Friday, November 21, 2008

How Do You Say "We're Number One" in Chinese?

By 2025 America will no longer dominate the world as it has ever since the end of WWII. Says who? America's 50-billion dollar a year intelligence community, that's who.

An intelligence briefing prepared for president-elect Barack Obama paints a picture of an emerging world that will be both different and more dangerous than anything we in the West have known. From The Guardian:

The United States' leading intelligence organisation has warned that the world is entering an increasingly unstable and unpredictable period in which the advance of western-style democracy is no longer assured, and some states are in danger of being "taken over and run by criminal networks".

Looking ahead to 2025, the NIC (which coordinates analysis from all the US intelligence agencies), foresees a fragmented world, where conflict over scarce resources is on the rise, poorly contained by "ramshackle" international institutions, while nuclear proliferation, particularly in the Middle East, and even nuclear conflict grow more likely.

"Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed" warns that the spread of western democratic capitalism cannot be taken for granted, as it was by George Bush and America's neoconservatives.

"No single outcome seems preordained: the Western model of economic liberalism, democracy and secularism, for example, which many assumed to be inevitable, may lose its lustre – at least in the medium term," the report warns.

It adds: "Today wealth is moving not just from West to East but is concentrating more under state control," giving the examples of China and Russia.

"In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, the state's role in the economy may be gaining more appeal throughout the world."

Obama got an earful, none of it very good. Two bright spots - al Qaeda isn't expected to fare very well although terrorism is expected to evolve into a nuclear threat and, by 2025, the world may have found an alternative to oil.

The report forecasts a series of climate-change driven catastrophes and predicts a wave of migration of about 250-million climate refugees. If anything, that's likely a conservative estimate.

How reliable is this latest National Intelligence Council outlook? Much of it seems to be a rehashing of what has now become conventional wisdom. We have already witnessed the evolution of "sovereign wealth funds" particularly in China where the state has amassed foreign reserves in excess of a trillion US dollars. We have seen how well capitalism thrives under totalitarian rule. Despite our claims to the contrary, we've been bloody awful at fostering democracy abroad and our old schtick isn't selling very well any more.

Also, don't assume that America is somehow going to sail off the edge of the earth into oblivion. That's not the way these things work. America will decline - but only somewhat. A greater factor will be the ascendancy of China and possibly India driven by growth in those countries.

America's decline will probably look a lot more like the British experience in the 20th century. There will be some lapses, a period of weakness and decline, and then a period of stabilization and recovery. Until it got caught up in the same fiscal madness that infected the United States, Great Britain had been doing quite nicely.

I expect the West will again find unity if only out of necessity. The trans-Atlantic bonds that have been so frayed will be rewoven. Both sides have a great deal to gain from it and risk becoming marginalized if they don't. One thing is clear. It will have to be a more co-operative effort with the United States playing the role of a major partner, not the major partner.

As the report apparently warns of catastrophic environmental impacts heading America's way it would be interesting to learn how the US intelligence community thinks Asia, which is at far greater risk of climate change disasters, will absorb the blows. By 2025 both India and China will be struggling with major decline in their already limited freshwater resources and a host of air, soil and water contamination problems. It's anything but an ideal time to be leading a nation of a billion plus people through an industrial revolution.

The newspaper account also doesn't mention how the National Intelligence Council squares its 2008 assessment with the last one it issued in 2004 when Bush won his second term.

It was called Mapping the Global Future, and looked forward as far as 2020 when it projected "continued US dominance, positing that most major powers have forsaken the idea of balancing the US".

That confidence is entirely lacking from this far more sober assessment. Also gone is the belief that oil and gas supplies "in the ground" were "sufficient to meet global demand".

Of course the 2004 assessment came at a time when Rumsfeld was still Defence Secretary and Cheney, Feith and Libby were running roughshod over America's intelligence agencies. Those were the days when intelligence was cooked according to a very specific recipe.
The report will undoubtedly dismay American imperialists, the neo-cons who hatched the Project for the New American Century and the Bush Doctrine but I, for one, am comforted with the idea of Canada going into the next several decades with a calmer, more introspective America next door.


Larry Gambone said...

"some states are in danger of being "taken over and run by criminal networks".

Doesn't that describe all states run by corporatist interests?

The Mound of Sound said...

Now, now Larry, your anarchist bent is coming through.