Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

They Said It:

But whether people see what’s happening in Ukraine, and Russia’s aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it’s financing and arming separatists; to what’s happened in Syria — the devastation that Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise — although we’re trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza — part of peoples’ concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people.

President Barack Obama, speech to a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser, June 22, 2014 [emphasis added].

 

FOREIGN POLICY 2016:  THE NEW WORLD ORDER, YEAR THREE.

A year ago, we wrote our foreign policy forecast piece against the backdrop of one of the most symbolic episodes in recent memory.  As you may recall, it was about that time that two Islamist brothers attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people.  In a show of support for the French and for all those affected by what the Obama administration calls “violent extremism,” thousands of men, women, children, and foreign dignitaries marched through the streets of Paris the following weekend.  And as you may also recall, the march was notable not just for its participants, but for its one peculiar absence.  As we put it last January:

Among the participants were leaders from all over the world, including French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.  The United States, by contrast, sent no one.  Not the President.  Not the Vice President.  Not the Secretary of State.  Not even the Attorney General, Eric Holder, who HAPPENED TO BE IN PARIS ALREADY, could be bothered to attend.

Think about that for a moment.  The Israelis AND the Palestinians were represented.  The Ukrainians AND the Russians were represented.  Friends, enemies, rivals, and invaders all put aside their differences to attend the rally.  Indeed, the whole world was there – with one exception, the United States.  Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and political consultant with more than three decades of Washington experience, wrote that “Sunday, President Obama morally abdicated his place as the leader of the free world.”  We agree.  Our only quibbles are that it wasn’t just a moral abdication, but a practical one as well and that it was not a “mistake,” of any sort but a rational, premeditated decision.  Obama made it clear to anyone who hadn’t figured it out yet:  We’re OUT!  You’re on your own now.

Now, to be fair, the Americans did, in fact, offer some support to the French.  Less than a week after we went to print with our criticism of the Obama administration’s lack of interest in foreign affairs, the American Secretary of State John Kerry arranged for James Taylor to sing “You’ve Got a Friend,” at a press conference in Paris.  That’s right.  In response to a deadly terrorist attack that was intended not only to intimidate the French people but to silence the Western media as well, the sad, aging Baby Boomer Secretary of State trotted out one of the heroes of his youth, a sad, aging Baby Boomer in a turtleneck sweater, to conduct an impromptu concert for sad, aging, Baby Boomers.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re as horrified at the idea of having to listen to James Taylor as the next guy.  Still, we’re not sure that the Islamists got the message Kerry was trying to send – whatever that may have been – since they went ahead and attacked Paris again just ten months later, this time killing more than TEN TIMES as many people as they did the first time ‘round.  As crazy as this may sound, it turns out that responding to Islamist terrorism by trotting out an easy-listening mega-star doesn’t really do a whole lot to change the Islamists’ calculus with respect to “strong horse/weak horse” divide.

Of course, the Islamists and their calculations aren’t really our President’s cup of tea.  He has real enemies to fight – Republicans.  And if the Islamists attack his country, that’s nothing more to him than an opportunity to regulate law-abiding citizens’ constitutional rights, not a reason to rethink his entire middle-finger-to-the-rest-of-the-world foreign policy.  The world has to grow up some time.  It can’t have America chasing after it, cleaning up its messes forever.  It’s high time that the nations of the world get used to the New World Order.  This is year three of that order, after all.

And speaking of things that are now in their third, fourth, or . . . tenth years, we start today, as always, with:

Forecast #1:  The Euro is done, kaput, fini.  Before the end of the year, the powers that be in Euroland will be forced to admit what the rest of the world already knows, namely that this attempt to forge EUtopia has been as unsuccessful as all previous attempts, with its only saving grace being the comparative lack of bloodshed, which is likely due to the same spiritual ennui that makes the Europeans increasingly too demoralized to breed . . .

Regular readers know well that we have been predicting the “end of Europe” for ten years or more.  And we have been right. . . but with a small caveat, of course.  We have never been able to get the timing thingy right.  And we still can’t say with any degree of certainty when it will come apart.  We can only say, once again, that it will come apart eventually, and sooner rather than later.

