Saturday, December 19, 2009

Global Challenges in 2010

Earlier this month, Foreign Policy released its first-annual list of the 100 top global thinkers. Personally, I don't care for these lists all that much (although it's interesting that Foreign Policy's #1 thinker, Ben Bernanke, is also Time's Man of the Year).

What's more interesting is what these thinkers say. And we have that in a follow-up survey, "
The Wisdom of the Smart Crowd."

The printer version is
here, for easy scrolling. The panelists named President Barack Obama "a 7 out of 10 for his performance," but "when asked what, exactly, had been his intellectual contribution to foreign policy, our thinkers were hard-pressed to name a specific idea, instead collectively applauding qualities like his "openness" and "multipolar worldview" (and even, explicitly, the fact that he isn't George W. Bush)."

No surprise there. Leftists are overrepresented at the panel:

Chris Anderson, Karen Armstrong, John Arquilla, Jacques Attali, George Ayittey, Nick Bostrom, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Willem Buiter, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jamais Cascio, Nicholas Christakis, Bill Clinton, Paul Collier, Jared Diamond, Esther Duflo, Esther Dyson, William Easterly, Mohamed El-Erian, Paul Farmer, Salam Fayyad, Niall Ferguson, Thomas Friedman, Francis Fukuyama, Helene Gayle, Ashraf Ghani, David Grossman, Richard Haass, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Hu Shuli, Valerie Hudson, Anwar Ibrahim, Michael Ignatieff, Robert Kagan, David Kilcullen, Henry Kissinger, Enrique Krauze, Ray Kurzweil, Clare Lockhart, Amory Lovins, C. Raja Mohan, Andrew Mwenda, Jacqueline Novogratz, Emily Oster, Rajendra Pachauri, Minxin Pei, David Petraeus, Tariq Ramadan, Ahmed Rashid, Hans Rosling, Amartya Sen, Robert Shiller, Peter W. Singer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Abdolkarim Soroush, Joseph Stiglitz, Rizal Sukma, Richard Thaler, Mario Vargas Llosa, Robert Wright, Xu Zhiyong, Fareed Zakaria, Zhou Xiachuan, Robert Zoellick.
Still, I don't disagree with the panel's picks for the hot issues facing the world in 2010:

A majority (59 percent) think the worst of the global recession is over, that the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan is the world's most dangerous (79 percent), that China is the inevitable next global power (71 percent), and prefer the BlackBerry (54 percent) over the much ballyhooed iPhone.
And, checking the article, there's a bunch of cool graphics. I like this one, on the "biggest game-changer," which to me is a proxy for security challenges:


I don't think the world will experience another 9/11-style catastrophe. I do think we'll have more Mumbais, sadly, and they'll be launched in the developed states (and thus keep an eye on the implications from that 21 percent for AfPak). Because top thinkers want to repudiate the Bush legacy of facing down terrorists in their own backyard, we'll be seeing the terrorists bringing it to us. Thus, my prediction for the worst "unknown" challenge for the year: My bet is that terrorists will successfully launch coordinated, simultaneous multiple attacks on the scale of the 2004 Madrid train bombings. This could include attacks in a number of countries at one time, in Europe, Britain, and the United States. All the evidence is there to indicate that global jihad is just as mobilized to destroy the West under President Obama as it was under President Bush. The difference is that this administration apologizes for American efforts to meet those threats head on. That kind of weakness -- like President Clinton's in Somalia -- invites danger. The terrorists know they can escalate while Washington diplomats go globe-trotting to sooth the outbreaks of anti-Americanism. Palestinian-style hijacking and aviation terrorism, like 9/11, is out. Heightened security precludes a high probabability of catastrophic attacks in that area. But train stations are more vulnerable, and security experts have long suggested that not only is difficult to prevent every potential attack, it's frankly not cost effect for national economies -- that is, devoting more and more resources to prevent every conceivable contingency would be a victory for the terrorist -- they'd have a victory in further altering the lifestyles and norms of the Western democracies.

I hope I'm wrong about this. I don't want more people to die. A lot of the other predictions at Foreign Policy are simply facets of everyday life in the world. We'll face China and other rising nations. I would add, though, that I expect a phenomenal boom in the American economy sometime soon, although that might not be until 2011 and beyond -- we'll have another period like the late-1990s, when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described the U.S. as the "indispensible nation."


Added: From Bruce Hall, in the comments:

The nightmare scenario is a EMP explosion from an Iranian missile launched from either an ocean freighter or a not-so-friendly country in South America... followed by on-site terrorist attacks in various large cities.

This is not so far-fetched.

5 comments:

Bruce Hall said...

The nightmare scenario is a EMP explosion from an Iranian missile launched from either an ocean freighter or a not-so-friendly country in South America... followed by on-site terrorist attacks in various large cities.

This is not so far-fetched.

Donald Douglas said...

You're right, Bruce. Not far-fetched at all.

Thanks for commenting.

Libby said...

I was just thinking last night, how everybody in America seems to have forgotten 9/11, and thinks that all is right in the world now that Obama had his "apology tour"!

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Libby!

courtneyme109 said...

Bruce Hall is reff'ing the 'Scud in a bucket' scenerio. Perhaps those Hiz'B'Allah cells in Chavez's turf could suddenly become like their soul mates in Lebanon - rocket rich