Global Trends, Part I
This past December 18, a report titled "Global Trends 2015" was
released by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC is
a 15-member board which operates under the direction of the
Central Intelligence Agency and its director, George Tenet.
The NIC worked in close contact with various U.S. Government
specialists as well as outside experts that some of you may
recognize, including Joseph Nye, Richard Haass, and energy
expert Daniel Yergin.
As the title states, the purpose of the report was to assess the
various threats that the U.S. and the world face over the coming
15 years with the focus on broad strategic assessments.
NIC Chairman John Gannon is generally optimistic despite the
threats we face.
"The United States is going to be in a very strong position in
2015. The global economy driven by information technology
clearly benefits the U.S. The major challenge is how you
manage the downside of globalization - how do we deal with the
countries that feel they''re being left behind, particularly in
regions of the world like the Middle East."
Broadly speaking, the chief threat is that the world could be
increasingly divided into the haves and have-nots, leading to
heightened tensions and the continuing spread of weapons of
mass destruction (WMD).
We will spend the next few weeks with the NIC''s extensive
report. View Part I as simply talking points. These are the issues
that face Bush et al, and, at the end of the day, they will take up a
hell of a lot more of the administration''s time than school
With a few noted exceptions, everything that follows is gleaned,
verbatim, from the report. [www.cia.gov] Next week I will add
some of my own comments to the discussion points.
NIC has identified the following as major drivers and trends that
will shape the world of 2015.
2. Natural resources and environment.
3. Science and technology.
4. The global economy and globalization.
5. National and international governance.
6. Future conflict.
7. The role of the United States.
World population in 2015 will be 7.2 billion, up from 6.1 billion
in the year 2000, and in most countries, people will live longer.
95% of the increase will be in developing countries, nearly all in
rapidly expanding urban areas. Where political systems are
brittle, the combination of population growth and urbanization
will foster instability. Increasing lifespans will have significantly
[Ed. I would just add that consider the following: The world will
witness continuing growth in megacities like Jakarta, where the
population will grow from 9.5 to 21.2 million, and, in Lagos,
where it will expand from 12.2 to 21.2 million. Talk about hell-
Natural Resources and Environment
Overall food production will be adequate to feed the world''s
growing population, but poor infrastructure and distribution,
political instability, and chronic poverty will lead to
malnourishment in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The potential
for famine will persist in countries with repressive government
policies or internal conflicts. Despite a 50% increase in global
energy demand, energy resources will be sufficient to meet
demand; the latest estimates suggest that 80% of the world''s
available oil and 95% of its gas remain underground.
Science and Technology
Fifteen years ago, few predicted the profound impact of the
revolution in information technology. Looking ahead another 15
years, the world will encounter more quantum leaps in
information technology (IT) and in other areas of science and
technology. The continuing diffusion of information technology
and new applications of biotechnology will be at the crest of the
wave. IT will be the major building block for international
commerce and for empowering nonstate actors. Most experts
agree that the IT revolution represents the most significant global
transformation since the Industrial Revolution beginning in the
[Ed. Nonstate actors could include private corporations or
international criminal and terrorist networks.]
The Global Economy and Globalization
The networked global economy will be driven by rapid and
largely unrestricted flows of information, ideas, cultural values,
capital, goods and services, and people: that is, globalization.
This globalized economy will be a net contributor to increased
political stability in the world in 2015, although its reach and
benefits will not be universal. In contrast to the Industrial
Revolution, the process of globalization is more compressed. Its
evolution will be rocky, marked by chronic financial volatility
and a widening economic divide.
National and International Governance
States will continue to be the dominant players on the world
stage, but governments will have less and less control over flows
of information, technology, diseases, migrants, arms, and
financial transactions, whether licit or illicit, across their borders.
Nonstate actors ranging from business firms to nonprofit
organizations will play increasingly larger roles in both national
and international affairs. The quality of governance, both
nationally and internationally, will substantially determine how
well states and societies cope with these global forces.
The United States will maintain a strong technological edge in
IT-driven "battlefield awareness" and in precision-guided
weaponry in 2015. The United States will face three types of
--Asymmetric threats in which state and nonstate adversaries
avoid direct engagements with the U.S. military but devise
strategies, tactics, and weapons - some improved by "sidewise"
technology - to minimize U.S. strengths and exploit perceived
--Strategic WMD threats, including nuclear missile threats, in
which (barring significant political or economic changes) Russia,
China, most likely North Korea, probably Iran, and possibly Iraq
have the capability to strike the United States, and the potential
for unconventional delivery of WMD by both states or nonstate
actors also will grow; and
--Regional military threats in which a few countries maintain
large military forces with a mix of Cold War and post-Cold War
concepts and technologies.
--Prospects will grow that more sophisticated weaponry,
including weapons of mass destruction - indigenously produced
or externally acquired - will get into the hands of state and
nonstate belligerents, some hostile to the United States. The
likelihood will increase over this period that WMD will be used
either against the United States or its forces, facilities, and
Role of the United States
The United States will continue to be a major force in the world
community. U.S. global economic, technological, military, and
diplomatic influence will be unparalleled among nations as well
as regional and international organizations in 2015. This power
not only will ensure America''s preeminence, but also will cast
the United States as a key driver of the international system.
The United States will continue to be identified throughout the
world as the leading proponent and beneficiary of globalization.
U.S. economic actions, even when pursued for such domestic
goals as adjusting interest rates, will have a major global impact
because of the tighter integration of global markets by 2015.
Diplomacy will be more complicated. Washington will have
greater difficulty harnessing its power to achieve specific foreign
policy goals: the U.S. Government will exercise a smaller and
less powerful part of the overall economic and cultural influence
of the United States abroad.
Additional source: Vernon Loeb / Washington Post
Next week, we''ll take a look at the prospects for the global
economy as well as more specific demographic issues.