In the past, we have based our prediction on the preposterousness of European “planning,” which is to say the multiple layers of socialist rot that continue to stifle the entire European continent and all that dwell therein.  This continues, of course.  But this year there is a new straw on the camel’s back.  This year the decrepit, debt-riddled, and hopelessly unbalanced economy of the Eurozone is only the second biggest problem that it faces.  The biggest problem is one that goes by many names and has many faces.  But for our purposes today – and in the name of political correctness – we will label it delicately.  We will call it “Angela Merkel.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that “migrants” have been a rather significant problem in Europe over the last few months.  Both the Eurozone and Great Britain have long been magnets for individuals of a specific religious and ethnic variety, but over the course of the last year, that magnetism has increased by countless tesla.  And while some of these nomadic souls are fleeing unspeakable horror, most are young males looking for a better, or at least a different, life.

Unfortunately, the “different” lives that some of the migrants have in mind is an afterlife, one involving 72 virgins and the like.  And so it was that Paris suffered another massacre at the hands of Islamists, whose numbers have increased so greatly in the past year or so that they have reason to believe that they can destroy their new homeland by force and erect an Islamic one on its ashes.  All of this notwithstanding the massive show of kitsch by John Kerry and James Taylor.

Now maybe it is somewhat unfair of us to lay blame for the current migrant crisis at the feet of Mrs. Merkel alone.   After all, she did have a great deal of help in creating this mess.  And, indeed, it has been in the making for several decades now.  Still, Mrs. Merkel is the face of the crisis and she seems intent on ensuring that she will forever be connected to the ultimate collapse of European Europe.  Or, as the inimitable Mark Steyn put it over the weekend:

Angela Merkel is the worst Chancellor of Germany since . . . well, I don’t want to go all Godwin’s Law in the final paragraph, but since Goebbels’ tenure as Reichskanzler in the brief interregnum between Hitler’s suicide and his own.  But that she’s inflicting more damage on her nation than all seven of her post-war predecessors ever contemplated is beyond dispute.  On Frau Merkel’s current demographic arithmetic, there will be twice as many Muslims as native Germans within two generations.

This bit from Steyn comes from a column he wrote on the New Year’s Eve mass sexual attacks on women throughout Europe – Germany in particular, but Finland, and Sweden, and possibly others as well.  These attacks were perpetrated by young “North-African and Arab-looking” men, which is to say by massive crowds of young Muslims, a great many of whom were undoubtedly “migrants.”  We use the word “undoubtedly” in this case, because the official investigations of the attacks have seen some . . . uh . . . foot-dragging.  Likewise, the media coverage of the attacks has been prone to what one might call “cover-ups.”  As for the government reaction, in Germany the focus has been on hunting down and finding those responsible – not for the actual sexual assaults, mind you, but responsible for saying mean and nasty things about the poor dear migrants on social media.  Or again, as Steyn put it:

So “the most savage” voices in society who need to be forced to “respect” others are not the thousands of men participating in a group sexual assault of female infidels, but the Tweeters and Facebookers who point out that these guys come from a very particular segment of the population . . . I have written for years about western feminists’ acceptance of the “two-tier sisterhood“ – one life for them, and another quite different one for women born into certain other, ah, cultural traditions.  Given mass Muslim immigration, it was never likely that this division would be more than an interim phase, and, as German women are now learning, in the hierarchy of identity politics Islam trumps feminism.

As they say in the blogging world, you really should read the whole thing.  It gives you just a taste of what is going on in Europe today and especially of the European ruling class’s disconnect from the realities of everyday life.  Another, more subtle and perhaps less antagonistic taste was provided by Ross Douthat, the house conservative at the New York Times, who summarized the events of the New Year as follows:

New Year’s Eve, in the shadow of Cologne’s cathedral, crowds of North African and Middle Eastern men accosted women out for the night’s festivities.  They surrounded them, groped them, robbed them.  Two women were reportedly raped.  Though there were similar incidents from Hamburg to Helsinki, the authorities at first played down the assaults, lest they prove inconvenient for Angela Merkel’s policy of mass asylum for refugees.

