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Thread: Alternative Worlds

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Alternative Worlds

    This is the title of the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) latest global futures report, which has a rave review from Australia:
    The international hand-wringing over North Korea's rocket test is obscuring a bigger story this week about the long-term future of Asia and the world.

    I'm referring to the dramatic conclusions of a major new US intelligence study which warns of unprecedented levels of uncertainty and complexity looking out to 2030. The US National Intelligence Council's latest global futures report, Alternative Worlds, makes for rich, rewarding and often unpleasant reading, and should be compulsory homework for political decision-makers, officials, journalists, business leaders and think tank denizens alike. There's so much real-world intellectual treasure here, and it is so well crafted, that I was tempted to nominate it as my book of the year.

    The report represents an impressive process: each four years, the US intelligence community reaches out to the so-called 'open source world' of scholars, former officials, thinkers and experts of every stripe, as well as fiction writers for good measure. It is the ultimate cross-disciplinary study: hundreds of fine minds arguing out their best estimates about the future.

    Over months of debate – much of it conducted online this time – a core team winnows the sharpest ideas, tests and tightens them, and presents the final document to the US president shortly after the election. Then not long later the report is released to the world.
    Link to NIC report in PDF:http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/G...rends_2030.pdf

    Or a very short summary:http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/I...0Le%20Menu.pdf

    The principal author has four Q&A segments:http://www.youtube.com/user/ODNIgov

    Link to a short review article:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...w-of-asia.aspx

    I am aware of the NIC; has anyone read this report?
    davidbfpo

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Just How Intelligent is the NIC Global Trends 2030?

    A Time article by Thomas Barnett of the report, which spares no punches:http://nation.time.com/2012/12/21/ju...l-trends-2030/
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A Time article by Thomas Barnett of the report, which spares no punches:http://nation.time.com/2012/12/21/ju...l-trends-2030/
    He makes a good point on our excessive focus on the human domain and non-state actors and transnational threats replacing the historical state threats. We have many in our security community, often evidenced on SWJ, who believe the State has become non-relevant.

    The Nonstate World suffers the worst internal logic of the four. In many ways, it seems to embrace Parag Khanna’s notion of a return to medieval times – i.e., an almost pre-Westphalian system in which states are less important than non-/sub-/trans-/supranational actors.
    The most globalized states in this world have the strongest governments – meaning strong in their regulatory powers but reasonably limited in their scope (and thus not authoritarian). The states with the best (and usually most) rules are generally the most globalized and successful within globalization.
    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing that all of these nonstate actors won’t gain more power and importance. I’m just noting that this tends to happen most in those states with powerful and important governments that facilitate such connectivity/globalization – thus I argue it’s an additive/complimentary process rather than a subtractive one. In my opinion, Nonstate World is hardly an alternative world.

    Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/12/21/ju...#ixzz2GZfm3Ghu

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    Council Member max161's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    He makes a good point on our excessive focus on the human domain and non-state actors and transnational threats replacing the historical state threats. We have many in our security community, often evidenced on SWJ, who believe the State has become non-relevant.

    Excellent point Bill. On a related note I am also always curious to know what people think will replace the State? It is true there are a lot of non-state actors who wield a lot of power from criminal organizations to multi-national corporations. There are shifts in power but when people talk about the decline of the nation-state system what do they think will replace it? Some how I do not think we are going to go back to a City-State system (less Singapore who seems to be doing well) and monarchies and the like. But to all those who think the nation-state system and the concept of national sovereignty is obsolete I am curious to know what people think comes next?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-31-2012 at 02:59 PM. Reason: Fix quote
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    The state is going nowhere. But some states are in trouble.

    (replugging my post that I also linked on another thread, but is relevant to this discussion): http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksd...tan-.html#more

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The decline of the nation state?

    The short answer is IMO It starts at home, not abroad.

    It is good to see this - shortened - question being asked here. We have often seen posts on the failure of governance as a or the significant factor in small wars occurring, but not IIRC the demise of the nation state that has so dominated world politics since at least 1815 (in Europe).

    I vividly recall IIRC "Sammy" Finer's writing on the ungovernability or overload of government of the UK in the late 1970's, probably as the power supply was reduced by a long labour strike. His article is not to hand, so a search is needed and has failed.

    In my search I found a speech by a current, if low profile Labour politician, David Miliband; it includes this:
    The latest British Social Attitudes Survey reports that in the last 25 years the percentage of people saying that politicians put the national interest before party interest has fallen from 47 per cent to 20 per cent. The percentage who say it is not worth voting has risen six fold (to 20%).

