Wanna know how 2012 is likely to be?
Judging from how 2011 ended, 2012 as it unfolds is going to be a year that doesn't look very encouraging to anyone who isn't a congenital optimist.
Of course, predictions are all conjecture; at best, educated guesses.
Very early in 2012, it looks as if we -- meaning Western democracies -- will have lost again, as the futures of Iraq and Afghanistan, which we invaded to save them from tyranny and to curtail terrorism, are gloomy.
By quitting Iraq, the American military is in a Vietnam-like quandary of trying to camouflage defeat with slogans mindful of "peace with honour" (Richard Nixon) when they quit the Vietnam war. Sectarian violence is rampant in Iraq, as Sunni and Shiite Muslims kill one another. Anyone but a Muslim zealot sees this as mindless folly.
Afghanistan, now devoid of Canadian "combat" troops, will be increasingly threatened by Pakistan-based Taliban. Another defeat for democracy. Pakistan itself moves towards being an outright enemy (as opposed to two-faced friend) of America.
That's predictable. But in 2012 the celebrated "Arab Spring" of rebellions against various Middle East authoritarian regimes (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen) will drift far from what we view as democratic, despite "democracy" being a rebel rallying cry.
It took Western countries centuries to evolve into true (or near) democracy, yet we expect these countries to adapt in one generation. Possible, but unlikely.
At the moment it looks as if by the end of the year, the U.S. will have a Republican president -- not because the Republican candidate is a hotshot, but because the job of President has proven too much for Barack Obama, who is gifted at making promises he can't deliver, and apologizing for America's sins to an uncaring world.
Canada should continue to confound experts who don't quite understand how we have managed to weather economic hardships with minimum disruptions. The combination of a solid and sensible banking system, with a decisive and steady government, makes Canada something of a lucky oddity in today's world.
The West has no apparent Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, or Tony Blair lurking in the electoral wings to lead the free world into a perilous future.
By this time next year, Vladimir Putin should be enshrined as Russia's president once again. He is the only Russian who seems capable of such leadership. Fortunately for the world, Russia is besieged with problems (including radical Islam) that prohibit foreign adventuring, much less dabbling in endemic espionage, selective subversion, and world domination -- all of which motivated the old, unlamented Soviet system.
To round the circle, China will be eager for world security to protect its financial interests in countries around the world. This bodes well for relations with North Korea, which will continue to be a fruitcake regime, reined in by China. North Korea's successor leader to Kim Jong-il depends on aging generals for support -- unless they bounce him. (Photos of North Korean generals show each with rows of 30 to 40 medal ribbons on their chests. How come? North Korea hasn't been to war in nearly 60 years ago, so are the medals the Cracker Jack popcorn variety? Probably.)
To end on a happy note, look for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make the playoffs in 2112, the Argos to reach the CFL finals, and the Blue Jays to make the playoffs (assuming they get a closer). José Batista will again winning the home run title.