That delay has now cost Cologne’s police chief his job.  But the German government still seems more concerned about policing restless natives — most recently through a deal with Facebook and Google to restrict anti-immigrant postings — than with policing migration.  Just last week Merkel rejected a proposal to cap refugee admissions (which topped one million last year) at 200,000 in 2016.

The underlying controversy here is not a new one.  For decades conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have warned that Europe’s generous immigration policies, often pursued in defiance of ordinary Europeans’ wishes, threaten to destabilize the continent.

The conservatives have made important points about the difficulty of assimilation, the threat of radicalization, and the likelihood of Paris-style and Cologne-style violence in European cities.  But they have also trafficked in more apocalyptic predictions — fears of a “Eurabia,” of mass Islamification — that were somewhat harder to credit.  Until recently, Europe’s assimilation challenge looked unpleasant but not insurmountable, and the likelihood of Yugoslavian-style balkanization relatively remote.

Now, for sober, cautious analysis, Ross Douthat is generally superb and does a fine job of contrasting himself with the less sober and cautious types, ourselves and Steyn included.  Nevertheless, he misses the point in this article and misses it wildly.  He contends that Muslim migration to Europe is no big deal and never has been until this year.  Assimilation works, he writes, it just needs some time and space, which Mrs. Merkel’s wave has prevented.  In this, sadly, he is dead wrong.

The fact of the matter is that the attackers in Paris were all homegrown terrorists.  They were mostly French citizens, young men who were raised in the very heart of Europe.  They were trained and funded from Molenbeek, the jihadi capital of Europe, a borough of Brussels that provides an endless supply of fighters to ISIS and an equally endless supply of disaffected and angry young Muslim men willing to attack the European homeland.  Molenbeek, by the way, sits less than 10 miles from EU headquarters and NATO headquarters, and it represents the real face of Muslim immigration to Europe.  For years, the ruling classes of Europe and the United States have denied that “no go” zones exists in European cities, where European police, much less civilians fear to tread.  “No go” zones were, they claimed, the fanciful, racist creation of Right-wing bigots eager to discredit innocent Muslims.  And yet Molenbeek proves exactly the opposite.  And it both predates and supersedes the recent migrant crisis.

Additionally, and more to the point, the recent influx of refugees is not the problem in Europe so much as it is a symptom.  The real problem is the cultural self-loathing and capitulation on the part of the European ruling classes.  The European Left, like the American Left, long ago determined that the West is the world’s preeminent “bad actor,” and so neutering it and its cultural impulses is the solution.  As trite and tiresome as the notion of “multiculturalism” is in the United States, it is far worse in Europe, which, of course, explains why the European officials are presently more concerned about finding and punishing critics on Facebook than they are about addressing the source of the criticism – the waves of “migrant” men who apparently have no idea how to behave in civilized society.

In the end, this cultural suicide may prove more damaging to the dreams of a permanently united Europe than the continent’s fanciful economic thinking.  Both impulses, of course, spring from the same font of Leftist drivel.  But there are no “bailouts” available to mitigate the effects of the ruling class’s self-hatred.

Already, the nations and peoples of central Europe are rebelling against the Germans and the rest of the Western Europeans.  A few more attacks here; and a few more gang rapes there; a few more radicalized imams declaring war on the West in the other place, and the whole thing could come apart.  Ross Douthat is correct that it is beyond bizarre that the Norwegian curriculum for migrants has to spell out the fact, in Europe, “to force someone into sex is not permitted.”  But he is wrong to think that all of this will simply go away and that assimilation can continue merrily and peacefully if the Europeans just decide to slow down the pace of immigration.  It won’t.  This is Europe’s fate.  And it will end either with the whimper of the continent’s slow, pathetic death, or with the bang of a fascist counterrevolution inspired and enabled by weakness and fecklessness of the mainstream political parties.

