From the Publisher

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Arnold G. York

Goodbye to 2007

You have a choice when you write a year-end column. You can either look back and talk about what happened the past year, or you can look forward and speculate on what 2008 will hold.

When I look back on 2007 all I can think about is fires. It feels like we spent the year running from fires, avoiding fires, breathing fires, talking about fires, taking pictures of fires and trying to console victims of fires. Frankly, I won’t be unhappy to see 2007 go and take with it the dry rainless weather, the Santa Anas, fire alerts and close calls, and hope that 2008 will be wetter and more benign, with a nature more mellow.

For now, I prefer to look ahead into my crystal ball and make some guesstimates for the New Year and in this column I’ll deal with the national and world scene.

I can assure you that in January 2009 we will have a new president and although at this point all of the pretenders to the throne seem somewhat small, in time they will grow in stature. It’s not that they’ll get any bigger or smarter or more able. It’s simply the background will change. Once you take those same small people and plant them in the Rose Garden of the White House, with the American flag behind them, with a speech carried live on all the networks willing to give up their soaps for the moment, surrounding by the trappings of power with secret service agents, generals and admirals, I can assure you they will grow in stature. I can also assure you that growth in stature will have absolutely nothing to do with their brains, their ability or their record but merely reflect that person is now the President of the United States, and is our leader and a world leader, unless they really screw it up.

This is the most unusual presidential election we’ve had in generations. I cannot in my lifetime remember a race where both parties had so many contenders, all of whom have strengths and also a multitude of weaknesses. If you could slice and dice America into all of its component parts, every one of those parts would be represented by one or two, or even more of those candidates.

I suspect in 2008 the war in Iraq will actually begin to wind down. Though we would never admit it we have accepted the fact there really is no central government in Iraq, and little by little we are turning the country back into a bunch of warlords and tribal chieftains, which actually may not be a bad policy since they seemed to be the only ones who can maintain the peace on the ground.

In 2008 the U.S. will be talking to both Iran and Syria, which makes sense. We don’t have to love them or trust them, but we certainly have to be talking to them. I’d guess that the Israeli/ Palestinian battle will finish the year 2008 pretty much where it started with nothing much settled, and all the sides blaming each other, but maybe the volume a little lower, which is about as good as you can hope for. The Israelis are not about to give up any more land, since when they did that in Gaza it got them nothing but more fighting They’ve learned their lesson. Land for peace is over. The Palestinians will ultimately get their own country, but not in 2008. It will only happen when the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians just get so tired of the fighting, the poverty and the uncertainty that they’ll be ready to make a deal. The truth is that Palestine, as an independent country, is incapable of being anything but an impoverished Third World country unless they can cut some working arrangement with Israel and also get, on a permanent basis, some share of the international oil money to keep their country solvent while they rebuild it.

As for us, unless we can start dealing with our problems, truthfully we are an empire in decline. The dollar keeps dropping in value. That is the judgment of the world, particularly the economic world, that we are a country living beyond our means. I suspect that judgment is an accurate one but we show absolutely no inclination to tighten our belts on spending, or raise our taxes to pay our debts, and appear to be content to live on credit. That credit consists of monies lent to us by countries like China and Japan, which is why I truly believe that the American Empire is slowly slipping into the Pacific Rim, possibly never to return.

We’re in the midst of a presidential election and the Republicans are trying to out-conservative each other, the Democrats are out-liberaling each other and they’re all stopping every 15 minutes to genuflect to let us know that they’re genuinely religious human beings, who talk to God regularly, but only humility keeps them from listing God on their campaign committees.

If I sound a little cynical it’s because I am. I’m old enough to have lived through enough cycles-political cycles, economic cycles, and real estate cycles-to know that there are cycles. I suspect there is little that any of our wannabe presidents can do about it.

As for “W,” I leave that judgment to history, which I suspect will not be kind.