Sunday, November 23, 2008

Back to Our Hemisphere

The National Intelligence Council recently released a report titled, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” that predicted the decline of the United States. This is not news to me. I’ve touched base with this topic many times during my time at university in the social science college and in the ROTC program. From all the published material that I’ve read, the conclusions have been that America is in a state of decline. Not in the sense that there is an actual decline in hard/soft power but in that other countries are catching up. One paper (and I wish I had access to Lexis-Nexus and JSTOR again) put the US as being eclipsed in power by China by 2050.

These reports are interesting in that they make a more convincing case when painting a picture of the future than most sci-fi novels. However, I put less and less stock in what these reports have to say the further in the future they go. I tend to get more suspicious after the 5-15 year mark (which is about the time period needed for one or two regime changes within many countries). The reason is history has shown us—now that we can look behind—that it does not follow past predictions. Yes, you can make broad statements like America will decline—that’s obvious because nations rise and fall. All this has happened before and it will all happen again. Yadda Yadda. What I’m talking about are the meat and potatoes: military capability, economic power, and political power as relative to other countries.

Is it safe to say that states like China and India are on their way to becoming superpowers? Yes, based on what we have observed it is a good bet. The problem is that we cannot always see all ends. There are other forces at work in this world besides the will of--- oh crap lost my train of thought. Anyways my point is that there are a multitude of events that can happen and if they did, you might as well throw that report out the window. Let's focus on one thing-the population question: What would happen if China’s economic growth came to a halt or even declined just a bit? With a growing population (that needs access to jobs) and large disparity between the incomes between the upper classes and the lower classes, can China keep its society stable? How about India?

Before dancing on the grave of the United States, is entirely possible that the country can create a new industry—alternative energy. Becoming a manufacture and exporter of these technologies may prolong its economic dominance. Becoming part of a larger economic and political bloc may also keep the America’s influence afloat. Don’t count us out just yet.

The report is a good chunk of reading and if you are interested, you can read it for yourself here.


Kapitano said...

I don't think anyone's counting America out, or predicting it won't be a superpower in (say) 2050 - just saying it's unlikely to be the only superpower.

As for the other three "potential superpowers" mentioned - China, Russia and India - if I were a gambling man...I wouldn't place any bets.

China's enormous economic expansion was fueled by American and European investment and outsourcing - and I don't think it's had long enough to develop enough of it's own independent infrastructure. Which is why China won't be bailing out the west in any simple way. like China but with less and more recent investment, and in a smaller number of cities.

If I had to bet on a future second superpower, I'd probably go for Russia, mainly because its growth has to a great extent been internally generated.

But as you say, the only certain thing about long term predictions is, they've all been wrong.

john said...

Hey buddy...I was given a blog award for writing and in return I have to pass it on to other blogs that I thought worthy and yours is one of them. I will be posting about it soon.

David said...

@Kapitano, I am in agreement with your first statement in general although I would be hesitant to label the US as a superpower if the world turns over to a multi-polar world. In my view superpowers only occur in uni or bi-polar worlds. With the rise of regional power players like China (which is already here), South Africa, and Brazil, I can see how the US's global reach is going to be as firm. This is already evident in our military capabilities (self-imposed or not).

@John: As I said in our previous chat, I am honored for the award.