The NIC 2025 Report: Right on Nuclear Arms; Wrong on Terrorism
Quote:US Intelligence Report: World Headed for Multipolar Global Community
By VOA News
21 November 2008
A new U.S. intelligence report predicts that by 2025, China and India could join the United States as top powers in a multipolar global order.
The National Intelligence Council's "Global Trends 2025" report released Thursday, says the U.S. will become less dominant in the next two decades and the U.S. dollar will fall in power, sinking to a so-called "first among equals" in world currencies.
It also predicts a decline of al-Qaida, saying the terrorist network has not achieved broad support in the Islamic world.
The council represents all 16 American intelligence agencies.
The report says the concentration of wealth in the world will continue its shift from West to East. It says continued economic and population growth will put more pressure on supplies of energy, food and water.
In the report, the experts say the pressures of climate change may also contribute to shortages, fueling conflicts over resources.
They also say it is unclear whether China and Russia will continue advances toward democracy and what impact Iran's nuclear program will have on its neighbors.
The National Intelligence Council publishes a report about key global trends every four years, in an attempt to project how the trends might influence world events.
The council, which describes itself as the "center of strategic thinking" within the U.S. government, reports to the director of U.S. National Intelligence. The council says it provides the president and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the intelligence community.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
Quote:The NIC 2025 Report: Right on Nuclear Arms; Wrong on Terrorism
The media and blogosphere have been buzzing all day about the National Intelligence Council's latest forward-looking report on what the state of the world will be in twenty years. "Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed" is a far reaching report, hitting on a myriad of topics including diminishing global energy resources, future global financial systems, rising world powers, etc. The council also addressed more salient national security issues, such as the spread of nuclear weapons, and the evolution of terrorism. In the former, the NIC highlights the most serious issue related the proliferation of these weapons, and for that I commend them; however, their assertions on terrorism border on uninformed and present a backward perspective on where terrorist come from.
Making a nuclear weapon is hard. First you need fissile material (arguable the easiest element to acquire), then massive facilities investment, but most importantly, you need people with the expertise to design and build a weapon. That said, it is easy to see that the diffusion of people with this knowledge is what actually drives the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the NIC nails this. On page 67 they state, "The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups." While seemingly obvious, until now no group had so succinctly articulated this point. Knowing who has this expertise, where they are, and who they interact with will be the critical challenge in containing the spread of these weapons going forward. This achievement by the NIC, unfortunately, is quickly undermined in the following pages.
The report presents what it calls the "Good and Bad News" on terrorism; however, the prerequisites for the scenarios they present have already been dismissed. Specifically, on page 68 the report states, "As long as turmoil and societal disruptions, generated by resource scarcities, poor governance, ethnic rivalries, or environmental
degradation, increase in the Middle East, conditions will remain conducive to the
spread of radicalism and insurgencies. Future radicalism could be fueled by global
communications and mass media. Increasing interconnectedness will enable individuals to coalesce around common causes across national boundaries, creating new cohorts of the angry, downtrodden, and disenfranchised."
From my reading, the NIC still believes that terrorist are poor, down and out young men with nothing better to do than join up with the local jihadist group. The work of Marc Sageman (and others) has clearly shown, however, that this view is fundamentally flawed, and that terrorist in fact come from the upper-middle class, are well educated, and have lots of options. In addition, the report sites a study that indicates that there is "very little support for al-Qa'ida" in a host of Middle Eastern nations. Clearly the notable finding would have been if these researchers had found a majority of public opinion in support of al-Qaeda--a fringe extremist group whose interpretation of the Qu'ran sickens most Muslims. My point: this is an irrelevant piece of data that has no bearing on future trends in terrorism. It is unfortunate that the NIC fell so short on terrorism, which is in part the result of their failure to consulting the growing literature on the evolution of terrorists before drawing conclusions.
Despite my disappointment in the NIC's take on terrorism, as a whole the report brings many important issues to light, and in serving as a catalyst for debate the report can certainly be viewed as success.
