The Future of the U.S. Global Position

A forthcoming report by Thomas Fingar, the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst, has received little attention, but heralds some dramatic changes for the United States in the near future.  According to the Washington Post, Fingar’s report, entitled Global Trends 2025, observes that, “The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished” over the next 15-17 years, highlighting in particular the deterioration of U.S. leadership in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.”  The major challenges?  Globalization, climate change, and regional destabilization brought about by shortages of food, water, and energy.  What’s more, in Fingar’s assessment, the extensive military resources of the United States will be our “least significant” asset because “nobody is going to attack us massive conventional forces.”

Fingar predicts a world in which the United States’ position is gradually eroded as other regional powers, including Europe and China, rise.  He also envisions a declining role for multilateral institutiosn like the United Nations and the World Bank.

Interestingly, the major concerns preoccupying U.S. foreign and military policy over the past eight years receive scant attention in the report.  Instead, Fingar emphasizes the impact of growing environmental crises on regional stability, particularly in the developing world.  Climate change and its associated conditions, including food shortages, drought, floods, mass migration, and political and economic upheaval—not al-Qaeda and Iran—represent the most significant policy challenges in Fingar’s assessment.

The award for best response to the report has to go to the Climate Progress blog, which says “Duh!”…but in a good way.  More generally, however, Fingar’s report does encourage us to rethink our understanding of security and foreign policy.  Is IR as a discipline too focused on military security and national foreign policy?  Do the (neo)realist and (neo)liberal approaches to IR help us to understand contemporary challenges in a meaningful way?  Or is it time for us to rethink our approaches?

Want to know more?  Read Fingar’s speech to the INSA Analytic Transformation Conference.  Unfortunately the report itself is not yet available for public consumption.

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