Either way, Europe as we know it is doomed.  If not now, then soon.

And on that cheerful note, we move on to . . .

Forecast #2:  The Middle East, which is already a terrible mess, will get even messier.  We suspect that the messiness will stop short of full scale regional war – or, well, NUCLEAR war – but we offer no guarantees.

On Saturday, January 2, Saudi Arabia executed a handful of political dissidents, including the Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr.  In response, the world’s foremost Shiite power, the Islamic Republic of Iran, stomped its feet, hollered and screamed, and turned its “youths” loose in the capital city.  These “youths” being Iranian, they did what Iranian youths do, which is to say that they attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy and the innocent people working therein who had nothing to do with anything.  The Saudis, for their part, cut off diplomatic relations with Iran and stomped their own feet.  In short, everybody in the Muslim Middle East did what they always do, stomped their feet, killed people, and screamed at each other about it.

The problem, of course, is that the Iranians are ascendant, flush with Obama-provided cash, and looking to turn little fights into big fights and to start little fights where none currently exist.  The other problem is that the House of Saud is possibly in greater disarray today than it has been in some time.  It is officially ruled by a relatively new, but still rather old king, who suffers from dementia at the very least and possibly Alzheimer’s.  Various princes within the family are reportedly planning coups, while the hardline Sunni Salafists and the dissident Shiite minority are looking to grab as much power as they can, perhaps toppling the House of Saud altogether.  Informed opinion suggests, in fact, that the Saudis used the execution of al-Nimr to mask the execution of far more important and more threatening Sunni militants who pose a bona fide threat to the royal family.  Messy, in a word.  Frighteningly messy, in two.

Now, as you may well know, the Saudis and the Iranians have been fighting various proxy wars throughout the region, not just in Syria, but in Yemen as well.  In Yemen, the Saudis have been trying for nearly ten months to displace and destroy the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.  And they have been largely unsuccessful.  This has delivered a rather severe hit to the Saudi military’s reputation, which, in turn, has emboldened the kingdom’s enemies – Sunni and Shiite alike.

Meanwhile, ISIS continues to run large portions of Syria and Iraq.  The Islamist government of Turkey continues to trade with ISIS and to use the Islamic State’s expansionism as an excuse to wage war on the Kurds.  The Iranians continue to provoke the West and to ignore their much-ballyhooed “Peace for Our Time” agreement with the increasingly irrelevant and useless Barack Obama.  The Islamists continue to wreak havoc in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai.  And Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi continues to try to consolidate power and to appear democratic, even as his own safety becomes more of a worry.  In last year’s forecast, we predicted that Sisi would be assassinated.  Sadly, this may turn out to be another prediction about which we were right, if a little too early.

As always, of course, the only bright spot in the region is its only true democracy, Israel.  And as every schoolboy knows, as a reward for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s dedication to democracy and human rights, Barack Obama decided to renew covert spying on him and on Israel during the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  All of which is to say that Obama continues to demonstrate that he knows who the real enemies are.

Obviously, in a region as muddled and beset by ancient and primal hatreds as the Middle East, it is especially hard to predict the future.  Nevertheless, we have a few thoughts, some of which may prove accurate, some of which may not, but all of which should serve as a starting point for the discussion about how much worse the Middle East could be over the next twelve months.

Among other things, it is clear that Iran will vigorously continue its efforts to destabilize the Saudis by funding and arming Shiites wherever they may be, even in Saudi Arabia itself.  The Saudis, as we reported in these pages several months ago, have tried to limit the Iranians ability to carry out their assaults by expanding the supply and thus lowering the cost of oil.  But these efforts have been undercut by the $100+ billion in formerly frozen assets that the Iranians are set to receive as a result of their deal with Barack Obama.

As for ISIS, while the Iraqi army recently won a significant victory by capturing the town Ramadi, Turkey’s Erdogan is doing his best to use the fog of war to destroy the Kurds, who happen to be the Iraqi military’s strongest ally in the fight against ISIS.  In the meantime, ISIS continues to trade oil to Turkey (among others) and continues to raise funds.  And as we noted last spring, Lebanon and its weak institutions and large Shiite and Christian populations constitute a tempting target for ISIS.

