Friday, September 12, 2008

Global Trends 2025

Editors Note: for those looking for the final report, see

Here is an unsettling report, from the Washington Post:

The presidential candidates will soon receive a briefing from our nation's Intelligence Community with the upcoming 'Global Trends 2025', an overview of international factors that will shape our world and our place in it. Dr. Thomas Fingar, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, recently gave a preview of the key findings. It is not a cheery picture.

"The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished," Fingar said, according to a transcript of the Thursday speech. He saw U.S. leadership eroding "at an accelerating pace" in "political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas."

In the years ahead, Washington will no longer be in a position to dictate what new global structures will look like. Nor will any other country, Fingar said. "There is no nobody in a position . . . to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system," he said.

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world. But among industrialized states, declining birthrates will create new economic stresses as populations become grayer. In China, Japan and Europe, the ratio of working adults to seniors "begins to approach one to three," he said.

The United States will fare better than many other industrial powers, in part because it is relatively more open to immigration. Newcomers will inject into the U.S. economy a vitality that will be absent in much of Europe and Japan -- countries that are "on a good day, highly chauvinistic," he said.

Energy security will also become a major issue as India, China and other countries join the United States in seeking oil, gas and other sources for electricity. The Chinese get a good portion of their oil from Iran, as do many U.S. allies in Europe, limiting U.S. options on Iran. "So the turn-the-spigot-off kind of thing -- even if we could do it -- would be counterproductive."
I look forward to the actual "Global Trends 2025" report, due out later this year. But the key notes are chilling enough. Reports like these really cause me concern. This is not some crazy doomer on a wacko peak oil message board. This is a consensus of top American Intelligence Community officials. Perhaps no matter how much we wish that The Long Emergency or Long Road Down are only apocalyptic fantasy, they may be reality. And that reality may be sooner than we realize...

Other Global Trends Posts:
Global Trends 2025
Global Trends Update
Global Trends Update II
Globalization and the Crash of '08
Demographics of Discord
Timing is Everything
Winners and Losers in a Post-Petroleum World
Scarcity in the Midst of Plenty
Final Thoughts


Anonymous said...

yeah, and they coudn't forecast such a sudden financial and economic crisis we're experiencing right now !
by butters

Chief said...

Thanks butters. Obviously no one is prescient, and predicting the future is a tough business to be in...

supinesmarmy said...

The US has bought this decline of influence and power upon itself. Years of blackmail and bribery (to achieve selfish and insular goals)of other nations, regions and multilateral organizations etc have isolated it. The general "kick yo goddam ass" approach has to be dispensed with (perhaps there will be some reprieve with this new prez of yours)

Chief said...

Interesting comment supinesmarmy...I would counter that while all nations act (and should act) in self-interest, the US has done quite a lot of good. Those that think a relative decline in US power is a positive turn of events, may be in for a rude awakening when they get their wish. Which nations do you see filling the power void, and how will they be an improvement?

Anonymous said...

It is in one's self interest to accord others a teeny bit of respect. Yep, certain US govts. have been able to acknowledge this, and the US has done some good. A world with China or some other power preeminent may be no better. Personally I don't want any one nation to fill any power void. Balance is crucial and smaller nation states and regions should band together to hold firm against the aggressive posturing and selfishness so commonly displayed by those with too much power.

Chief said...

Chapter 7 covers this exact topic - Power Sharing in a Multi-Polar World. It posits that, while on the rise in the past decade, anti-Americanism will wane in the coming years and demand for US leadership will increase, while capabilities will not. It certainly sounds good for groups of small nations to band together in common good, perhaps ala the EU. There are many, many shared interests and ideals with "Western" nations. Trends in European hegemony are not positive either, however.