    (Shortly after) To cap it all, no one, not the Government nor Opposition, not the Bank of England nor the FSA, warned the public about the danger of the biggest economic crisis for eighty years. No wonder people are sceptical.
    Link:http://davidmiliband.net/speech/spea...isis%E2%80%99/

    Since the 1970's, IMHO in most Western democracies, we have seen the power of the state to be effective at home shrink for a number of reasons. Today it is the "fiscal cliff" so I shall stick with public finances being more unpredictable, with vested interests becoming the national interest as political power changes.

    Last week I read 'The age of turboparalysis: Why we haven’t had a revolution' by Michael Lind, unknown to me:http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/...urboparalysis/

    It opens with:
    ....the condition of the world continues to be summed up by what I’ve called ‘turboparalysis’ — a prolonged condition of furious motion without movement in any particular direction, a situation in which the engine roars and the wheels spin but the vehicle refuses to move.

    The greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression might have been expected to produce revolutions in politics and the world of ideas alike. Outside of the Arab world, however, revolutions are hard to find. Mass unemployment and austerity policies have caused riots in Greece and Spain, but most developed nations are remarkably sedate.
    The article's bio line is:
    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: an Economic History of the United States and a columnist for Salon.
    davidbfpo

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    Posted by davidfpo

    Since the 1970's, IMHO in most Western democracies, we have seen the power of the state to be effective at home shrink for a number of reasons. Today it is the "fiscal cliff" so I shall stick with public finances being more unpredictable, with vested interests becoming the national interest as political power changes.
    How has the power decreased? Economic crisis often makes the state stronger as it did in the U.S. during the depression. Also as it did for Saddam when we applied economic sanctions, which disempowered the people and strengthened the state we were trying to weaken (at least relative to its populace). I suspect the power of states weaken when the populace becomes more wealthy, because the populace isn't as dependent upon the state.

    You would have a hard time convincing me that the power of the state in the U.S. has weakened since 9/11. Actually the opposite has happened. The power of state increases when the state is at war.

    Lots of factors drive people to revolt, so I doubt you'll find a simple formula that will provide that answer. Most modern nations experience periods of economic decline without violent revolt. I think we over estimate the impact of economic decline. When it is relevant is when a specific group is discriminated against, but when we're all the poor house together who are you going to revolt against?

    Derek Leebaert wrote, "Change begets terror. When the world alters, individuals, not nations, fight back." I need to explore this more by applying it to the JRA, IRA, Red Army, Hezbollah, etc. Maybe there is some truth to this, but it isn't self-evident.

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    John McCreary of AFCEA wrote a bit of analysis looking at how the first Global Trends assessment turned out: Global Trends 2010:

    NightWatch has been spending a lot of time just trying to understand the prolix and vague political science jargon of 1997, not to mention the meanings of judgments or predictions written in that language.


    The language is imprecise, centered on the word "agendas" which is used repeatedly without definition. Every nation's agenda was to have been changed by 2010, the report asserts. It never explains to what that metaphor refers.

    NightWatch knows from long experience that the only way to improve intelligence judgments is to evaluate their accuracy in hindsight. No one knowingly goes to a doctor who has a 60% cure rate. In that spirit, NightWatch is confident in asserting that it is hard to imagine a trends assessment that could be so wrong as Global Trends 2010.


    If the world had not changed much between 1997 and 2010, some of the forecasts in the report might have been marginally accurate. But the world did change, but not fundamentally. The nation-state system did not decline, as the report predicted. The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 made nation-state safety nets even more important than ever. It was a world-wide catastrophe that made almost every prediction in the report wrong.
    More at the link.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    I personally fond the phrase "unprecedented levels of uncertainty and complexity" a bit soporific. This is admittedly prejudice, and I suppose I should suppress it and make time to read the thing...
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Worth waiting for

    A trenchant critique by Tom Engelhardt:http://www.realclearworld.com/articl...sh_100454.html

    Two passages:
    Think of Global Trends 2030 as a portrait of an aging, overweight Intelligence Community (and the academic hangers-on who work with them) incapable of seeing the world as it is, let alone as it might be.

    As a portrait of American power gone remarkably blind, deaf, and dumb in a world roaring toward 2030, it provides the rest of us with the functional definition of the group of people least likely to offer long-term security to Americans.
    davidbfpo

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