Given all of this, it is fair, we think, to say that the Saudis are desperate.  They are desperate to salvage their role as the explicitly Sunni “custodian of the two holy mosques.”  And baring that, they are desperate to pump as much money…err…oil out of the ground as quickly possible, shipping their fortunes off to London and Geneva in advance of any trouble.  Of course, in order to forestall trouble, they will, in the meantime, step up their support for Salafist radicals.  After 9/11, the Saudis had been more cautious about their funding and support for radicals, in deference to the feelings of their most powerful ally, which also happens to be the most powerful nation in the history of the world.  However, it now appears that their best friend has found new happiness among the Shiite Mad Mullahs.  All of which is to say that the young(ish) Saudi princes who may or may not take over for the soon-to-be-gone-one-way-or-another King Salman have had to devise another plan.  And that plan, in brief, can be titled “fight or flight.”

This “fight” could take the form of convincing the Pakistanis to sell them their own nuclear weapons.  Or it could involve funding Islamist terrorists in the West.  But, then again, it might also lead to a deal with the Islamic State whereby the Saudis promise to quit trying to destroy their fellow Sunnis in return for a promise of unity in a clash against the Iranian Shiites.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the plan will manifest as flight, which would mean that the members of the royal family would maximize their cash positions and retire to their mansions in London, Beverly Hills, Singapore, and wherever.  The global investment community is pretty excited about the idea that Saudi Aramco might soon list shares for sale.  A “Thatcherite Revolution,” The Economist calls it.  For our part, we’d like to see who pockets the proceeds of the sale and where they choose to store those proceeds before we decide what it all says about Saudi Arabia’s future or what type of “revolution” it portends.

In the end, all we can say is that current turmoil in the Middle East is but a fraction of the turmoil that could take hold there over the next year, especially in the absence of American influence.

Forecast #3: Vladimir Putin and Mother Russia will do what they always do, namely play the Great Game.

While the United States is currently nobody’s friend in the Middle East, Russia is everyone’s pal.  The Russians are chummy with the Iranians, helping them with their nuclear program.  They’re buddies with the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, providing him with his own personal air force for attacks on ISIS.  The Saudis want better ties, trade and military relations.  The Egyptians are buying Russian naval helicopters and warplanes and working on plans to have the Russians build a nuclear power plant near Alexandria.  Hezbollah (in Lebanon) is buying advanced Russian weapons.  And even Israel is hoping that Putin will help to keep from having to cover the region in mushroom clouds in order to honor their famous promise of “never again.”

Indeed, everyone save maybe Turkey is either friendly with or looking to become friendlier with Putin and company.  All of which is to say that Putin is not only playing the Great Game, but playing it very well.

Eventually, of course, Russia’s ability to play and its ultimate success will depend on its ability to convince the Saudis that $30 oil is in no one’s best interest.  [And if by chance they fail in this endeavor, it is likely that this time next year we will be writing about the consequences to the world of a Russia in deep, deep financial distress.]

And speaking of oil . . .

Forecast #4:  Fluctuations in the price of oil will continue to baffle the experts all year long, and will thus be a constant source of uncertainty and economic disruption in the world.

Way back in October of 2014, we argued that traditional economic calculations were insufficient to explain the bear market in oil.  Geopolitics, we insisted, was at least as big a driver of the price collapse as was supply and demand, if not  bigger.  Specifically, we wrote:

When you look at those nations that are most upset by falling prices and therefore least likely to be able to withstand them, the two names that are always at the top of the list are Iran and Russia.  It is no coincidence, we would argue, that these two nations are also the instigators of most of the trouble in the Middle East today.  Syria?  Russian and Iranian backed.  Hamas? Russian and Iranian backed.  Hezbollah?  Russian and Iranian backed.  The Iranian nuclear weapons program?  Russian funded and supplied.  Everywhere you turn in the Middle East today, the Russians and the Iranians are causing trouble and they’re causing trouble specifically for the Saudis.

