By David Andelman
The first Monday of the new year began in Baghdad with a unique debut: the ribbon-cutting for the world’s largest and most opulent American Embassy, and at the very moment the administration that made it most necessary (and least affordable) is headed for the exits.
We are indeed, as the Chinese proverb so aptly notes, living in interesting times. Some of Wall Street’s wisest prognosticators (if that is not an oxymoron in itself) are predicting a market surge this year that could rival that of 2000 when the Internet bubble was in full flight and companies with nothing but bottled air for products commanded stratospheric prices on the wings of inflated expectations.
Over the past year, our expectations have fallen to a new low, or at least our confidence. So does this signal a rock bottom of despair? Perhaps. How indeed could things get much worse than today?
There is always something worse. War in Gaza could expand to include southern Lebanon and Hezbollah, drawing Iran into the equation. Markets could resume their slide even in the face of mega-wealth pouring in from every leading central bank around the globe. The diplomatic packet on Monday from India to Pakistan detailing Islamabad’s role in last year’s Mumbai terror attacks could simply be a prelude to armed conflict along that always tense frontier. China could decide to stop funding the excesses of the American consumer, sending the dollar into a fatal tailspin. Oh, and then there’s oil: as desperate a case at $40 a barrel as $140.
But what of the upside? Could we see oil again at $80 a barrel (double last month’s low prices), stocks up 20 percent (over their desperate lows of November), and a new president that inspires us all (not to mention another $700 billion or so in “stimulus” that he’s bringing along in his little gift bag to his inaugural the week after next)? How about a truly green revolution that begins in Washington and spreads globally—government funding that primes the pump much as Franklin Roosevelt did in buildin America’s great infrastructure projects during the last depression? Could a tough Hillary Clinton, the new secretary of state, read the riot act to Hamas and Kadima alike, knocking heads in the interest of peace in Palestine? Or what about the prospects of regime change—a new president for Zimbabwe with that monster Robert Mugabe gone (no matter what it takes), the victory of a moderate in Iran’s next presidential election?
Whichever direction the world turns, our pleasure will be to chronicle its twists and revolutions, offering unique insight and incisive writing as the year rolls out—and to hear from you, our reader. Comments and suggestions encouraged.
David A. Andelman is the editor of World Policy Journal. A veteran domestic and foreign correspondent and editor of The New York Times, CBS News, and most recently Forbes.com, he is the author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.