Published on Wednesday, December 20, 2000 by Inter Press Service
Wider Gaps Between Haves and Have-Nots by Year 2015, Says US Intelligence Report
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Hopes that economic globalisation will bring material well-being to all are likely to be frustrated as gaps between the haves and have-nots both between and within countries are likely to grow wider over the next 15 years, according to a new US intelligence report released here Monday.

The 68-page report, 'Global Trends 2015', predicts that most of Africa, much of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South, Central and Southeast Asia, and South America, especially the Andean countries, could well be left far behind the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries, led by the United States.

''(Globalisation's) evolution will be rocky, marked by chronic financial volatility and a widening economic divide,'' according to the report, which resulted from 18 months of consultations between the official intelligence community and non-governmental experts.

''Regions, countries, and groups feeling left behind will face deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation,'' the report said. ''They will foster political, ethnic, ideological, and religious extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it.''

Much of that violence could be directed against the United States whose ''global economic, technological, military and diplomatic influence will be unparalleled among nations as well as regional and international organisations in 2015,'' according to the report. ''This power not only will ensure America's pre-eminence, but also will cast the United States as key driver of the international system.''

That pre-eminence will undoubtedly attract opposition, and not just from discontented groups and individuals who could use anticipated advances information, communications, and weapons technology to mount terrorist attacks, or ''information warfare'', against US territory and interests - a major concern of the incoming administration of President-elect George W. Bush.

States, including both adversaries and allies, may ''try at times to check what they see as American 'hegemony,' according to the report, which notes, however, that such efforts are unlikely to be translated into ''strategic, broad-based, and enduring anti-US coalitions,'' but rather ''tactical alignments on specific policies and demands for a greater role in international political and economic institutions''.

Under some more pessimistic scenarios developed by the report's authors, the United States could face a ''de facto geo-strategic alliance'' between China, Russia, and India to counter Washington's dominance, increased tensions with Europe leading to a breakdown in the NATO alliance, or, in a worst-case scenario, growing regional tensions in Asia fuelled by rivalry between Japan and China that risks the outbreak of a major war in which the United States is pressed by Japan to come to its aid under their bilateral defence treaty.

Eight key uncertainties in the national-security area cloud prospects over the coming 15 years, according to the report, which called on Washington to subject these to periodic policy reviews.

The first two involve the evolution of science and technology (S&T) and how they will be used by key actors.

''What we do not know about the S&T revolution is staggering,'' according to the report, which cites the growing reliance of US infrastructure on computer networks that may be vulnerable to attack by adversaries. Similarly, ''asymmetric warfare'' - efforts by adversaries to circumvent or minimise hi-tech US strengths - will pose an increased threat to the United States over the 15 years.

Another unknown is the sustainability of high levels of global economic growth in the coming years, according to the report, which cites a number of threats - including a sustained downturn in the US economy; failure of Europe, Japan, China, and/or India to maintain healthy growth rates; and a major new financial or energy crisis - could also derail more optimistic scenarios.

Adverse developments in the Middle East, China, Russia, Japan, and India could also disrupt more positive trends in the coming years, according to the report, which notes that the dangerous mix of ethnic conflict in all of these countries, except Japan, and the existence there of well-armed military establishments could prove combustible.

Among the great challenges facing the world over the next 15 years, however, will be related to globalisation and its impact on population and the environment, according to the report.

Demographically, wealthy countries will see tensions arising from the growing proportion of their retired populations, a trend which will result in inter-generational tensions and possibly in increased reliance on migrant workers. At the same time, ''youth bulges'' in poorer developing countries, especially in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, could become increasingly de-stabilising, especially given anticipated high levels of unemployment or communal tensions.

Urbanisation and cross-migration will also continue to grow over the next 15 years, while the HIV/AIDS crisis, as well as other infectious diseases plaguing poor countries, will spread from their African epicentre at the moment to India, Southeast Asia, several countries of the former Soviet Union, and possibly China.

Water and food shortages, despite advancements in bio-technology, could also prove major problems for poorer, or drought-stricken countries. The number of chronically malnourished people in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, will likely increase by more than 20 percent by 2015; while the chances for war to break out over competition for water resources is certain to rise, particularly in the Near East area.

Demand for energy, including oil and other sources which contribute to global warming, is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next 15 years, making it unlikely that the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions will take effect.

China, and to a lesser extent India, will see sharp increases in energy consumption, while the world oil and gas market will break down into essentially two different hemispheric sections: resources from Central Asia - which is vulnerable to regional-power competition and communal and religious conflict - and the Gulf will go mainly to East Asia, while western Europe and the Americas will rely increasingly on the Atlantic basin, from the North Sea to West Africa to Venezuela and Mexico.

Each of the developing-country regions is certain to experience serious stresses resulting from uneven economic development - ''both between and within states'', according to the report.

In East Asia, Japan, Korea, and other economic ''tigers'' will tend to get richer, while Indochina, parts of western China, and possibly Indonesia, will tend to fall behind. Nationalism is likely to be a stronger force in the region which could see the rise or revival of great-power rivalries, such as US-China, China-Japan, and China-India, as well as power realignments resulting from political instability, such as in Indonesia, North Korea, and possibly China.

In South Asia, the dominant regional trend will be ''the widening strategic and economic gaps between India and Pakistan,'' while Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal will become steadily more dependent on India.

In Eurasia, ''the centrality of Russia will continue to diminish'' and the weak successor-states of the former Soviet Union, many of which already are torn by communal conflicts, will be subject to increased competition from the surrounding powers.

The Middle East and North Africa are likely to remain relatively insulated from globalisation but without any more unity than exists today. By 2015, Israel will have attained a ''cold peace'' with its neighbours, including a Palestinian state, but demographic trends throughout the region could result in ''significantly larger, poorer, more urban, and more disillusioned'' populations.

Apart from South Africa and the oil-exporting countries of West Africa, the outlook for most of sub-Saharan Africa is ''bleak,'' according to the report. South Africa and Nigeria will remain the dominant powers, but their own domestic problems will make it difficult for them to act as economic locomotives for the rest of the region.

Meanwhile, ''the atrophy of special relationships between European powers and their former colonies in Africa will be virtually complete by 2015'' and the resulting void will be filled by ''international organisations and non-state actors of all types: transnational religious institutions, international non-profit organisations, international crime syndicates and drug traffickers, foreign mercenaries; and international terrorists seeking safe- havens.''

In Latin America, Brazil and Mexico ''will be increasingly confident and capable actors'', but the gap between them, along with other relatively prosperous states in the southern cone, and the rest of the region will widen. Threats to stability and democratic government will be greatest in the Andes region, as well as the poorer countries in Central America, according to the report. The result will be the steady increase in migration from those regions to the United States.

Copyright 2000 IPS