Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"It's a Dangerous World" -- NIC

The Washington Times carried a page one “above-the-fold” story today about a soon-to-be-released quadrennial report entitled “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.” Of the various conclusions reached in this assessment, the Times highlights two: by 2025 the current U.S. economic and military dominance will be in the past; and as a consequence (or perhaps as a catalyst), the combination of the elements of national power will create a multi-polar, balance-of-power context for the conduct of international relations.

One must go back to the first two decades of the 20th century to find – better yet, a further 30 years to 1870 to find the beginning of the last realignment of European countries to accommodate a multi-polar, balance-of-power alignment. That was the year in which the last two independent cities (Venice and Rome) on the Italian peninsula were incorporated into a single country. On January 2, 1871, the victorious Germanic princes, having just defeated Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War and occupied Versailles, elected Wilhelm of Prussia Kaiser (emperor) of a united Germany. While both countries naturally concentrated on consolidating their newly achieved sovereignty in Europe, Germany under the direction of its chancellor, Otto von Bismarck almost as quickly turned its attention to acquiring colonies, without which they would never be regarded as being in the “same league” as Britain or (eventually) a resurgent France or even the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal all of which had extensive colonial holdings.

Why all the history? Add to the countries already named the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire in general and Turkey in particular, and Imperial Japan (which emerged as an international player when it defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1905), throw in the two sets of interlocking security guarantees that passed for a stabilizing balance-of-military-power arrangement, and the only ingredient needed to bring the whole edifice crashing to the ground is the sharp report of gunfire in the Balkans in early summer 1914.

The 1882 Triple Alliance of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy, an
agreement designed to offset the combined power of France and Russia,
was the basis for the wartime alliance of the Central Powers (Germany,
Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey (Ottoman Empire).

The 1904 Entente Cordiale between France and Britain, designed to check Germany’s colonial ambitions, became the 1907 Triple Entente with the addition of Russia.

What I take from the Times story is a sense that the NIC foresees the possibility that a new set of interlocking security guarantees (including economic ones) may have evolved by 2025 and that, unlike the early 20th century, the U.S. will be part of one such grouping. But how the various rising powers will align themselves is unclear. The NIC did provide some details: by 2025

Korea will be united under a non-communist form of government;

China will be the second largest economy but will fall behind India as the most populous country;

Russia will have the world’s fifth largest economy;

Indonesia, Turkey, and a “post-clerical” Iran will be significant players;

terrorism, though much reduced, will not disappear; and

the dollar may lose its position as the world’s reserve currency.

Even so, there is the final disclaimer by the NIC: the report is not predictive. Any one or more events or conditions may never occur. But as president, if they do, don’t come back and complain you were not foewarned.


Blogger Karl said...

Hello. As you talk about elements of national power, you might find the following paper interesting, the title is New Thinking in Measuring National Power:
You may also like the resource page that contains many interesting links on the subject:

11:13 AM  

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