Anonymous said...

chapter 7 is wishful thinking to a great extent on the issue of demands for American leadership (hey, the world needs us surely). As for "anti-Americanism" it's hard to define what this is exactly. Perhaps a "default" position of cynicism towards America's stated aims and wishes (ie something perfectly intelligent and decent considering the record of US govt's in destabalising countries and eliminating democracy globally).
Now Chief, you can look at the US and the European record on global co-operation (ICC, Biodiversity treaties, Kyoto, tax havens, small arms etc etc and just reconsider your statement on "european hegemony'
I advise you lastly to stop defending the record of your nation on the global stage ... it is a disgrace and utterly indefensible, hence its declining power.

Chief said...

Re: European Hegemony

My point, perhaps poorly worded, was that the chances for the EU to band together and provide a counter-balance to US power are declining as well. Europeans seem to be facing even greater challenges, especially concerning demography (crushing domestic entitlements) and the ability to assimilate immigrants.

From your comments, I now assume perhaps this is not what you had in mind for 'smaller nation states and regions to band together'. Obviously, the report is certainly not able to see the future, is written from a US-centric viewpoint, and may be totally wrong. I'd like for you to elaborate on how you think the power void will be filled; which nations, groups of nations, or even regional factions and NGOs will rise and how they will differ from the current world stage.

Thanks for your comments, it is always good to get multiple viewpoints on a subject.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chief,
Sure did lash out in my last post huh but I bet you're up for goading me on... hee hee hee, visions of him frothing at the mouth yelling "you amereecan peeg dog bastid!" etc). Right, I'll try to get serious but I'm not good at it, just warning you.
I'm interested in this idea of a "power void". Why so much talk about this? What is this power for, who benefits from a "void" and who loses out?
As for what you say about the EU, dead right, more than that in fact as it's chances are declining from a previous position of zero. We have various grovelling sycophants to thank for that here in eurofag land.
OK let's assume a power void is developing and let's further assume that the country to initially fill it will be China.. both flimsy assumptions... more like presumptions. I know some people don't like the sound of this but China may not be any worse that the previous bully. While one worries about the moral and ethical make-up of those in power in China one must remember that it will never have that much freedom of manoeuver. It faces itself titanic problems mostly due to population pressure which will necessitate a more considerate, less "kick yo ass" approach in trade and diplomatic relations due to its greater dependence on the world outside. I should add though that there's a chance of it becoming a bit more inward looking, perhaps to its own benefit, what with we in eurofag land and others questioning the benefits of trade with it and the Chinese themselves talking more about inter-regional trade within China.

Chief said...

Wow, not sure how to respond to this, but here goes...

First, I'll preface this by fully admitting that I am not a foreign policy expert by any stretch of the imagination. It is merely a nascent hobby of mine, along with many other interests.

Second, I'd advise you to adjust your tone as your brashness diminishes any slight amount of credibility that could be derived on an internet forum and is quickly on the path to troll status. You may wish to call your calling America a 'disgrace and utterly indefensible' as mere 'cynicism', but to me that shows a deep seated animosity that can only be termed anti-Americanism.

Now that we're on the same page, I can certainly understand why the decline of American power delights you so. I fully agree that there will be many people around the world that will take great enjoyment of it. While many people look towards the US with great fondness; especially regarding its freedoms, people, educational and business opportunities, there are many, many others who for one reason or another do not.

Lastly, I'll try to answer your question regarding power. As, I previously stated, I have no formal education in the political science or foreign policy arena, but I'll attempt to give my definition and thoughts on 'power'.

In my view 'power' is the ability to influence or exert ones will. The ability to affect global institutions and laws and the ability for your citizens to have reliable access to goods and services - most notably necessities such as energy and food.

This takes several forms, in both 'hard' and 'soft' power. Hard power is the one we are most familiar with, however, it is more than bombs and bullets, it is also the ability to deter the use of bombs and bullets by the mere appearance of overwhelming military strength.

Soft power encompasses many avenues; economic, political, societal and cultural. While much more nuanced than hard power, it can be just as effective.

This power can be concentrated in many ways, which shift over time. Uni-, bi- and multi-polar paradigms have all existed at one time or another and some systems are more stable than others.

