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Michael T. Klare: Welcome to 2025

October 26, 2009

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Michael T. Klare

Memo to the CIA: You may not be prepared for time-travel, but welcome to 2025 anyway! Your rooms may be a little small, your ability to demand better accommodations may have gone out the window, and the amenities may not be to your taste, but get used to it. It’s going to be your reality from now on.

Okay, now for the serious version of the above: In November 2008, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an affiliate of the Central Intelligence Agency, issued the latest in a series of futuristic publications intended to guide the incoming Obama administration. Peering into its analytic crystal ball in a report entitled Global Trends 2025, it predicted that America’s global preeminence would gradually disappear over the next 15 years — in conjunction with the rise of new global powerhouses, especially China and India. The report examined many facets of the future strategic environment, but its most startling, and news-making, finding concerned the projected long-term erosion of American dominance and the emergence of new global competitors. “Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor [in 2025],” it stated definitively, the country’s “relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained.”

That, of course, was then; this — some 11 months into the future — is now and how things have changed. Futuristic predictions will just have to catch up to the fast-shifting realities of the present moment. Although published after the onset of the global economic meltdown was underway, the report was written before the crisis reached its full proportions and so emphasized that the decline of American power would be gradual, extending over the assessment’s 15-year time horizon. But the economic crisis and attendant events have radically upset that timetable. As a result of the mammoth economic losses suffered by the United States over the past year and China’s stunning economic recovery, the global power shift the report predicted has accelerated. For all practical purposes, 2025 is here already.

Less than a year into the 15-year span of Global Trends 2025, the days of America’s unquestioned global dominance have come to an end.

Many of the broad, down-the-road predictions made in Global Trends 2025 have, in fact, already come to pass. Brazil, Russia, India, and China — collectively known as the BRIC countries — are already playing far more assertive roles in global economic affairs, as the report predicted would happen in perhaps a decade or so. At the same time, the dominant global role once monopolized by the United States with a helping hand from the major Western industrial powers — collectively known as the Group of 7 (G-7) — has already faded away at a remarkable pace. Countries that once looked to the United States for guidance on major international issues are ignoring Washington’s counsel and instead creating their own autonomous policy networks. The United States is becoming less inclined to deploy its military forces abroad as rival powers increase their own capabilities and non-state actors rely on “asymmetrical” means of attack to overcome the U.S. advantage in conventional firepower.

No one seems to be saying this out loud — yet — but let’s put it bluntly: less than a year into the 15-year span of Global Trends 2025, the days of America’s unquestioned global dominance have come to an end. It may take a decade or two (or three) before historians will be able to look back and say with assurance, “That was the moment when the United States ceased to be the planet’s preeminent power and was forced to behave like another major player in a world of many competing great powers.” The indications of this great transition, however, are there for those who care to look.

Six Way Stations on the Road to Ordinary Nationhood

Here is my list of six recent developments that indicate we are entering “2025” today. All six were in the news in the last few weeks, even if never collected in a single place. They (and other events like them) represent a pattern: the shape, in fact, of a new age in formation.

1. At the global economic summit in Pittsburgh on September 24th and 25th, the leaders of the major industrial powers, the G-7 (G-8 if you include Russia) agreed to turn over responsibility for oversight of the world economy to a larger, more inclusive Group of 20 (G-20), adding in China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and other developing nations. Although doubts have been raised about the ability of this larger group to exercise effective global leadership, there is no doubt that the move itself signaled a shift in the locus of world economic power from the West to the global East and South — and with this shift, a seismic decline in America’s economic preeminence has been registered.

“The G-20’s true significance is not in the passing of a baton from the G-7/G-8 but from the G-1, the U.S.,” Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University wrote in the Financial Times. “Even during the 33 years of the G-7 economic forum, the U.S. called the important economic shots.” Declining American leadership over these last decades was obscured by the collapse of the Soviet Union and an early American lead in information technology, Sachs also noted, but there is now no mistaking the shifting of economic power from the United States to China and other rising economic dynamos.

2. According to news reports, America’s economic rivals are conducting secret (and not-so-secret) meetings to explore a diminished role for the U.S. dollar — fast losing its value — in international trade. Until now, the use of the dollar as the international medium of exchange has given the United States a significant economic advantage: it can simply print dollars to meet its international obligations while other nations must convert their own currencies into dollars, often incurring significant added costs. Now, however, many major trading countries — among them China, Russia, Japan, Brazil, and the Persian Gulf oil countries — are considering the use of the Euro, or a “basket” of currencies, as a new medium of exchange. If adopted, such a plan would accelerate the dollar’s precipitous fall in value and further erode American clout in international economic affairs…

Read the rest of this essay at TomDispatch.com

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Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Owl Books). A documentary film version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation at Bloodandoilmovie.com.

Copyright 2009 Michael T. Klare

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