French intervention in Mali, it can be said that Operation Serval represents a multifaceted test for France, the EU, and the West. Several questions arise. How much lasting and decisive support will Mali and France receive from friendly West African countries, and how timely and efficient will the EU training operation of Malian forces prove to be? How much further operational support will French forces receive from the United States and European partners? For example, what if there is a need for air assets that the French forces do not possess, such as AC-130 gunships, A-10 close air support aircraft, or missile-firing drones? Those capabilities are considered more suited than conventional fighter aircraft to the kind of operations currently under way, but only the United States can provide them".
Marc Pierini, "The West and Radical Islamists in Mali." The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 16 January 2013, in
France and the US are at loggerheads over a French request for American air tankers to help refuel its jet aircraft operating over Mali, amid concerns in Paris that its military operations could come under strain without them. As France presses ahead with air strikes on jihadist fighters, military chiefs in Paris have told the US that they need three US air tankers to supply Rafale and Mirage jets, which have to fly huge distances over north Africa to carry out ground attacks. French officials believe that the Pentagon is willing to provide the three air tankers that France needs to back up its own fleet of five KC-135s. But French officials say the White House is “dragging its feet” over the issue and looking to limit its engagement. The Pentagon did not reply to initial enquiries from the Financial Times about the request from France. Washington’s reluctance to provide the aircraft is being seen in France as a sign of US caution about French operations in Mali. “The refuelling issue is a problem and we would like to overcome it,” said a French official. “Our current fleet of tankers is not sufficient to keep Rafale and the Mirage 2000D operating on a permanent basis above an operational theatre of this scale.” The US has offered France C-17 transport aircraft to fly troops and equipment into Mali. In the last few days, the US has gone some way to reducing acute tensions with France that emerged last week after the US wanted to charge France for the use of the C-17 aircraft. At the start of the Mali intervention, Washington insisted that the French government would have to pay the $20m bill for the use of American C-17s, needed to carry French mechanised battalions into theatre. After fierce protests from France, the US announced on Monday that it would provide the C-17s at no extra charge."
James Blitz, "U.S. and France bicker over Fuel." The Financial Times. 21 January 2013, in
The decision by the current French government to militarily intervene in the conflict in the North African state of Mali can only be welcomed by all and sundry. Notwithstanding some less than intelligent carping by the Americans, it seems axiomatic that some Western power had to intervene in Mali in order to forestall a complete takeover of the country by Islamist forces with ties to extremist Islamist groupings including those with (allegedly) connections to the Al Qaeda group. And while it may be the case that the French will be 'bogged down', in Mali for x number of years, it would seem to me that given the proximity of Mali to the rest of North Africa and potentially the Mediterranean, that to allow Mali to be overrun by Islamist militants with ties to extra-regional extremists would be a recipe to have a Afghanistan in the North of Africa. Given the fact that Western and Central Europe are from a purely conventional military perspective, peace-laden, the deployment of French forces, both air and ground in this conflict seems to be an ultra-reasonable use of France's remaining military power. Especially, as French troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan. As the commentator, Mr. Paul Collier notes in the Financial Times, neutrality in the current situation would be disastrous 1. In short, all one can say is: Hurrah for la Belle France!
