Sunday, January 4, 2009

The National Intelligence Council and the Global Future

[Image from National Geophysical Data Center]

Richard Weitz, in an article for World Politics Review titled "Global Insights: Charting the Global Future," discusses a National Intelligence Council report released about a month and a half ago.

The report is called "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World."

Weitz notes that those involved in this report do not attempt to predict the future, or suggest a "preferred vision of the future," but "Instead, they aspire to describe the key driving factors that will influence international developments during the next two decades."

But, the NIC analysts "clearly seek to help shape the future rather than simply describe it ... [and] hope to encourage U.S. and foreign policymakers to intervene in ways that promote the most benign outcomes and avoid the most adverse scenarios."

In this particular NIC report, the fourth they have published, the analysts "identify globalization, demographics, the rise of new powers, the decay of international institutions, climate change, and the geopolitics of energy as some of the most important drivers of international change."

One important trend identified is "the growth of 'state capitalism.'" Instead of following the "dominant Western liberal model of development, which seeks to constrain the government's role in economic policy ... the state capitalist paradigm allocates a wide role for government intervention to promote national economic development."

We have already seen this model at work in the US as our economic institutions have been taken over by the government in the wake of their crashing under the unregulated weight of greed and avarice.

The kicker is that for the most part, countries that practice state capitalism tend to be of a totalitarian nature. That, too, we have seen here as the administration of George W. Bush has moved the US closer to a totalitarian state.

Secondly, this NIC report expects that relative to the US, "China, India, and perhaps Russia or other countries" will gain strength due to "ongoing globalization, the diffusion of military technologies, 'an historic shift of relative wealth and economic power from West to East,' and other factors."

Ironically, says Weitz, the NIC report suggests that, as the globe undergoes a variety of power transitions, other countries might continue to look to the US for leadership "to balance threatening great powers, curb terrorism and WMD proliferation, and lead efforts to manage global problems like climate change."

The reason for this is that a "diffusion of power among individual national governments" is expected and nongovernmental organizations will not be able to carry the load. This will lead to a "global governance deficit," which will be addressed by multiple entities:

"Current trends suggest that global governance in 2025 will be a patchwork of overlapping, often ad hoc and fragmented efforts, which shifting coalitions of member nations, international organizations, social movements, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], philanthropic foundations, and companies."

All of the above portray an "unstructured multilateral world ... bound to be more complex and probably more problematic."

It is possible that "three 'quasi-blocs'" will emerge "in Europe, East Asia, and North America, which would provide the basis for regionally-centered financial and trade arrangements that might extend into the security realm.

But the NIC is worried, "particularly about possible resource conflicts among states, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and the heightened prospects of adverse 'discontinuities, shocks, and surprises.'"

We should all be worried, for in fact we see those things happening now: the war in Iraq was a "resource conflict": the Bushites wanted Iraq's oil, or at the least wanted to ensure it didn't fall into the "wrong" hands. A Middle East nuclear arms race is incipient. And much of what we've experienced in the past eight years comes under the umbrella of "adverse 'discontinuities, shocks, and surprises.'"

The report ends with the hope that good leaders will be able to mitigate the worst scenarios. That hope grows as Bush and his cronies move out to pasture taking their stupendous incompetence and ideological idiocy with them.

The NIC says "Bad outcomes are not inevitable." And as Mr. Weitz says, that "should reassure the Obama team, many of whose expected members have both offered similar assessments of global trends as the NIC and suggested ways to manage them."

There's much more to Weitz's article. Click here.

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