US advocates world powersharing as its own power wanes up to the mid century

With that particular intelligence community’s capacity for getting it wrong, the US’s intelligence assessment of the dispersal of power in the world by 2025 might deserve a cynical reaction, were it not for the fact that much of it is a statement of the glaringly obvious. Remember the health warning though, that it’s the role of intelligence agencies to warn about threats rather than present opportunities or give a balanced view.

It is not a prediction…. “Nothing that we have identified in this report is determinative. Nothing in it is inevitable or immutable. These are trends and developments and drivers that are subject to policy intervention and manipulation.”

The key message is an admission of the decline of American power which the Iraq fiasco has only confirmed ( though they don’t say that).

The multiplicity of influential actors and distrust of vast power means less room for the US to call the shots without the support of strong partnerships.

What had the rest of the world been telling Dubya for years? But The New York Times detects a glimmer of light.

“The appeal of terrorism is waning…

“While not contradicting intelligence assessments suggesting that Al Qaeda remains a major threat with a strong presence in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the report says that the group “may decay sooner” than many experts have assumed because of severe weaknesses: “unachievable strategic objectives, inability to attract broad-based support and self-destructive actions.”

The Washington Post pulls out the threat of dwindling resources.

The drive for dwindling resources, including energy and water, combined with the spread of nuclear weapons technology could make large swaths of the globe ripe for regional conflicts, some of them potentially devastating…

While the Financial Times highlights the assessment of a static Europe.

“a hobbled giant distracted by internal bickering and competing national agendas”. The title of the section says it all: “Europe: Losing Clout in 2025?.

While I’m pretty confident the EU as a whole will continue to reject integration, and the fall-out from recession is impossible to predict as yet, I’ve higher hopes than Global Trends for more gradual European burden sharing on defence, an agreed understanding of human rights and economic co-ordination over the currency, trade and even the CAP. Better right than quick. On the future position of the US with all its faults and in spite of the disastrous foray into unilateralism that was the hallmark of Dubya even before 9/11, the world would become a much more dangerous place if the Americans retreated into isolation. The huge challenge for Obama is to keep America’s window on the world open while working on the big question of the next decade: has American retained its great ability to regenerate and reinvent itself? As China becomes more subject to internal pressures, there’s little hope of world leadership from that quarter. The American way is taking a huge battering but there’s still no substitute for it.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London