1. Paul Collier, "The West has let negligence in the Sahel turn into a nightmare." The Financial Times. 21 January 2013, in

Thursday, January 17, 2013


"Like Churchill, Macmillan had an American mother, and his delusion about the Anglo-American relationship had been further encouraged by his connection with the Kennedy family: his wife Lady Dorothy Macmillan was the aunt of Lord Hartington, killed in action in 1944 shortly after he married Kathleen Kennedy, the future president’s sister. And Macmillan it was who had said in 1943 that ‘we are the Greeks to their Romans’. The Americans were ‘great big bustling people’, he patronisingly said, who needed to be mentored and guided by the worldly-wise English as Roman households had been by Greek tutors (who were in fact slaves, unhappily for the metaphor). This was and remained nonsense. Those ‘bustling’ Romans had no wish at all to be guided by the sophisticated Greeks across the Atlantic, in 1943, or 1962, when Kennedy had politely telephoned Macmillan during the missile crisis, but in no way whatever sought British advice, not when American Boeings armed with hydrogen bombs were flying along the Arctic coast of Russia on the stage of alert immediately below war, and not when the crisis was defused by Robert Kennedy cutting a secret deal with the Russians on his brother’s behalf, by agreeing to withdraw American missiles from Turkey.... A month after that, in the new year of 1963, de Gaulle announced a French veto on the British application. Since Churchill had told de Gaulle in 1944 that he would always follow the Americans rather than the French, it’s scarcely surprising if de Gaulle wasn’t a doting anglophile. But then neither was Acheson, despite his origins, appearance, and many English friends like the Berrys. In 1950, the secretary of state had learnt that American and British officials were working on a document to define the ‘special relationship’, a phrase he abhorred, and Acheson ordered that all copies of the ‘wretched paper’ should be destroyed, not least because it would encourage ‘the McCarthys’ if it could be suggested that ‘the State Department was the tool of a foreign power’.... Still, Acheson was right about Great Britain, and Macmillan’s clutching at American friendship seems in hindsight a poignant or even pitiful fantasy, though not one that ended with him. Charles Williams puts this very well in his recent biography of Macmillan. Like other prime ministers before and since, he persuaded himself that there was some mystical bond between the two countries, quite failing to see that ‘the United States, like all great powers, would in the end follow — without necessarily much regard for others — what it perceived from time to time to be its own interests’. Or as Palmerston said, in words of which Mikhail Gorbachev once reminded Margaret Thatcher, not that she needed reminding any more than de Gaulle did, nations have no eternal friends and no eternal foe, only eternal interests. That truth will never be ‘about played out’'
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "Not-so-special relationship: Dean Acheson and the myth of Anglo-American unity." The Spectator. 5 January 2013, in
"Throughout these talks....we were treated as partners, unequal no doubt in power but still equal in counsel".
Prime Minister, Clement Attlee to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, 10 December 1950, in PREM 8/1200, PRO, Kew.
"The United Kingdom was in a totally different category as far as United States policy was concerned, to any other power in the world".
John Foster Dulles [quoted in], Minute by John Colville [Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister]. 7 January 1953, in F.O.371/103519/AU1053/1, in PRO, Kew [copy in author's possession].
The skepticism expressed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft about the 'Special Relationship' is one that is paraded about from time to time by scholars, the lay educated and general public. The usual cynicism that the skepticism is formulated in, seems to give currency to the thought processes behind the same. However, once one truly investigates the facts empirically, one sees the following: i) that there has been, faite de mieux as per description, indeed something akin to a 'special relationship', between the United Kingdom and the United States since World War II; ii) that this relationship, au fond involves the United Kingdom being given unparalleled access and input into the (laborious and or twisted) decision-making processes in which American Foreign Policy is made. This obviously did not and does not result in American policy always being made in ways which unusually favored the United Kingdom. Albeit one can quite easily recall various instances when American policy did show a good degree of favoritism towards the UK, viz: the in essence bailout of the UK in 1949 in conjunction with the depreciation of Sterling; the 1957-1958 decision to share nuclear technology with the UK; Kennedy's decision to share Polaris with London; the assistance provided to the UK during the Falklands War, et cetera. Regardless, the truth of the matter is, that the 'Special Relationship' between these two countries is founded on this degree of unparalleled British access and input into the American decision-making process. Something afforded non other country. I repeat: no other country. Perhaps the very best example of this historically speaking is the fact that as the American historians, Ernest R. May and Phillip Zelikow note in their definitive book on the transcripts of the Executive Committee which decided American policy during the Cuban Missile Crisis:
"It is obvious from these records that Macmillan and Ormsby-Gore [Sir David Ormsby-Gore, British Ambassador to the US] became de facto members of Kennedy's Executive Committee 1."
Another example, one that in some ways boggles the mind, was revealed most non-chalantly by none other than by that famous (or infamous) practitioner of Realpolitik, Henry Kissinger in volume two of his memoirs, who stated that he borrowed a Foreign Office 'Soviet expert, Sir Thomas Brimelow', to assist in the drafting of responses to Soviet proposals dealing with nuclear diplomacy involving the two Superpowers in 1972 2. These cases may perhaps to some like Wheatcroft seem inconsequential. I challenge them though to offer up a vision or indeed a reality which has seen a greater degree of intimacy between two sovereign powers in the post-Westphalian world than the UK and the US since 1945.
1. Phillip Zelikow & Ernest R. May. The Kennedy Tapes (1997), p. 692.
2.Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Upheaval. (1981), pp. 190-192.

