Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Short History of the Future

Not SF, but a series of predictions based on what I am seeing today:

Regardless of who is elected President, the United States will undergo internal turbulence which will cause them to take their eyes off the ball. If Senator Obama wins, expect a "tax whiplash" and a real economic meltdown, while if Senator McCain wins, expect paralysis as an obdurate Congress to obstruct him every step of the way. The looming financial difficulties faced by the United States (particularly Social Security and the runaway growth of "entitlements") cannot be addressed by the platforms advocated by either candidate.

Russia and China will move rapidly to fill the power vacuum. Expect them to use a combination of economic muscle and diplomatic hijacking of international fora like the UN and WTO to impose rules to their liking. (Imagine them coming to collect the bill for "Carbon Credits" from Kyoto, for example). Plundering Western treasuries through the guise of "cost sharing measures" for "International projects" is another possibility. They may also cooperate to a greater or lesser degree against the growth of Radical Islam in Central Asia, although their goals will diverge to a certain extent. The EU may well throw in with Russia in order to secure energy supplies and also to deal with unassimilated Islamic populations within Europe (i.e. by providing diplomatic cover and military muscle while the Europeans throw the immigrants out). China will work to secure energy supplies and resources from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. Russia and China will have no qualms about imposing a "Roman" peace if that suits their aims.

Longer term, China will have demographic difficulties due to the one child policy (probably starting @ 2020) as large numbers of single men become the biggest demographic. The Chinese are notorious racists, so the idea of Han men intermarrying with other ethnic groups (even non Han Chinese) could be a big issue internally. Mark Styen points out one possible solution; "China could become the first gay superpower since Sparta". More likely a great deal of social and economic turbulance will occur.

Beyond that, Russia will cease to be a "Great Power" in the 2030's, as their demographic crash cuts the population of ethnic Russians in half. The EU will be suffering from the same problem (and so will Canada and Japan, but these are second and third tier powers in the big picture)

So look for a decade of artificially imposed stability by the "Big Two" (or possibly "Big Three" if the EU gets a Mussolini in charge; the set up is a jumbo sized version of the "Fascist Corporate State" and a little ruthless organization might actually make the trains run on time...), followed by turmoil as the demographic rugs get pulled out from under them.

What is less clear is how the United States will fare during this period. It is quite clear they will pull in their horns for part of the time, and the Big Two/Three will certainly see international relations and organizations are tilted to the disadvantage of the Americans. On the other hand, the Americans are very clever and resiliant (from a cultural perspective. The DC Beltway seems to mark a cultural boundary line inside of which the opposite applies), and no doubt the appeal of America will continue as a destination for the clever and ambitious people of the world. As well, the United States does not have either of the demographic issues their competitors have. They also have the unique strength of being an Oceanic power, capable of projecting trade and force on a global scale, something that the other powers lack. India is a potential Oceanic power in the Indian Ocean basin, linkage with the United States should be encouraged and exploited in all areas.

This is hardly the future envisioned by Fukyama in "The End of History", nor the "Road Warrior" future Robert Kaplan portrayed in "The Coming Anarchy".....

I'm not liking this future........

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