CIA report: Looking to 2020

Every 5 years, the CIAs thinktank, the National Intelligence Council, releases a report looking out 15 years in the future. They have just released their report out to 2020 and it’s a long, interesting read. As I go through the report I’ll post some bits and pieces and reaction.

Until then, feel free to grab it from my site here and read it yourself. It’s big, but fairly easy to read and certainly engaging.

OK, some reaction.

Basically, the Report is saying that globalization, will be one of the driving forces behind most of the events in the next 15 years. What I take from it is that globalization itself will not be driven solely by the US and Western powers but rather by the emergence of the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, as economic powers in their own right.

I believe China has already reached a point where it can determine the ebb and flow of economic activity in the world. The report seems to indicate that most experts believe this will continue and that the US’s position as most influence world economy could erode and possibly be given up. Whether that is a good or bad thing is highly debateable and will only be determined with time.

These two new powers will signal a change in the balance of power around the world. The US will hold its’ position as military hyper-power but on a regional basis could be challenged by regional powers.

On the points of military power the report says:

Countries without nuclear weapons, especially in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, may decide to seek them as it becomes clear that their neighbors and regional rivals already are doing so. …

Both North Korea and Iran probably will have an ICBM capability well before 2020 and will be working on improvements to enhance such capabilities, although new regimes in either country could rethink these objectives. Several other countries are likely to develop space launch vehicles (SLVs) by 2020 to put domestic satellites in orbit and to enhance national prestige. An SLV is a key stepping-stone toward an ICBM: it could be used as a booster in an ICBM development.

On the first point… this is clearly happening already. Israel is the only Nuclear state in the Middle East… Iran is looking to change that, as was Libya and Iraq. I wouldn’t be surprised if Syria attempts or is attempting the same. Likewise, NK has Nuclear Weapons, and now the South Koreans have admitted as much as well… will this lead to other SE Asian countries developing Nuclear weapons?

The only way to stop this proliferation is to renounce the use of such weapons. That scenario wasn’t even considered in this report, most likely because it is so incredibly far-fetched as to be ridiculous. The result: We will have to accept a world with more, not less, nuclear weapons.

On the ICBMs… there you have your “justification” for the Missile Defense Shield proposed by the US. The stupid thing is… ICBMs as weapons are only really used as transportation for nuclear weapons. If the world could agree on a way to renounce all nuclear weapons, then ICBMs would not be an issue and space exploration could continue unhindered for anyone wanting to take a shot.

Such post-World War II creations as the United Nations and international financial institutions risk sliding into obsolescence unless they take into consideration the growing power of the rising powers. Both supporters and opponents of multilateralism agree that Rwanda, Bosnia, and Somalia demonstrated the ineffectiveness, lack of preparation, and weaknesses of global and regional institutions to deal with what are likely to be the more common types of conflict in the future.

Here is the required reference to UN reform. It has to happen. In order for the UN to retain any sense of relevancy it must be reformed? How, no one knows… and even less people know how member countries will be convinced to support it. I don’t believe this means the UN will collapse completely. It only means that the Security Council will become more and more irrelevant when dealing with international conflicts.

Ethical issues linked to biotechnological discoveries such as cloning, GMOs, and access to biomedicines could become the source of hot debates among countries and regions.

That seems like a no-brainer. These will be the hot-button topics of my middle life it seems. I can only hope that the US and others will loosen their Intellectual Property laws and allow the cheap duplication of drugs and medicines so that the entire world can benefit from new technological and medical advances. That certainly won’t happen during the Bush years… but perhaps after. I also think it’ll take a massive catastrophe in a poor or less-developed nation, one that requires access to cheap drugs, to change the policies in question.

IMHO, Human Cloning will happen by 2010. Someone out there is going to do it. There will be a huge uproar and it will lead to over extreme reactions. While cloning in general is still far from being proven to be safe, the methods used are very important for the advancement of biotechnology and medicine. I can only hope, again, that civil debate surrounds this issue rather than the fear-mongering that many love to engage in.

Many in the developing world believe power in international bodies is too much a snapshot of the post-World War II world rather than the current one.