Friday, January 11, 2013


"The Obama administration on Wednesday publicly signalled its growing concern about a possible British exit from the EU, just days before David Cameron sets out plans for a referendum on the issue. US diplomats have privately warned for months that Mr Cameron risked setting Britain on a path to exit with his plan to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership terms and put the “new settlement” to a referendum. But Washington has now taken the unusual step of publicly briefing British journalists that it firmly believes the “special relationship” is best served by the UK remaining at the heart of Europe. Philip Gordon, assistant secretary for European affairs, made it clear that there would be consequences for Britain if it either left the EU or played a lesser role in Brussels. “We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU,” he said. “That is in America’s interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it...." Mr Gordon, speaking at the US embassy in London, said that he did not want to interfere in British affairs but discussed the often “inward-looking” history of EU negotiations, noting that “referendums have often turned countries inwards”. “The more the EU reflects on its internal debate the less it is able to be unified,” he said, adding that the continent was more effective when it worked together, for example over the recent oil embargo on Iran. Mr Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU but is expected later this month to set out a “renegotiate and referendum” strategy, which he would deploy if he wins Britain’s 2015 election. The prime minister wants a looser relationship with an increasingly integrated inner EU core – based around the eurozone – and hopes to repatriate powers to Britain, such as rules limiting working hours."
Jim Pickard & George Parker, "Stay at heart of Europe, US tells Britain." The Financial Times. 9 January 2012, in
"Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role”.
Dean Acheson. Speech at West Point, 5 December 1962.
The statement made in London no less, by the American Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon while no doubt unfortunate is par for the course as it relates to the American State Department's long-time view of Britain and the European Union going back to the 1950's. In some ways of course, the statement is superfluous as what is occurring is that British Prime Minister Cameron is engaged in a calculated political maneuver of Disraelian ambiguity and complexity. Au fond the British Prime Minister does not really have an deep convictions as it pertains to Britain and the European Union. Or as it rather vividly expressed himself a few years back when he was leader of the opposition, about the anti-European Union, 'UK Independence Party' that it was made up of: "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" 1. Indeed according to a journalist for the Right-wing Daily Telegraph, both Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, view those in and outside of their party who are Europhobic with "metropolitan snobbery" 2. Accordingly, the only true rationale for Cameron's diplomatic and political offensive on Britain's 'redefining' its relationship with the European Union is the rather simple one of political protection. In the current parliament, the subject of the European Union is one of the chief bugbears of the backbench members of Cameron's own party. And Cameron, even if not old enough to have been a member of parliament at the time, remembers quite well the disaster which the endless wrangling inside the Tory Party in the mid-1990's did to John Major's government. This is something which Cameron is desperately seeking to avoid at all costs. No doubt by offering up a smokescreen option of a redefinition of Britain's role in the EU via popular referendum, in the next parliament, Cameron, et. al., hopes to bury the issue until after the elections in 2015. In short, Assistant Secretary Gordon's statement, while understandable enough is wide of the mark as to what is truly intended by Cameron's diplomatic footwork, much less his own innermost view of the subject 2.
1. Edward West, "David Cameron's metropolitan snobbery towards Ukip is a disaster for the Tories." The Daily Telegraph. 7 January 2013, in
2. James Forsyth, "The Cameron Election." The Spectator (London). 5 January 2013, p. 10.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


"In the three weeks since Chuck Hagel’s name emerged as President Barack Obama’s likely choice as the next secretary of defense, there's been a lively, if lopsided, debate about his qualifications for the job. The debate’s been lopsided because the arguments for Hagel have been so startlingly weak. It’s not just that those arguing for Hagel form an unusually motley crew, even by the standards of the anti-Israel swamp in which many of them frolic. What's striking about the case for Hagel is its absence. His backers can cite no significant legislation for which Hagel was responsible in his two terms in the Senate. They can quote no memorable speeches that Hagel delivered and can cite no profound passages from the book he authored. They can summarize no perceptive Hagelian analysis of defense or foreign policy, and can appeal to no acts of management or leadership by the man they'd have as our next secretary of defense. The fact is that those legislative achievements, intellectual insights, or management triumphs don't exist. A long and comprehensive history of the Senate during Chuck Hagel's tenure there could be written that would barely mention him. A long and comprehensive account of American foreign and defense policy in the last thirty years would hardly note his existence. So even if one left aside Chuck Hagel's dangerous views on Iran and his unpleasant distaste for Israel and Jews, a dispassionate analyst would have to conclude that the case for