The Intelligence Community's Supposed Big Thinkers Share Their Fantasy Vision of a Still Mighty USA in 2030
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Out of this, what exactly have the mavens of American intelligence, the representatives of the last remaining global superpower, concluded? Here would be my partial summary: that we should expect the rise of nothing much we don’t already know about; that various versions of the knowable present can be accurately projected into the future; that much depends on what happens to the Earth’s greatest state (with China nipping at its heels) -- whether, that is, with its “preponderance across the board in most dimensions of power, both ‘hard’ and ‘soft,’” the U.S. will remain a benevolent “global security provider” or “global policeman” of planetary stability or -- disaster of disasters -- pull in on itself, creating a declinist fortress America; that the true American crisis might be a decrease in military spending; that odds are the global economy, with more than a billion new “middle class” consumers, could do marginally better or worse; that Iran might (or might not) build nuclear weapons; that global conflict could increase somewhat (with an emphasis on resource wars) -- or decline; that the national state could hang in there with something like its present power or lose some of it to nongovernmental bodies and “smart cities,” and so on.
There are, however, a few topics that seem to have gone MIA in the National Intelligence Council’s version of our future world. You won’t, for instance, find these words emphasized in Global Trends 2030: corporations -- they seem to have no role worth mentioning in the world of the future; depression -- yes, “recession,” or even in extremis “collapse,” but not “global depression,” not even when the U.S. is compared to the planet’s previous great imperial power, nineteenth century Britain, and so to an era when depressions were rife (a possible “great depression” gets a single “low probability” mention); imperial -- since we’re the only... ahem... great you-know-what left, that’s not an appropriate word for the world of 2030; revolution -- oh, there was one of those in 1848 and it can be mentioned, but despite the fact that the globe has been convulsed by unexpected uprisings and unforeseen movements in recent years, in 2030, revolution is unimaginable; capitalism -- no need even to say it in a world in which nothing else exists, and to use it might imply that by 2030 another system of any sort could arise to challenge it, which is, of course, inconceivable; Israeli nuclear weapons -- why bring up the Israeli nuclear arsenal, which actually exists and will assumedly be there in 2030, when you can focus on that fabulous black swan Iran and its (as yet) nonexistent nuclear arsenal.
Finally, military base -- undoubtedly a perfectly acceptable term for the NIC in Global Trends 2040, once the Chinese establish a few of them abroad. In the meantime, in a world in which the U.S. still has about 1,000 of them globally, there's no point in bringing the subject up or discussing the fate of Washington’s historically unprecedented garrisoning of the planet. Nor in Global Trends 2030 will you find a serious consideration of American military power or Washington’s penchant in recent years not for guaranteeing stability but ensuring instability,mayhem, and chaos in distant lands.
You’ll find a section on drones, but not on our drone wars and how they might play out in 2030. (Another verboten set of words now associated with those wars are assassination,targeted killing, kill list. You’ll find the Arab Spring discussed in passing, but not the Indian Spring. (You know, the one that occurred in 2023 in that youth-bulge of a nation when rising expectations met economic frustration.) You’ll read much about resource problems and potential resource wars, but not about the 800-pound gorilla in the global room. The single looming crisis threatening the well-being of the planet, climate change, while certainly discussed in passing, is essentially ducked on the grounds, it seems, that by 2030 it won’t really have hit yet. (Assumedly, none of the group meetings the NIC called were held in the parched U.S. southwest, the drought-stricken Midwest, or on the Jersey Coast since Hurricane Sandy hit.)