by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
January 10, 2009
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- As we begin a new year, it's hard not to look back on how much damage the Bush Administration has done to this nation's reputation over the past eight years and how much work will have to be done to mend it all around the world.
This is not a good time to be hated. Not when the National Intelligence Council, a group consisting of analysts from across the U.S. intelligence community that reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, issues a report that contains a statement like this: "The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons."
The 121-page report, "Global Trends 2025," was recently prepared to coincide with Barack Obama's entry into the Oval Office and lays out the various challenges he is going to face as president - challenges more daunting than any newly-elected president has ever faced.
For starters, the report foresees a future where the United States is less powerful and will have to contend with host of other, newly ambitious nations looking to flex their muscles.
"The international system will be almost unrecognizable by 2025, owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, a transfer of wealth from West to East and the growing influence of non-state actors," according to the report. "Although the United States is likely to remain the single most important actor, the Unites States' relative strength - even in the military realm - will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained."
Part of the loss of leverage is the enormous damage to our military, diplomatic and economic resources from this nation's invasion and occupation of Iraq. The loss of prestige and goodwill has been enormous, and it will be up to the Obama Administration to try and restore it.
But more frightening are the roles that climate change and resource competition will play in determining whether this scenario comes to pass.
The report notes that global oil supplies are currently inadequate to meet demand, and this disparity will only increase in future years. As for water, there are currently about 600 million people in 21 countries without access to adequate water supplies. That number is expected to grow to 1.4 billion in 36 countries by 2025. Climate change could also alter agriculture, which combined with water scarcity may lead to food shortages. For countries barely living at subsistence levels now, the results could be devastating.
Increased competition for food, water and energy, the report states, could lead to nations engaging in greater efforts to secure access to these resources. In the worst case scenarios, this means armed conflict.
The outlines of these conflicts are starting to become clear. Climate change and water scarcity are making many rural areas - especially high-population-growth areas of North Africa, Central America, the Middle East and Asia - uninhabitable. Millions of unemployed young men are pouring into the sprawling megacities of the developing world, and their numbers are growing. Some of these desperate and disenfranchised young men will be drawn to militant ideologies and movements. Poverty and hopelessness are the terrorists' best recruiters.
So what can our nation do to deal with a more unstable and more violent world? We must first accept these facts. We can no longer invade our way to energy security. We can no longer afford to have military bases all over the world. We can no longer act like we are the top dogs, especially when we are in hock to the very nations that are seeking a greater global role.
The United States must now adapt to a new reality. Global power is shifting and we are entering a multipolar world. We will need to rebuild the damage from eight years of the second Bush Administration and reengage with the rest of the world. Europe, Russia, China and India must be seen as equals and cooperation is essential to ensure a conflict-free future. We must elevate climate change, energy efficiency and the creation of a "green" economy to national security issues. We will need sweeping changes in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture - nearly every sector of American life - to find ways to do things more efficiently with a lower environmental impact.
These are the things that will ensure a better, more prosperous and peaceful future. These are the things the incoming Obama Administration must focus on in the coming years.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.