Bob McMahon and I sat down for our usual weekly podcast session but with a twist. Rather than discussing what’s on the horizon for next week, we talked about how things look to be shaping up for 2011. We discussed a range of issues, including the continued weakness of the U.S. economy; China’s role in the world; efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program; the outlook for Iraq and Afghanistan; escalating violence in Mexico; and the pending secession referendum in Sudan.
- Some recent economic data suggest that the U.S. economy is picking up steam, but unemployment remains high, the federal government continues to hemorrhage red ink, and fears grow that municipalities may default on their debts.
- China has its hands full with its neighbor, North Korea.
- Iran is moving closer to having a nuclear capability, raising questions about whether 2011 will bring a military strike against its nuclear facilities, a breakthrough diplomatic settlement, continued political stalemate, or Tehran’s entrance into the nuclear club.
- The Obama administration faces tough choices in making its Afghanistan policy work without a reliable partner in Kabul or next door in Pakistan.
- Drug related violence threatens the Mexican economy and polity, but Washington does not look ready to take steps to slow either the American demand for drugs or the shipment of guns south of the border.
- Sudan’s pending secession vote could trigger a new round of violence in a country that has suffered a long history of mass killings and atrocities.
Bob and I are not alone in our efforts to peer, however dimly, into the future. The Economist offers its take on what 2011 will likely hold in its “The World in 2011” Issue.
Of course, December is also the time for top ten lists. The Atlantic reviews the year’s best books in foreign affairs. TIME lists the best blogs of the year, the top ten campaign ads and the top ten numbers
Finally, to keep us all humble, ForeignPolicy.com lists the ten worst predictions for 2010. May you not make this list next year.
(Photo: Workers offload voting ballots in South Sudan. STR New /courtesy Reuters).