Obviously, the price of oil has always been highly influenced by politics.  Indeed, the Saudis have played this game before, flooding the market at President Reagan’s behest, in order to destabilize the Soviet economy.

Nevertheless, we think that it is safe to say that there has never been a time when so many political players are involved and have so many means at their disposal to affect supply, and so many conflicting reasons to do so.  The Saudis’ gamble has paid dividends, of course, but it has also come with significant costs.  The current perilous state of the Saudi economy and, by extension, of the Saudi royal family is one such cost.  Over the next year, those costs and benefits will be weighed time and again by all of the players as they decide how best to manipulate supply to satisfy their national interests.

One expert on TV will tell you one thing about the future of oil prices, while another will tell you precisely the opposite.  Supply can’t be ramped up anymore.  Oh yes it can! Demand matters now more than ever, given China’s slowdown.  Oh no it doesn’t!

All of it is pure speculation.  No one knows anything, in large part because the market driver right now is still geopolitics.  The inner-circle political machinations in Riyadh, Tehran, and Moscow matter more right now than traditional economic calculations.  And it’s going to remain that way for the foreseeable future.  Which is to say that the price of oil will be volatile and unpredictable for the foreseeable future as well.

Forecast #5:  China will rival the Middle East as a major source of geopolitical instability.

We don’t need to tell you this, but China is a mess these days.  And it is a mess because its economy is slowing.

The conventional explanation for this slowdown is that it is merely the price China must pay for long-term economic stability, as it transitions from an export and savings-heavy economy to a consumption economy.  How well the government manages this transition will determine how far the economy falls, how much impact it has on financial markets, and how widely the pain is felt.  Or so the story goes.  For our part, we tend to think that the bigger issue here is the fact that this government is “managing” the transition at all.

As we have argued countless times in these pages the biggest “risk factor” in China has nothing whatsoever to do with markets, and everything to do with politics.  You see, China’s ruling class is far more corrupt and further removed from the general population than the Western ruling classes could ever even dream of being.  China may have a capitalist-esque economy, but it still has a Communist ruling class, which means that it still suffers from the unbridled dishonesty and sleaze that characterizes Communism.  And this affects everything, up to and including the real economy.  We put it this way, now more than a decade ago:

In spite of its reforms, the Chinese political system is still run by Communist Party thugs, which means that the government will still make many decisions that would be made more effectively by the market; that the government will still play an inordinate role in picking winners and losers; and that the system will foster corruption and function inefficiently, eventually reaching a point where progress will cease.

The Soviet Union was able for some seven decades to “fake it.” By exploiting its population and its massive stores of natural resources, the USSR was able to simulate economic and scientific progress well enough to fool a great many of the so-called experts in the West. The Chinese Communists are, in their own way, also faking it, exploiting their massive resources, most notably their 1.3 billion people, to fudge the margins and hide the inefficiencies inherent in a closed political system. This cannot go on forever.

Various commentators and analysts have offered their opinions on the likely outcome of China’s economic transition.  They tell us what to expect and when and how it will all play out in the global economy.  The cases they make may sound credible, but they aren’t.  The numbers on which they are built simply cannot be trusted.  Chinese economic statistics are pure garbage.  Officials say what the government wants them to say, whether or not that has any connection to reality.  And this leads, in turn, to perpetual uncertainty.  All of this is enormously disrupting to financial and commodity markets, which are, or should be, based on facts.

It would be comforting to think that this is all another question of timing on our part, that the key here is to guess when China’s problems will come to a head.  But that’s wrong.  It is not a question of timing.  China’s problems are chronic.  The only thing that we know for certain is that the obfuscation will increase with the need to obfuscate.  And our guess is that this need will increase geometrically next year as global growth slows.

Of course, there is more to it than that.  Not only will the Chinese leadership lie about their economic problems, they will attempt to alleviate them by numerous means that are highly likely to make the problems worse and the markets even more suspicious.  Some analysts were surprised last summer when China’s government didn’t have any answers to the country’s stock-market meltdown.  They shouldn’t have been.  The idea that socialist totalitarians would know how best to manipulate market behavior is a gross delusion at best.