Hagel is extraordinarily weak. A host of individuals who've served in the Pentagon during President Obama's first term—like Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and former Undersecretary for Policy Michèle Flournoy—are more qualified than Chuck Hagel to serve as the next secretary of defense. So are Clinton administration Defense Department veterans like Richard Danzig, John Hamre, and Joseph Nye. So are former legislators like Olympia Snowe, Sam Nunn, Dick Gephardt, and Bill Bradley. So are others from the private and public sector. Or look at it this way. Over the last four decades, the following dozen men have served as the United States Secretary of Defense: Elliot Richardson, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld (twice), Harold Brown, Cap Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Dick Cheney, Les Aspin, Bill Perry, Bill Cohen, Bob Gates, and Leon Panetta. They were all impressive public servants. Chuck Hagel clearly falls short of all of them in stature and distinction.... The fact is, criticism of Hagel has been substantive—focused on his out of the mainstream votes and his distasteful quotations, as well as his general lack of distinction. And the critics have also focused on the fact that the position being discussed is that of secretary of defense. No one would care if the president wanted to send Hagel off to openly and aggressively make the case for Obama's foreign policy as ambassador to Luxembourg. But the secretary of defense has real responsibilities. Even his nomination has real consequences. In fact, nominating a person who is clearly soft on Iran would send exactly the wrong message to Tehran. Which is why President Obama should prevail in not nominating Hagel in the first place, and why members of Congress of both parties who have been engaged in the attempt to deter Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be particularly alarmed at a Hagel nomination. It looks, though, as if President Obama may be determined to nominate Chuck Hagel. If he does, he will be doing himself and the nation a disservice. The next secretary of defense should be a well-respected mainstream national security leader, not an out-of-the-mainstream mediocrity. So if the president nominates Chuck Hagel, we would expect a vigorous examination of the Hagel record by senators of both parties, followed by the United States Senate withholding its consent to his selection as secretary of defense. This would give the president another chance to select a man or woman of distinction for this high office, one who would command widespread support and would be confirmed easily. And this would be a better outcome for our military, the Defense Department, and the nation"
William Kristol, "Special Editorial: There's is no case for Hagel." The Weekly Standard. 4 January 2013, in
"As to the defence issue, first of all, I don’t know all the facts, but I would say this. The defence department, I think in many ways has been bloated. Let’s look at the reality here. The defence department has gotten everything it’s wanted the last 10 years and more. We’ve taken priorities, we’ve taken dollars, we’ve taken programmes, we’ve taken policies out of the State Department, out of a number of other departments and put them over in defence. Now, I understand the nation is at war, two wars. That’s going to be the result. But, you have, and I think most Americans who read, who pay attention to anything, know about the inspector general’s reports. The latest one talking about $35bn in waste, fraud and abuse, coming directly out of corruption. $35 bn, and that’s just one report in one country. The abuse and the waste and the fraud is astounding. It always is in war, by the way. I was in Vietnam in 1968. Even as a private, eventually being a sergeant, out on combat every day, even I saw a tremendous amount of that, so I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down. I think we need the Pentagon to look at their own priorities. Resources must always match the mission. Of course, but our mission has become so wobbly, our objectives. For example, Afghanistan. Where we are today, with $140bn a year, this last year, 100,000 American troops in there, plus all the civilians and all the contractors, 10 years after we invaded, that wasn’t even close to what the objective and the mission was when we first went in. We’ve lost sight totally of the mission in Afghanistan. Talk about mission creep, this is the definition of mission creep. This is a complete rebuilding of a country, so my point is, and I don’t blame the military for this. They were charged by the Congress, by the presidents, by the administrations to do all this, and they needed the resources to do it. There’s a tremendous amount of bloat in the Pentagon, and that has to be scaled back, but the mission drives that, but the resources drive the mission too, and we know that you can’t sustain this. We know that the American public want out. We know that the Congress want out, and that’s going to require bringing down that budget, and the prioritisation of our military itself. I don’t think that our military has really looked at themselves strategically, critically in a long, long time. Every agency needs to do that. The Department of Defence, and I’m a strong supporter of this Department of Defence, the Department of Defence always gets off by saying, well, this is national security. You can’t touch national defence. Well, no American wants to in any way hurt our capabilities to national defence, but that doesn’t mean an unlimited amount of money, and a blank cheque for anything they want at any time, for any purpose. Not at all. Not at all, and so the realities are that the mess we’re in this country, with our debt and our deficits, and our infrastructure and jobless and all the rest, is going to require everybody to take a look, even the defence department, and make a pretty hard."
