June 20, 2013
The U.S. Intelligence Community’s New Year’s Wish
Posted on Jan 3, 2013
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
With the rarest of exceptions, however, the authors of Global Trends 2030 relegate the shock of the future to outlier “black swans” like a pandemic that could kill millions or solar geomagnetic storms that knock out satellite systems and the global electric grid (a scenario the writers of NBC’s hit show Revolution got to well ahead of the NIC’s experts). Otherwise, when it comes to a truly disjunctive world, for better or worse, forget it in Global Trends 2030.
I don’t think I’m atypical and yet I can imagine worse than they seem capable of describing without even blinking, starting with a full-scale, gob-smack global depression. In fact, if you have an apocalyptic turn of mind, all you need to do is look at the information they supply—some of which their analysts consider good news—and it’s easy enough to grasp what a truly extreme world we may be entering.
They tell us, for instance, that “the world has consumed more food than it has produced in seven of the last eight years” (a trend they hope will be reversed by the genetic modification of food crops); that water is running short (“by 2030 nearly half the world’s population will live in areas with severe water stress”); that demand for energy will rise by about 50% in the coming 15 to 20 years; and that greenhouse gases, entering the atmosphere as if there were no tomorrow, are expected to double by mid-century. By their estimate, in 2030 there will be 8.3 billion high-end omnivores rattling around this planet and more than a billion of them, possibly two billion, will have entered some abysmally degraded version of “the middle class.” That is, there will be more car drivers, more meat-eaters, more product buyers.
Throw in climate change—and the “success” of fracking in keeping us on a fossil fuels diet for decades to come—and tell me you can’t imagine the odd apocalyptic scenario or two, and a few shocking surprises as well.
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. The National Intelligence Council evidently never met an apocalypt or a dreamer it didn’t want to avoid. Its movers and shakers seemingly never considered putting together a panel of sci-fi writers, and in all their travels they evidently never stopped in Uruguay and paid a visit to the radical writer Eduardo Galeano, or even consulted his 1998 book Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World.
At one point, discussing global consumerism—and remember this was the year after the first Global Trends report came out—he wrote:
With the rising powers of “the South” and “the East,” we’ll now have a chance to see for ourselves, perhaps by 2030, just how accurate Galeano might have been about the fate of this ever more crowded, ever more resource-pressed, ever hotter and more tumultuous planet of ours. We might learn up close and personal just what it means to add a billion or two extra “middle class” consumers at such a moment. By then, perhaps we’ll be able to take our pick from extremities of all sorts, ranging from old standbys like revolution or fascism to new ones that we can’t even imagine today.
But don’t read Global Trends 2030 to find out about that. After all, the nightmare of every bureaucracy is surprise. We’re not spending $75 billion on “intelligence” and giving up what were once classic American rights and liberties to encounter a bunch of unsettling surprises. No wonder the NIC folks can’t bear to imagine a fuller range of what might be coming. The Washington bubble is too comfortable, the rest too frightening. They may be living off our fear, but don’t kid yourself for a second, they’re afraid too, or they could never produce a document like Global Trends 2030.
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.
Boil it all down, in fact, and you have a single, all-too-clear New Year’s wish from the U.S. Intelligence Community: please, please, please make 2013, 2014, 2015… and 2030 not so different from 2012!
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, his history of the Cold War, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. You can see his interview with Bill Moyers on supersized politics, drones, and other subjects by clicking here.
[Note to readers: This is the second piece I’ve written recently on what to make of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The first, which appeared on December 16th, was “The Visible Government, How the U.S. Intelligence Community Came Out of the Shadows.”]
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt
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