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PostSubject: Possible Futures   Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:30 am

I Googled "possible futures" on a whim and the very first site which came up looked interesting! When I clicked on it, it was gone. No site found. I laughed, realizing this really was something good! Then I remembered the cache option (which stores a back memory of the site on Google) and clicked on that:

www.isisuk.demon.co.uk/0811/isis/uk/regpapers/no001_paper.html+%22possible+futures%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ca" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:V4KpJfR22d8J:www.isisuk.demon.co.uk/0811/isis/uk/regpapers/no001_paper.html+%22possible+futures%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ca

The site inplies that events such as 9-11 were planned long in advanced (conspiracy theorists should all ready be familiar with this.) It references The Observer, which is a family-owned paper (now online) and looks like it might actually be Free Press. What this paper would have said that would be of such high importance to create such a high-interest and mysteriously-vanished website I don't know. If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd love to hear them.

I will quote it here just in case the cache manages to disapear as well:

Plausible 15-30 Year Scenarios
The 1975 article did not even play with the idea that the Soviet Union would implode and then disintegrate or therefore that the old East-West confrontation would not only end but be succeeded by Russo-American co-operation over Afghanistan. Nor did it foresee American bases in the ‘Stans’. Amazing things can happen in human affairs, leaving scenario-making all the more fallible. Nevertheless, we must respond to big questions with such rationality and insight as we can muster. What therefore are some of the possible “futures” that may await us over the next 20 to 30 years?

1. 'Business as Usual'
Al Qaida is effectively destroyed and Islamic-Western relations are restored to the uneasy but less explosive condition of pre-September. The ‘war on terrorism’ is declared won and the multiple instabilities of the post Cold War period go back from “boil” to “simmer”. Some of these occasionally break out, eg in Indonesia and Nigeria and over issues like Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya. Nevertheless the major alliances, like NATO, survive and no profound discontinuities occur in international relations.

The global economy, however, becomes more closely consolidated yet politically more restless and vulnerable. Unfettered Northern exploitation of Southern resources of commodities and labour, skews further the distribution of wealth both between and within countries and, combined with still fierce population pressures, leads to widespread soil exhaustion, other environmental degradation and further social deprivations. Several less developed countries (LDCs) are further impoverished by financial meltdowns, whilst market incentives fail to supply them with the long-term capital they need.

Impoverished societies in the South – and parts of the North – turn against global free market policies and towards heavily protectionist ‘autarchic’ systems. The North’s economic momentum is halted and controversy erupts within it as to what are the necessary remedies.


2. 'Fortress America'
Disillusion as to the cost and effectiveness of international involvement reinforces pre-existing unilateralist tendencies in the US. National Missile Defence (NMD) is more fully developed and America puts up the shutters to the degree that its dominant economic interests allow. Parts of Latin America are brought unwillingly under this shield too.

Parallel developments now begin to harness Japan, Korea and a still rapidly expanding Chinese economy together in an Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere which also gradually incorporates much of South East Asia. Meanwhile an increasingly united Europe is forced to enter a close, expensive but essentially prophylactic relationship with much of an impoverished Africa south of the Sahara which would otherwise flood it with economic migrants.

The distribution of economic and industrial power between each member of these regional blocs remains distinctly uneven and therefore unsettling. So do the deepening socio-economic divisions within them.


3. 'Revived East-West Tension (and potential conflict)
As a rapidly developing economic power on the world stage and with a population over four times that of the US, China exploits its old radical reputation as would-be champion of Poor South countries. This manifests in aggressive political as well as economic efforts to fill the part-vacuum left by a retreating US and Europe. NMD adds to Sino-American tensions as does China’s confidence in its now rapidly maturing industrial base.

Indeed it can now (as increasingly also India, Russia and perhaps Brazil) claim to be a developed ‘country’ of Northern calibre and hence deserving of corresponding privileges in the global economy and polity. A number of countries could now begin to mount serious military challenges to a NATO weakened by serious transatlantic tensions and in Central Asia even to US interests, as such. Access to Central Asian , as to Middle Eastern, oil has become a potential casus belli so long as the US demands so much more than its ‘share’ of a rapidly declining resource.


4. A Beleaguered Rich North
The deprivations of the human majority become dramatically evident and anger intensifies. The poverty gap is still widening, potable water is often desperately short, epidemics spread but many Southern populations continue to expand fast. Fisheries are nearly exhausted, energy prices have leapt up, but tin pot televisions expose the contrasts with the apparently conscienceless and wasteful affluence of Southern elites and Northern societies.

Many Southern states are now splintering and could not anyway take on Northern powers by military means. Some try to deploy (rather ineffectual) co-ordinated trade boycotts and related measures to extract better terms of trade and aid.

A revamped OPEC racks up prices on (arguably sensible) conservationist grounds following the revolutionary overthrow of the Saudi and Gulf regimes. Revolutionary groups in some of the still rapidly expanding Southern cities are less patient: guerrilla actions, sabotage and assassination against Northern targets become commonplace but profoundly unsettling.

The Rich North suppresses its own mounting internal divisions and becomes viciously punitive in its responses. But it finds increasing difficulty in identifying and targeting its opponents, immersed as they are amidst teeming populations.

The governments of the countries concerned are too frail to help much and are hardly worth ‘punishing’ for their incapacities. The Northern countries then begin to adopt a generally ‘fortress’ mentality, circumscribing their links with the South – and paying a high price in mobility and trade.


