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The National Intelligence Council’s New Report

I recently attended the second day of the Economist’s “The World in 2013” festival, and will be writing a post soon with some of my takeaways.  Today, however, I want to share some nuggets from the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC’s) new, highly anticipated report, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.  I hasten to note that I’m doing so after only a cursory review; the core of the report runs to over 130 pages, so I’ll be reviewing it more carefully in the coming days.   

Readers: which nuggets leap out at you?  


  • “The backdrop for A Tale of Two Cities was the French Revolution and dawn of the Industrial Age.  We are living through a similar transformative period in which the breadth and scope of possible developments—both good and bad—are equal to if not greater than the aftermath of the political and economic revolutions of the late 18th century” (p. 1).
  • Overarching Trends  

    • “Individual empowerment is perhaps the most important megatrend because it is both a cause and effect of most other trends…On the one hand, we see the potential for greater individual initiative as key to solving the mounting global challenges during the next 15-20 years.  On the other hand, in a tectonic shift, individuals and small groups will have greater access to lethal and disruptive technologies (particularly precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry), enabling them to perpetrate large-scale violence—a capability formerly the monopoly of states” (p. 8).
      • “[I]n the world of 2030…four demographic trends will fundamentally shape, although not necessarily determine, most countries’ economic and political conditions and relations among states.  These trends are: aging both for the West and increasingly most developing states; a still significant but shrinking number of youthful societies and countries; migration, which will increasingly be a cross-border issue; and growing urbanization, which will spur economic growth but place new strains on food and water resources” (p. 20).
      • International Order

        • “The underpinnings of the current post-Cold War equilibrium are beginning to shift.  If the United States is unwilling or less able to serve as a global security provider by 2030, the world will be less stable.  If the international system becomes more fragmented and existing forms of cooperation are no longer as seen as advantageous to many of the key global players, the potential for competition and conflict also will increase” (p. viii).
          • “A collapse or sudden retreat of U.S. power would most likely result in an extended period of global anarchy where there would be no stable international system” (p. xii).
            • “The shared interests among the diverse collection of major countries mean that…multilateral and regional cooperation will not unravel completely….On the other hand, the fact that no single nation or bloc of countries will have the political or economic leverage to drive the international community toward collective action means that continued multilateral advances will be difficult to forge” (p. 58).
            • U.S. Power

              • “The multifaceted nature of U.S. power suggests that even as its economic weight is overtaken by China…the U.S. most likely will remain the ‘first among equals’ alongside the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership.  Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of multiple other powers, the ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana…is fast winding down” (p. 98).
                • “The replacement of the United States by another global power and erection of a new international order seems the least likely outcome in this time period.  No other power would be likely to achieve the same panoply of power in this time frame under any plausible scenario” (p. 105).
                • Miscellaneous

                  • “By 2030, no country—whether the U.S., China, or any other large country—will be a hegemonic power” (p. 18).
                    • “By 2030 Asia will be well on its way to returning to being the world’s powerhouse, just as it was before 1500” (p. 2).
                      • “The euro zone crisis has laid bare the tensions and divisions between member states and, for the first time in decades, raised fundamental questions about Europe’s future” (p. 78).
                        • “[T]he U.S.-China relationship is perhaps the most important bilateral tie shaping the future” (p. 4).
                          • “An increasingly multipolar Asia lacking a well-anchored regional security framework able to arbitrate and mitigate rising tensions constitutes a significant global threat; an unstable Asia would cause large-scale damage to the global economy” (p. 70).
                            • “Several circumstances are ending the current Islamist phase of terrorism, which suggest that as with other terrorist waves…the recent religious wave is receding and could end by 2030” (p. 68).
                              • “The exponential increase in data, combined with emerging capabilities to analyze and correlate it, will give unprecedented capabilities to individuals and connected networks in nearly every part of the world well before 2030” (p. 52).  
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