Jacob Heilbrunn

What Will Happen in 2011?

Paul Pillar is exhorting President Obama to impose a peace on the Israelis and Palestinians. With a Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would amount to a suicide mission. So what will 2011 actually hold?

 In the Middle East the Israeli government may think that it's holding the upper hand over Obama. Paradoxically, however, I think that Benjamin Netanyahu is miscalculating. The Obama administration will pull back from the conflict, in essence washing its hands of Israel. But this can't be good for Israel. 2011 may mark the year when he United States began to turn away from Israel, not in anger but simply resignation.

What will happen in Pakistan? Much to everyone's surprise Osama bin-Laden will finally be hunted down by American forces. His capture in May will provide Obama with a brief bump in the polls. Meanwhile, Pakistan will experience a leadership change--the military will oust Asif Ali Zardari, who, vacationing at a French villa, is refused reentry into Pakistan. The Obama administration will publicly deplore the change, while welcoming it privately.

At home Republicans will pummel Obama for failing to promote democracy abroad. Pakistan and Russia will be Exhibit A's for Obama's critics. Tim Pawlenty will emerge as the sleeper candidate, while Sarah Palin is pounded by her rivals. Meanwhile, Bristol will embark upon her own reality show, upstaging her mother, including learning to become a NASCAR driver.

Obama himself will be excoriated by liberals for trying to compromise with the GOP on reducing the federal debt. Will he be able to avoid a resumption of smoking under the pressure? Talk of a third candidate will continue to center on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, though his failed response to a blackout in the summer further tarnishes his reputation after his failed effort during the 2010 snow storm. Bloomberg's credo for the 2012 election, however, terrifies the Obama White House: "We will bury you."