Agree that we are at a potentially historic transition point. However, the Atlantic Council lacks the strategic analytic model to make the most of its otherwise formidable brain trust. Agree on the need for a new mental map, but they chose the wrong map. See the HourGlass Strategy as an alternative (also below the line).
The report misses multiple big possibilities including the eight tribes, M4IS2, and OSE.
1. Frame second-term policies from a more strategic and long-term perspective, recognizing the magnitude of the moment and the likelihood that the United States’ actions now will have generational consequences.
Absolutely. Understanding emergent public governance trends rooted in true cost and whole system analytics, which harness the distributed intelligence of the five billion poor, not in this report.
2. Continue to emphasize what has been called “nation-building at home” as the first foreign policy priority, without neglecting its global context.
Left unsaid is the need to establish a plan, coincident with the creation of a 450-ship Navy, a long-haul Air Force, and an air-liftable Army, to close most of our military bases around the world, and bring all of our troops – and their purchasing power – home.
3. Recognize that the United States must energetically act to shape dynamic, uncertain global trends, or it will be shaped unfavorably by them.
Correct, but as I lectured Brent Scowcroft and others at the Wilson Centre, the only thing we have to offer – but are not yet embracing – is a strategic analytic model that integrates true costs and whole systems while refocusing government on the public.
4. The United States must pursue more collaborative forms of leadership through deepening current alliances and interacting more effectively with a diverse set of actors to meet the challenges and opportunities of the dramatically changing times.
Correct, but the report is still government centric at a time when the public is beginning to route around government and corporations are out of control. The center of gravity for the future is in the South, and especially with Brazil, India, and Indonesia in addition to China and Russia, and this does not come across in the report – nor does the urgency of creating a global multinational information-sharing and sense-making grid as a foundation for harmonizing investments and eradicating corruption and waste.
5. US strategy to 2030 must deepen cooperation with China as the most crucial single factor that will shape the international system in 2030.
This makes complete sense and is far superior to the earlier defense focus on China as the new enemy. However, emphasizing China at the expense of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as the Congo, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey would be huge mistake. US foreign, defense, and commercial policy and investments must be holistic, persistent, and ethical.
6. US leaders must more creatively address the locus of instability in the 21st century—the greater Middle East from North Africa to Pakistan—a major threat to US strategy and world order.
This is flat out wrong “old think.” The greatest threats to humanity have been identified and prioritized but evidently the Atlantic Council did not get the memorandum even though Brent Scowcroft was the US representative to the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Changes. POVERTY, Infectious Disease, and Environmental Degradation are the three greatest threats, and CORRUPTION is the accelerator for all of those. The Atlantic Council needs to achieve an internal mind-set shift from Europe and government-centric to global and information-centric.
The report continues to assume that Western capitalism is the only form of capitalism, and that $10 a day is disposable income is the floor for entering into Western consumption patterns. It is vital that the Atlantic Council learn that the five billion poor have four times the aggregate annual income of the one billion rich; that 25% of their income – including those that live on $1 a day and $2 a day – is “disposable income,” that that new forms of non-predatory capitalism that are green (sustainable) and human-centric, are needed.
The report also overlooks the reality that in the next 25 years, the US federal budget, the US gross domestic product, and US per capita earnings will shrink to insignificance in the face of massive growth among the eight demographic powers (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards).
The international system is not successful. It is rooted in colonial era corruption and just now being challenged as the artificial political boundaries and the elevation of minorities over majorities across the South, break down. Hybrid governance rooted in true cost economics and focused on achieving broad legitimacy is where the constructive change is going to happen.
While addressing game-changing technologies the report completely misses free energy and all that implies for water desalination and decontamination, and the resurrection of all desert areas. The massive desalination of water using free solar energy might also address the rising sea levels and protect aquifers now being both drawn down and contaminated by fracking and industrial waste.
The report is severely remiss in accepting genetic crops and their legal cancers.
The report in intriguing in its exploration of how the US must both stop contributing a disproportionate amount of the public goods that sustain the international system, and how it might address the need for changing norms and rules. The report misses the multinational information-sharing and sense-making possibilities for changing the game, not just the rules of the existing (failed) game.
The report is flawed in focusing on free trade instead of fair trade, and in ignoring the newly understood (at least among the avant guarde) importance of localized resilience, open source tools, an autonomous free Internet, and other enablers of sustainable civilization.
WORTH NOTING (P. 20): The fallacy of the current decline debate is that the rise of China and “the rest” is not necessarily a negative trend nor does it portend an inevitable US downward spiral.
The report mis-identifies the national debt – a debt not authorized by the Constitution and rooted in the corruption of the two-party system and the private banks — as the key problem, and avoids discussion of the Iceland solution, as well as the IMF August 2012 memorandum on “Revisiting the Chicago Proposal,” and repeated suggestions of the Automated Payment Transaction Tax at 30-40 basis points as solutions.
The section on Global Governance is most interesting, and again focuses on the artifacts of the Western government-centric colonial era and the post WWII International Organizations established for the convenience of governments rather than in the public interest. There is a real need for the Atlantic Council to get a grip on the broader human landscape and the role that shared open truthful information can and should play in nurturing hybrid sustainable governance.
The report is exceptional in its sensibility on China and most helpful in its discussion of the Middle East and the emergence of public power over dictatorial or theocratic power. This section merits a full reading with great care. Reading between the lines, the report will anger the Zionists in as much as the report clearly depicts the need to resolve the Palestinian state issue, and this cannot happen without the US pulling the plug on its financial support for Israel’s genocidal policies.
I personally favor taking ALL of the US military and civilian assistance funds now going into the Middle East, to create a Peace Fund for the Middle East that focuses on creating hospitable habitats with deep infrastructure and water desalination investments such that the Palestinians are rapidly brought up to the standard of living now subsidized by the US taxpayer for the Jewish population in Israel.
WORTH NOTING (P. 43): For US strategy, Iran should be viewed as a potential natural partner in the region, as it was until 1979. Wow. Common sense like this is very hard to find in the NCA.
The report is severely remiss in treating the Southern Hemisphere as “the periphery” and devoting just two pages (one a full photo page) to what is certain to be the center of gravity for the future of the Earth. From Indonesia to Brazil and Chile to South Africa, miracles are starting to happen in the South, and I dare to suggest the Atlantic Council might be well advised to spin-off a new Southern Council to properly address the possibilities – mindful of the reality that the USA is being excluded from the South by CELAC in Latin America, by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and practically by the African Union now joined by Haiti. Other “shut-outs” are in the making.
Nuclear, the Global Commons, and Cyberspace all need their own reports. There is some very good stuff here, but it is frighteningly incomplete and avoids some of the major threat issues including the continued irresponsibility of governments and contractors across nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological “non-precautionary” principles.
The conclusion is upbeat but insubstantive. The missing link seems to be a concept for achieving intelligence with integrity in support of Whole of Government strategy, policy, acquisition, and operations. An Open Source Agency (OSA) funded by DoD under State auspices, and including General Tony Zinni’s National Monitoring and Planning Center (NMPC) and my own Multinational Decision-Support Centre (MDSC), would go a very long way toward elevating the good intentions in this report to reality.