And this is exactly what must change. It must be initiated now in the International bodies so that the change is slow and orderly.. otherwise bad things could and likely will happen.

Nation-building is at best an imperfect concept, but more so with the growing importance of cultural, ethnic, and religious identities.

Can anyone say… Iraq?

The fear cycle generated by an increasing spread of WMD and terrorist attacks, once under way, would be one of the hardest to break. The greater sense of insecurity might prompt more countries to acquire WMD for protection or deterrence.

Developing and sustaining international cooperation when the fear cycle might drive some to go it alone would be a challenge.

This is the cycle we must resist.. unfortunately, I believe Iraq war to be part of this fear cycle. Right now, we are seeing the reaction in the form of the Iraqi insurgency and increased terrorist/jihadi presence in Iraq as well as increased anti-Americanism. This is a much slower cycle than the Israeli example, so it can be broken more easily, but its’ consequences are also far more wide ranging and potentially hazardous so we must be made aware and deal with this immediately.

From the reactions of the different regional discussion groups the report says this:

The most important tipping points include the impact of robust economic growth and the spread of technology; the nature and extent of terrorism; the resiliency or weakness of states, particularly in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa; and the potential spread of conflict, including between states.

..robust economic growth probably will help to overcome divisions and pull more regions and countries into a new global order. However, the rapid changes might also produce disorder at times; one of the lessons of that and the other scenarios is the need for management to ensure globalization does not go off the rails.

The perceived propping up of corrupt regimes by the United States in exchange for secure oil sources has in itself helped to promote continued stagnation. Disengagement is highly unlikely but would in itself have an incalculable effect. Regarding the prospects for democracy in the region, participants felt that the West placed too much emphasis on the holding of elections, which, while important, is only one element of the democratization process. There was general agreement that if the United States and Europe can engage with and encourage reformers rather than confront and hector, genuine democracy would be achieved sooner.

Absolutely! Don’t try to shove to down peoples throats! The most successful democracies are those that have taken root after popular revolt or demand for change. These revolts were often, if not always, supported by outside powers. “Organic” change is the only way it
will work… the will is there in the Middle East, as is evidenced in Iran, and even Egypt… the problem is the reformers do not have the support from either the outside or inside to bring in real change.

The United States will have to battle world public opinion, which has dramatically shifted since the end of the Cold War. Although some of the current anti-Americanism 13 is likely to lessen as globalization takes on more of a nonWestern face, the younger generation of leadersunlike during the post-World War II periodhas no personal recollection of the United States as its liberator. Thus, younger leaders are more likely than their predecessors to diverge with Washingtons thinking on a range of issues.

This is something that the US, and the American public and media, will simply have to come to terms with. As the world becomes less and less dependant on America for it’s own stability and prosperity it will become more confident and able to criticize US policy. America must show that it is willing to listen to the International community.

The Pew Research survey of attitudes around the world revealed sharply rising anti-Americanism, especially in the Muslim world, but it also found that people in Muslim countries place a high value on such democratic values as freedom of expression, freedom of the press, multiparty political systems, and equal treatment under the law. Large majorities in almost every Muslim country favor free market economic systems and believe that Western-style democracy can work in their own country.

Here’s the Pew Research Centres latest survey of International Opinion vis-a-vis the US. It ain’t pretty.

So that’s about it for my analysis and quotes.

One of the key factors in the coming decade will be how the European Union unfolds. Will it become a federal state? How big will it get? Will it have it’s own standing force. These questions all hold very large importance for Europes role as a policy maker. If the EU project is successful and the economic and social values of Western Europe permeate through the East then the EU could become a driving force in world affairs, rivaling the US and China.

So where’s Canada in all this? Hahah. Who knows. I think we’ll retain our position as little-brother to the US. We will maintain our independance of state and mind. I hope we continue to be a strong voice of reason on the international stage but the dimishing of the UN may affect our standing as well.

I am, overall, optimist for the future. I do believe that my child (children?) will lead a more prosperous and fulfilling life than I do. I believe there will be amazing technological and scientific discoveries that I can’t imagine but at the same time there will be massive suffering and loss on an equal scale.

I hope for the best… and hope that I can make a small difference in some way.