Quote:November 21, 2008
Other interesting bits from the NIC 2025 study
The new National Intelligence Council's report on what the world may look like in 2025 is so dense that a lot of really interesting findings couldn't be included in the story written when the study was unveiled on Nov 20. So Nukes & Spooks thought we'd throw some out there - in no particular order - for popular consideration:
One factor that could mitigate the socio-economic impact of aging workforces in many countries over the next two decades is the economic empowerment of women. The report finds that recent improvements in health care, education and employment opportunities for women and girls have contributed as much to increased economic productivity in recent years as technological improvements. "Over the next 20 years, the increased entry of women in the workplace may continue to mitigate the economic impacts of global aging," the report said.
It added that "nowhere is the role of women potentially more important for geopolitical change than in the Muslim world." The report noted that Muslim women do far better assimilating in Europe than Muslim men and that they may in the future "help show the way to greater social assimilation and reduce the likelihood of religious extremism."
Experts expect HIV/AIDS to remain a global pandemic through 2025, with Sub-Saharan Africa continuing to be the "epicenter of infection," the report said. Even if an effective vaccine or a "self-administered microbicide" are developed by then, it is unlikely that either will be "widely disseminated," the report continued.
If prevention efforts and the effectiveness of life-extending anti-retroviral therapies remain at current levels, the world's HIV-positive population is forecast to climb from the estimated 33 million today to an estimated 50 million by 2025. Nearly half of those cases will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. If an all-out prevention campaign were in place by 2015, the world's HIV-positive cases would peak and then fall to about 25 million by 2025.
Even with a massive effort to develop clean fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, all current technologies "are inadequate for replacing traditional energy architectures on the scale needed," according to the report. "New energy technologies will probably not be commercially viable and widespread by 2025," it continued.
"Simply meeting baseline energy demand over the next two decades is estimated to require more than $3 trillion of investment in traditional hydrocarbons by companies built up over more than a century and with market capitalizations in the hundreds of billions of dollars. We expect any new form of energy to demand similarly massive investment," the report said.
The geopolitical consequences of reducing global use of oil and gas will be "immense," according to a section of the report called "Winners and Loser in a Post-Petroleum World." The biggest loser: Saudi Arabia. It will suffer "the biggest shock," and its leaders could face serious challenges from religious conservatives as they try to implement major economic reforms to diversify the economy, including full participation by women in the economy.
Another major loser would be Iran, whose populist economic policies would be undermined by reductions in oil and gas prices. Such a development could fuel demands for economic reform, including opening up the economy to Western investment and stronger ties with Western countries including the United States. "Iranian leaders might be more willing to trade their nuclear policies for aid and trade," the report said.
Experts currently consider 21 countries, whose combined populations total 600 million people, to have shortages of arrable land or fresh water. That number is forecast to rise to 36 countries, whose populations will total about 1.4 billion people, by 2025. "Lack of access to stable supplies of water is reaching unprecedented proportions in many areas of the world and is likely to grow worse owing to rapid urbanization and population growth," the report said.
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Interesting post. So, clean water, clean energy and women's rights should form a significant national and economic security focus?
Have we run out of bombs? When did the NIC let all the lefties in?
This is literally what we tree-hugging global-conservationist/human rights-types have been saying for years.
I suggest that a late start is better than no start at all!
Posted by: valdis | November 21, 2008 at 04:23 PM
Women have also been the recipients and caretakers of "microcredit" the idea of which won Dr. Yunus Mohammad the Nobel Peace Prize. Such innovative actions often grate against culturally- accepted norms. On the other hand, many human civilizations have collapsed due to intransigence; for the inability to look over one's shoulder to see how other cultures (often ignored as "primitive") solve such problems as e.g. food sustainability. I think the trend is toward multifactorial peace processes
customized for each region with primary considerations for health and prosperity. Democracy promotion will have to take a back to more fundamental concerns as the global recession defines more needs than wants.