I certainly cannot predict the future, but as the report posits, there seems to be a trend that US power will wane. This may be relative to other nations, and others (China perhaps) will step up to fill the void. Chinese intentions are rather unclear at this point, and it is hard to say how that will play out.

Another scenario, however, could be that no nations increase their relative power, and the void is filled by a wide variety of institutions. The report calls this 'Multipolarity without Multilateralism'. For better or worse, multi-national corporations, NGOs, regional warlords, and organized crime could all begin to exert more and more control of the world's affairs. Without strong leadership, certain worldwide problems that were nearly impossible to solve will now be irretrievably so.

Anonymous said...

Well Chief, firstly I advise you to not tell others to adjust their tone (your problem entirely if you reject such advice). Additionally the ability to occasionally use a little self-deprecating humour is a hallmark of someone who is confident and sure of themselves. It is earnest, overbearing people like you who lose credibility (on net forums and elsewhere). As for anti-Americanism... ha, you got me man. I did say something about a default position of cynicism or at least skepticism towards American « stated » goals being the only decent and intelligent stance to adopt today. Sorry, my view still stands (rock steady). To illustrate why the above is so I'd advise you to read a little history. Start with your greatest historian on the post WWII era, Noam Chomsky.

Yep, I'll confirm I'm absolutely delighted with the decline of American power.. And yes, I have the company of millions (nay..billions) of people on this.
Now let me tell you how a great number (a significant majority according to my soundings) of Europeans view your country. In two words ..A joke. Here goes.... The prevalence of guns and the consequent appalling crime levels and insecurity Americans feel. A disgraceful health care scene. A near complete absence of any safety net for victims of your "greed is good" economic system. The death penalty, in itself and especially as applied in many states to those dependent on their race and wealth. Appalling levels of child poverty and working poor. A truly pathetic level of religious bigotry and ignorance .... Oh my God, it hurts me to even think of American society, what inferior rubbish it is. I laugh, I cry, I laugh again... enough.

Yes, ...there are many, many others who for « one reason or another » do not regard highly Americas freedoms etc. Hah, freedoms. Paaattriiooott Act, Guantanamo, judicial killing of minors and innocents, (er, your rubbish fascist state has not yet signed up to the international convention on the rights of the Child..., but don't worry, you have company... namely... er,.... I think it's called Somalia.

Now, some matters in which the international community have « crossed the line » as some of you seem to like saying... Small Arms Control, Anti personnel mines, bio-diversity agreements, Kyoto protocol, controls on Tax havens, International criminal court.... sorry I can't go on... I'm having trouble breathing.... gasp. ... (.. « for one reason or another »....)

As for your definition of power I think you should have the decency to point out that what has been most important for recent US administrations has been the ability to subvert global institutions and laws. You have had some success recently but this will not continue.

On the issue of "hard" and "soft" power you have none of the latter left whatsoever. Just the threats, blackmail and bribery of hard power.

As for multipolarity and multilateralism we've had mostly the bipolarity of The USA verses everyone else since (and before) the ending of the cold war. One thing can be said for sure and that is that Americas declining ability to exert it's will won't be missed by hardly anyone.

To finish I ask you to imagine this... American Power is a person bleeding to death after some accident. No one stops to help. Goodbye American power. Goodbye the stinking bad will that your nation state has permeated this world with. Go home, Stay home.

I advise you to get an education.

Chief said...

Your hatred of my country is duly noted. And congratulations for being the first person ever to call me "overbearing", that brought me a chuckle.

I will readily admit the US is not perfect (what nation is?), and there are hefty tradeoffs to be weighed for any decisions made by individuals and policies set by governments. I would imagine it is nice to have them all neatly and absolutely defined in your head, but I'm afraid we will just have to agree to disagree.

"In many respects, the United States is the freest country in the world. I don't just mean in terms of limits on state coercion, though that's true too, but also in terms of individual relations. The United States comes closer to classlessness in terms of interpersonal relations than virtually any society." - Noam Chomsky 2003. Chomsky on Democracy & Education. Routledge. p. 399

I learn something new every day.