Chuck Hagel quoted in an interview conducted on 29th of August 2011, "FT Interview with Chuck Hagel." The Financial Times. December 19, 2012, in
The storm over the nomination of ex-Senator Chuck Hagel for the post of American Secretary of Defence has three, not entirely related aspects: i) his views on the State of Israel and the power of the so-called 'Jewish Lobby', in American politics. As well as the partially related question of the potential use of force in settling the fraught issue of Persia's quest for Nuclear Weapons; ii) his general positions on the USA's role in the world and the size of the American Defence Budget; iii) his qualifications for the post. On the first of these issues, it would appear to the independent observer, that while Mr. Hagel's statement were less than diplomatic or indeed astute for someone who is in the public eye, they by themselves hardly can be said to rule out him for consideration for a Cabinet position. As his ex-colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham has commented that Mr. Hagel, 'has to answer' for his comments, and no doubt that he will do so 1. Per se, unless Mr. Hagel were to egregiously expand upon these impolitic comments about the 'Jewish Lobby' (which really refers to the pro-Israel Lobby) in front of his ex-colleagues in the Senate, I believe that it should be put down as a non-issue. In terms of his general views on America's view of the world, it is to my mind a very good thing indeed for Senator Hagel, to be a bit more skeptical, about a liberal readiness to employ force `a la the neo-conservative weltanschauung as enunciated by Mr. Kristol among others. For two reasons: a) given the general fiscal position that the USA is in, a certain degree of caution about the employment of force is something to be cheered rather than deprecated; b) the fact is that the man who is in the office of Secretary of Defence is not the best person to play a leading role on ultima ratio of the use (or not) of force. To my mind, it is the Secretary of State, who is the best person to lead on this and other issues of foreign policy. That was the case if one looks at the past for the pastmasters who have held the post: Marshall, Acheson, Dulles, Kissinger, and Baker. In cases where the Secretary of Defence has endeavored to 'play a role', or indeed even a 'key role', have had the end result of contributing not a little degree of confusion into the policymaking process. One need only recall the names of: Johnson, McNamara, Schlesinger, Rumsfeld (twice), Weinberger, to remember those less than positive case histories.
For me though, the key to why the Hagel nomination could indeed be a very good one is the fact that Mr. Hagel seems to see his role in the post as that of someone to endeavor to bring some degree of cost-effectiveness and efficiency to what is in fact a bureaucratic behemoth. Au fond I would not necessarily disagree, with Mr. Kristol about the fact that on the face of it, Mr. Hagel is not the 'best or most qualified' person for the position. It is also the fact though, if one were to look at the list of personages mentioned by Mr. Kristol, what occurs to one is that this list of individuals can be sorted out into four types: x) visionaries who endeavored to change the mold of the institution; y) 'a safe pair of hands'; z) place holders (Clifford, Richardson, Cohen, Carlucci) and finally abject failures (Johnson, Wilson). And what is in fact historically speaking the case is that with the partial exception of Secretary McNamara, is that all the visionaries (Forrestal, McNamara, Aspin and Rumsfeld [second tour]) were in fact failures. Their attempts to reform or thoroughly shape or re-shape the institution ended in failures. It is those who can be characterized as a 'safe pair of hands' (Marshall, Lovett, Thomas and Robert Gates, Laird, Brown, Cheney) many of whom were appointed to 'reduce', not increase the Defence Budget, who come out historically speaking with better reputations, notwithstanding the fact that they were perhaps in some cases less qualified for the position. I think that in the case of Mr. Hagel, we have a potential opportunity of someone who could indeed attempt to considerably reform this vitally important but also monstrously out of control institution. Given the ongoing fiscal difficulties that the USA is undergoing, the fact is that the best person to have at the Pentagon is someone who will concentrate their minds and energies on reform. The very last thing that the USA needs is a Defence Secretary who neglects the need for reform in order to interfere in the foreign policy process. It is this more than anything else which makes Mr. Hagel perhaps the best person perhaps for position.
