Monday, February 07, 2005

Left Behind 

Damn you, vicodin! And thanks to our revered colleague Avedon Carol for reminding us of an item we saw last Friday but neglected, in our druggy haze, to bring to your attention. In mid-December a CIA think tank called the National Intelligence Council released a 123-page report, "Mapping the Global Future," which says that by 2020, India and China will be on or approaching equal footing with the U.S. both technologically and economically. Regular correspondent "Stupid" at Altercation offers the following précis:

The report predicts within 15 years the U.S. will have "eroded" from sole superpower to "an important shaper of the international order." The report, in polite language, states the obvious: we're sacrificing Asia for the Middle East, and all the while second-level economic powers (India, Brazil) are circling us like sharks. "U.S. preoccupation with the war on terrorism is largely irrelevant to the security concerns of most Asians...U.S. disengagement from what matters to Asian allies would increase the likelihood that they will climb on Beijing's bandwagon." And who is going to suffer the consequences? "[T]he middle classes of the developed world in particular." Robert Reich, like a crazy street preacher, used to warn that government spending on infrastructure and education was necessary to increase (or decrease) economic growth. Now the CIA is writing his Book of Revelations.
The report has been roundly ignored by the American press, with one exception -- Daniel Sneider of the San Jose Mercury-News, whose article explains that:

The "Asian face" on globalization may create a rival financial system, one less dependent on the dollar. The currency reserves of Japan, China, Korea and India, now three-quarters of global reserves, will change the way business is done. And economic and cultural ties across Asia will grow, at the expense of Europe and America.

This Asian century does not only have an economic and technological dimension. China is set to overtake Russia as the second largest defense spender after the United States. In the next two decades, China will emerge as a "first-rate military power" . . . .

"The key question that the United States needs to ask itself is whether it can offer Asian states an appealing vision of regional security and order that will rival and perhaps exceed that offered by China," the CIA concludes.
From "Mapping the Global Future":

The 2020 Global Landscape

Relative Certainties
Key Uncertainties

Globalization largely irreversible,
likely to become less Westernized.
Whether globalization will pull in lagging economies; degree
to which Asian countries set new “rules of the game.”

World economy substantially larger.
Extent of gaps between “haves” and “have-nots”;
backsliding by fragile democracies;
managing or containing financial crises.

Increasing number of global firms
facilitate spread of new technologies.
Extent to which connectivity challenges governments.

Rise of Asia and advent of possible
new economic middle-weights.
Whether rise of China/India occurs smoothly.

Aging populations in established powers.
Ability of EU and Japan to adapt work forces,
welfare systems, and integrate migrant
populations; whether EU becomes a superpower.

Energy supplies “in the ground”
sufficient to meet global demand.
Political instability in producer countries;
supply disruptions.

Growing power of nonstate actors.
Willingness and ability of states and international
institutions to accommodate these actors.

Political Islam remains a potent force.
Impact of religiosity on unity of states and potential
for conflict; growth of jihadist ideology.

Improved WMD capabilities of some states.
More or fewer nuclear powers;
ability of terrorists to acquire biological,
chemical, radiological, or nuclear weapons.

Arc of instability spanning Middle East,
Asia, Africa.
Precipitating events leading to overthrow of regimes.

Great power conflict escalating into total
war unlikely.
Ability to manage flashpoints and competition
for resources.

Environmental and ethical issues
even more to the fore.
Extent to which new technologies
create or resolve ethical dilemmas.

US will remain single most powerful actor
economically, technologically, militarily.
Whether other countries will more openly challenge
Washington; whether US loses S&T edge.

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