To make matter worse, in addition to playing games with their own as well as global financial and currency markets, China’s leaders are likely to continue to engage in foreign adventures, which is historically the wont of powerful nations who are having troubles at home.

Among other things, China has been intentionally pushing the boundaries of tolerable behavior in the South China Sea, and only recently began landing planes on the airstrip it built on one of the islands it built in the Spratlys.  In Washington, John Kerry declared that the Chinese action “raises tensions and threatens regional stability.”  There was no word on what song James Taylor would sing in retaliation.

Forecast #6, “Out of Left Field” Prediction:  The United States will, once again, be attacked by Islamist terrorists.  This time, the terrorists will have crossed over into the America from Canada, of all places.

Americans tend not to worry much about Canada, but it is, we think, worth noting that Canada is now run by perhaps the dumbest and least intellectually curious head-of-government in any major country in several years, if not decades.  We know that liberals in this country still like to talk about how stupid George W. Bush is, but this guy – Justin Trudeau – makes Bush look like a brain-surgeon, rocket-scientist, Rhodes Scholar.  Worse than stupid, though, Trudeau is also a perfectly politically correct leftist who embraces the anti-Westernism of the intellectual set and thus believes that Islamist terrorism is all a bunch of racist baloney dreamed up by Right-wingers.  He has made a point of courting radical Islamists and has promised to rework the anti-terrorism law the conservatives passed last year.  In short, he’s encouraging terrorists to make Canada home.  And they are doing so.  In a piece last month for The Daily Beast, the journalist Dana Kennedy, wrote the following:

Ignore growing Muslim fundamentalism and extremism in Canada at your peril.  That’s the message an increasingly vocal number of moderate and secular Canadian Muslims and counterterrorism experts want to send to the United States and the rest of the world.

The attention focused last week on the Ontario branch of al-Huda, the same religious school the San Bernardino killer Tashfeen Malik attended in Pakistan, is just one example of increasing Saudi-funded Islamic fundamentalism all over Canada.

Radical mosques with reported ties to terrorist organizations have flourished in and around Toronto as well as in Montreal, while some politicians, including Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, have been reluctant to constrain or even criticize these groups, defending them in the name of diversity and multiculturalism. . . .

Trudeau and his Liberal Party could portend trouble for Canada, according to Brian Levin, a former NYPD officer turned counter-terrorism and extremism specialist at San Bernardino State.  “People talk about Mexico,” said Levin. “They totally overlook Canada.  Nobody has any idea what’s going on up there.  In my opinion it’s a bigger threat than Mexico.”

In a follow-up piece published by The Observer, John Schindler – a security expert, a former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, a former Navy officer and a onetime War College professor – noted the following:

It’s long been evident to Western security services that professional jihadists view Canada as a safe staging base for operations elsewhere, a place to raise funds and organize plots to be executed outside Canada.  Hence terrorism conducted in that country is considered “off message” and counterproductive, which explains the dearth of mass-casualty jihadist terrorism in Canada, despite the large numbers of radicals there.

For Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, Canada is especially attractive because it’s so close to the United States.  Jihadists are well aware that Canada takes in large numbers of refugees, and Ottawa’s benefits are generous.  Moreover, newcomers can get a coveted Canadian passport rather quickly, which enables easy travel all over the world.  With a Canadian passport in hand, access to America is no problem, since U.S. border enforcement isn’t eager to detain Canadians without reasonable cause. . . .

The alarming reality is that nobody really knows how many jihadists are north of our border, much less how many of them possess Canadian passports.  All that can be said for certain is that if Canada’s new Liberal government gets in bed with radical Muslims like its predecessors did with radical Tamils [the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, “one of the world’s nastiest terror groups,”] on grounds of political expediency, the terrorist threat to North America will rise quickly.

Sleep with one eye open, in other words.  Such is life in the New World Order.

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