1. Geoff Dwyer, "Hagel Defence Nomination faces struggle." The Financial Times. 20 December 2012, in

Thursday, January 03, 2013


"Nate Silver makes it all look so easy. The New York Times statistician who predicted Barack Obama’s presidential win says his methods for forecasting the outcome of elections or sporting events are “not that complicated”. But not everyone gets it quite as right as he does. Undaunted, the Financial Times’ experts are putting their reputations on the line by making their own predictions. They have no handy algorithms to weigh the probabilities. They just have to rely on knowledge and instinct or, at the very least, boldness – like Clive Cookson, our science editor. Last year he predicted that scientists would confirm the possibility of travel faster than the speed of light. Unfortunately he was wrong. The result from the initial experiment that got everyone excited was due to faulty wiring. But who cares? The journey was entertaining. This year he takes a punt on the discovery of life on Mars. Martin Wolf’s choice was no less risky, however. A year ago the euro was on the endangered list. Few were bullish about its continued survival. Except Mr Wolf, who put the sceptics in their place. Edward Luce also deserves a medal for beating Mr Silver to the prediction of an Obama win. Alison Smith accurately forecast a bumper year for UK dividends, while Ben Fenton was on the mark with his warnings on the travails of the newspaper industry. Not everyone can be mentioned here. But, right or wrong, the FT’s experts are back again with more bets for 2013".
Peggy Hollinger, "Raising the curtain on 2013." The Financial Times. 3 January 2013, in
I cannot claim by any means to have been quite so accurate a Presidential election forecaster as Mr. Silver. Albeit, I like Mr. Luce did foresee that the incumbent President would retain office in the American Presidential elections. However, leaving that aside, I would like to take this opportunity to make some predictions, whether they merit being characterized as 'bold' or not is for you dear reader to judge. So here goes:
i.) The Eurozone will survive intact anno domini 2013. Given the fact that the hard hit, peripheral, Eurozone countries have managed so far (in the case of Greece by the skin of its teeth) to remain in the Eurozone, it is difficult to imagine that the European Union pays legal, will tolerate a failure on this point now. After all, if there was ever a time for a Greek Eurozone exit, that probably was best accomplished back in late 2009 / early 2010. Approximately three years later, with the entire prestige of the European Union involved in the crisis, to allow a Greek and or other default and subsequent exit to occur would be both absurd and catastrophic. Hence, I do not see it occurring at this stage. Faite de mieux perhaps but so be it.
ii.) The Americans will avoid going over the 'fiscal cliff'. This of course as of two-days ago 'old news', to an extent. However, even if the crisis has been postponed till the very end of February 2013, I for the life of me, cannot fathom that either the House Republican leadership, nor the American President himself, will have the courage to play another round of va banque. It is au fond, a game with no winners and too many losers. Accordingly, come late February / early March, there will be another 'muddle through' exercise and 'resolution'. And while this is by far not the best that can be hoped for, given the fact that the American economy has had the highest GDP growth rates for the leading Industrial economies for the last year and probably will have the same record this year as well, one may be forced to conclude that a little muddle seems, at least in economic terms to go a long way.
iii.) The crisis in Syria, will I predict still be with us a year hence. Whether or not the regime of Assad Fils, remains in power in Damascus, or conversely, if it only retains shreds of its former political hegemony, it is my firm prediction that Assad and his circle will still control the largest amount of territory and will still be the most formidable military force to be found inside Syria's borders. Which is not to gainsay the likelihood that the rebel forces may be able to contest Assad's control of Damascus, just as it has contested the regime's control of Hama and Aleppo in the past six months.
iv.) The standoff over Persia's ambitions to build a nuclear bomb will continue without any resolution. And while it is the case that the American President would dearly love to negotiate a solution to the issue, it is difficult to imagine that with an election in the offing in Persia, that the regime will have the strength of will to climb-down and negotiate away its potential nuclear weapons programme. And in the absence of a near complete climb-down by the regime of Mullahs, it is impossible to imagine, that the American President and his confreres in London, Paris and Berlin will have the will in turn to merely give up the game at this point in time. Especially, with the danger (admittedly perhaps merely imaginary) of an Israeli 'pre-emptive' air strike on Persia, if such an outcome were to emerge as being likely.
v.) The tensions in the East China Sea between Peking and Japan will continue but it will not result in any military clashes between the two countries. Why so? For the very simple reason that au fond, this particular jeu is for the leadership in Peking merely that a jeu, a game and nothing more. The islands themselves are not intrinsically worth the bones or anything else of a Pomeranian or for that matter, Chinese grenadier. The whole crisis has been gotten up by Peking, for reasons of domestic politics. In short for reasons of primat der innenpolitik. Whereas an outbreak of fighting between Japan and China will inevitably involve the Americans under their defence treaty with Tokyo. And it will take little by way of prediction powers to imagine the winner in any conflict involving the Americans the Chinese. And of course the leadership in Peking knows this as well as anyone else. Therefore look for the tensions over the islands to continue, but for the peace between the two powers to hold. At least for anno domini 2013.