Predicting the unpredictable for 2019

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. That gem of homespun wisdom from the philosopher Yogi Berra weighs on anyone who looks into the crystal ball of geopolitics. Yet the very fact that the world has become so topsy-turvy makes the exercise all but irresistible. Here, then, are one prognosticator’s guesses about what will shake the world in 2019.

Last year, your geopolitical fortune-teller did surprisingly well. These predictions came true: Donald Trump would remain president; Mike Pompeo would replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state; the United States would continue helping Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen, and would deploy more troops to Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa; Iran would remain the most stable Muslim country in the Middle East; and, most amazingly, France would win the soccer World Cup. If I was so sure about that last one, why didn’t I bet on it? I could have become rich!

A few of my predictions were flat-out wrong. Israel did not attack Lebanon, American peace activists did not win the Nobel Prize, and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela did not fall. A couple of others were half-right. Hillary Clinton did not quite fade away, but almost. Russia and China did not sign a friendship treaty, but hostility from Washington did drive them closer together. All in all, I was right more often than wrong — something that cannot be said of American foreign policy. Either I’m on a winning streak or headed for a fall. The answer is a year away.

Below: a quiz on what’s to come. Like last year’s, it’s multiple-choice. Make your own guesses, and then compare them to mine at the bottom:

1—By the end of 2019, the president of the United States will be

(a) Donald Trump

(b) Mike Pence

(c) Ivanka Trump, after having been named vice president following Pence’s resignation

(d) Nancy Pelosi

2—The Secretary of State will be

(a) Mike Pompeo

(b) Soon-to-be UN Ambassador Heather Nauert

(c) Stephen Kinzer

(d) Career diplomat Wendy Sherman

3—Donald Trump will

(a) be indicted

(b) resign from office

(c) call neo-Nazis onto the streets to defend him

(d) seek political asylum in Russia

4—Jared Kushner will

(a) become his father-in-law’s chief of staff

(b) finally unveil his Middle East peace plan

(c) be indicted

(d) seek political asylum in Israel

5—The most demonized leader to visit Washington in 2019 will be:

(a) President Xi Jinping of China

(b) President Vladimir Putin of Russia

(c) Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea

(d) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Bronx

6—The leader most likely to be pushed from office by angry voters is:

(a) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel

(b) President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

(c) Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots

(d) Prime Minister Theresa May of Great Britain

7—Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia will

(a) be eased out of power in a family coup

(b) be assassinated

(c) continue gleefully bombing and starving people in nearby countries

(d) replace the sword on the Saudi flag with a bone saw

8—The biggest shock in Europe will be

(a) Italy quitting the Euro zone

(b) NATO turning its Brussels headquarters into apartments for refugees from wars it started

(c) Britain electing a militant leftist as prime minister

(d) Bosnia-Herzegovina exploding in a new Balkan war

9—The biggest shock in Latin America will be

(a) President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua fleeing to Cuba

(b) Mexico agreeing to pay for a wall along its northern border as long as the border is placed back where it was before we seized Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California

(c) Right-wing governments in Brazil and Colombia invading Venezuela with US support

(d) President Evo Morales of Bolivia being swept from power

10—China will

(a) announce plans to make a cell phone without any American components

(b) apologize for oppressing Tibetans and name the Dalai Lama vice-president

(c) sell off its US Treasury notes and wreak havoc on the American economy

(d) escalate its naval confrontation with the United States in the South China Sea

11—The most spectacular trial of the year will be the prosecution of

(a) Donald Trump Jr.

(b) Edward Snowden

(c) Julian Assange

(d) The New York Times

12—The winner of the women’s soccer World Cup will be

(a) United States

(b) Japan

(c) No one; France will be unable to host as a result of Yellow Vest protests

(d) France

13—The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be

(a) President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, for staying calm while dealing with nuclear-armed madmen in Pyongyang and Washington

(b) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, for ending decades of hostility between their countries

(c) Organizations that defend journalists, or individual imprisoned journalists

(d) Someone you never heard of

Encouraged by last year’s results, I dare to make my choices: 1 (d), 2 (d), 3 (b), 4 (c), 5 (b), 6 (d), 7 (c), 8 (c), 9 (d), 10 (d), 11 (c), 12 (d), 13 (c). Make your own and seal them in an envelope, to be opened next Christmas. If you find that your winning percentage was better than mine, you may apply to replace me in this space.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

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