At the beginning of a new year, it is traditional for columnists, commentators and other harmless drudges to take a look at their crystal ball and forecast what the year may bring. Fortunately, I have superior technology. My home telephone was made in 1918. When I need to see down the road a bit, I just call the Kaiser (he is, after all, my reporting senior). I got through to Potsdam a few nights ago, and here is what der Allerhoechste thinks may be in store for us in 2004:
* In Iraq, the War of National Liberation led by the Baath will diminish as the Baath itself fragments. This may lead to a “pause” of sorts in the guerilla war, which the neo-cons will falsely hail as a sign of American victory. In fact, the splintering of the Baath will move Iraq even farther away from being able to recreate a real state. As the Baath fades, true Fourth Generation forces will rise, leading to more fighting among Iraqis and an eventual multi-sided, permanent Iraqi civil war. Attacks on Americans will rise again as various Fourth Generation entities seek to show that they are the deadliest enemy of the Crusaders. 2004 will also see the Shiites play a more active role. If Mr. Bremer tries to thwart them by rigging elections (or just not having them), our troops are likely to end up with their hands full of Shiite.
* His Majesty foresees three other interesting possibilities in Iraq. First, another long, hot summer with no security and little electric power may generate an intifada on the Palestinian model; the U.S. Army’s use of Israeli tactics increases this possibility, because it leads Iraqis to visualize themselves as Palestinians. Second, the morale of American troops in Iraq, already low, may decline to the point where the U.S. Army starts to crack, much as the German Army did in August, 1918. Third, when the Marines go back into Iraq, they will use very different tactics from the Army, tactics that might have worked had they been applied earlier. But again like Germany in 1918, the situation will be too far gone for any tactics to redeem it.
* The war in Afghanistan will unroll like all previous Afghan wars. The Taliban will slowly but steadily retake the countryside, while we cling to Kabul and try to prop up our puppet government. The only question is when we, like the British and the Soviets, will recognize reality, give up and go home.
* Far more important than either Iraq or Afghanistan is Pakistan, where the state is crumbling. 2004 may well be the year when it goes over the edge, handing the international Islamic jihad 40-50 nuclear weapons. His Majesty said, “General Musharraf is about where I was at the beginning of November, 1918.”
* Throughout the Islamic world, al Qaeda and other non-state forces will thrive and grow. Speaking of Libya’s recent attempt at a rapprochement with the United States, His Majesty said, “I had a good laugh when your neo-cons, who make my former advisors look intelligent, claimed Quaddafi did this out of fear of the U.S. What terrifies him and drives him toward other states, including America, is fear of non-state elements inside Libya. This is just one small example of the unholy alliances states will make with other states, and non-state forces will make with other non-state forces. At our last tabagie, my ancestors from the time of the wars of religion in Europe were all nodding and saying that it will soon be time for them to go back, because it will all be so familiar.”
* Look for non-Islamic Fourth Generation forces to make their mark in the United States. America is now making war on the FARC in Columbia, and it is likely to return the favor. “Remember, they’ve got a better distribution system in the United States than the Reichspost had in Germany.”
* “Your government’s color-coded alert system is almost as effective as my U-boat war was in undermining your own strategy,” His Majesty volunteered. “The other side knows exactly what intelligence indicators you look for, and it is playing you like a glockenspiel. When it is not going to do anything big, it feeds you false indicators to make you jump, undermining your own people’s sense of security and making your enemy look stronger that he is. Of course, when something real is coming, there will be no indicators at all.”
I knew there was a Zapfenstreich in Heaven that night, and I did not want to keep my Sovereign on the phone with the petty concerns of earth. But I did follow up his last comment with a final question: was “something real” likely to happen in 2004? His Majesty sighed. “Look for something big, real big, right before your election. Al Qaeda has an excellent sense of timing.”
“But wouldn’t that help reelect George Bush?” I asked, puzzled.
“Ja, genau,” the Kaiser replied. “I guess you haven’t spent enough time at court to really understand these things. As Bismarck said to me just yesterday, al Qaeda and George Bush need each other.”
WILLIAM S. LIND’s column “On War” appears weekly in CounterPunch.