5. The US as World Policeman
The “war on terrorism” becomes a war to defend the status quo (‘for us or against us’) and hence also against political militancy. It does indeed then continue for decades – and generates as many new terrorists and dissidents as it kills.

The US, despite opposition at home, is sucked into a “no surrender” posture that becomes reminiscent of both Israeli retributiveness and its own self defeating obstinacy in Vietnam. Washington forgets not only that it lost that war (despite its technical superiority) but that Asia did not thereafter collapse like dominoes.

This US policy gradually undermines the ‘Western alliance’ already weakened by Washington’s unilateralism over issues like arms control including the ABM treaty, NMD, Kyoto and international law. But both Russia and China, with their own powerful anti-terrorist interests, join the US in what now constitutes an unapologetic trio of global `heavies’. Internal opposition develops in all three, especially the US. Their shared vulnerabilities and an intensified antagonism from the South – and now Europe - appear to presage a long period of acute international instability.

The triple impirium thus established has to act largely by global force projection, primarily by air. They cannot occupy and control large territories and have to rely on the often mercenary armies of client states. Rivalries and tensions multiply and there is no shared external enemy to keep the triumvirate together.


6. The South-North Struggle
A combination of factors sketched in scenarios 4 and 5 lead to increasingly ugly confrontations between violent groups (still not states) in the Poor South with the US, its remaining Western allies and its awkward ex-Communist collaborators.

Persistent guerrilla assaults provoke ever-fiercer military reactions and neither international law nor domestic constitutional rights are respected. Semi-fascistic responses prove even more counter-productive, however, than retributive bombings. Many of the Northern economies largely collapse. Most Southern economies also suffer but less dramatically owing to their lesser needs and relative simplicity.

By now the internal strength and unity of many states, North, South and intermediate, is becoming sapped. Ruthless repression preserves some order but local mafias prosper. Meanwhile such coherence of policy as the Group of 8, the WTO and the LDCs have ever achieved is swiftly diminishing.

Several major states, such as India, Nigeria and Indonesia, split up into their richer and poorer regions, partly from religious, ethnic and other causes. Some of them seek protection from particular Northern countries, though some of these also fragment. Conflicts over vital resources like oil and water are now being settled by force.


7. The North-South Compact
The US is persuaded by Europe and, more painfully, by continued terrorist onslaughts that unilateralism is barren and active interdependence is essential. International co-operation is now widely seen as crucial to a sustainable human future – politically, economically and environmentally.

Long term self interest dictates what values or natural generosity have not. There is growing recognition of the now hastening convergence of several threats to the human future. These are identified as demographic; environmental; economic (where oil shortage is becoming acute); ethnic (where racism remains real) and cultural-religious (where some Islamic and Vatican positions remain seriously unreformed).

After consciousness, decisive action. The UN, now reformed and strengthened, is seen in Washington no less than elsewhere as a crucial (if always fallible) tool in the reform of the world order. Most world leaders recognise that sustainability demands both the monitoring and curbing of what can certainly otherwise be beneficial ‘free market’ forces.

Social as well as environmental audit is seen as essential. It also requires a major investment of energy and resources in debt relief, reform of the terms of trade, large scale technical assistance to educational, public health and birth control programmes and considerable development aid to the better governed Southern societies. Women’s status, health and education are seen as central to the programmes.

Domestic political opposition in the US and deep-dyed suspicion in the Poor South (and amongst Northern trade competitors) delays the formation of a full-blown international Coalition for a Sustainable World. There are many disappointments, reverses and even calamities. But a more hopeful period opens in which trade reforms are pushed through and Northern and Middle Eastern capital begins to meet Southern needs to the benefit not only of the deprived, but also of market size and hence the world economy – and stability - in general.

Nevertheless the measures adopted and the consequent burst of economic activity takes far too little account of long term environmental needs or the scarcity of fossil fuels (for example). Global warming is still getting worse and the population explosion is not yet under control. There is still too much unexamined rhetoric about undifferentiated ‘economic growth’. Serious problems therefore remain. The following decades pose yet more challenges but a perilous period has been survived and on a more hopeful note.

The key to stability and security on a global scale in the face of multiplying challenges is at last agreed to be the same as it is on a national scale –the creation of a politically, economically and culturally pluralistic, democratically equitable, social order.



Conclusion
Some if not all of these scenarios could be seen as stages, in the order presented, in a long journey to a sustainable human future. But there is no need to do more than weigh by turn these separable theses and perhaps to generate others. Meanwhile one may hope that policy thinking advances more speedily than it did in the decades after 1975.

Of the seven possible futures offered, the two between which the really fundamental choices may eventually have to be made are clearly the sixth and seventh. In the judgement of the author, the sixth, namely an incoherent mutually destructive South-North struggle, seems on past performance to be the least implausible outcome within the next 20 or 30 years.

Eventually however the seventh (that of North-South Compact) is likely to be forced on the Rich North – and the Southern elites - if not conceded voluntarily. Could the North afford it? A UN study in 1998 showed that the basic needs of the world’s deprived majority could easily be met from Northern expenditures on cosmetics and pet food – and still leave a notable surplus.

In historic hindsight it could later appear that September 11, however atrocious, created not only grief, shock and outrage but a saving challenge and opportunity.
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