On Dec. 10, the National Intelligence Council released a 139 page report laying out the future of a world where the United States is no longer dominant. A world where growing populations, merging borders, and natural disaster open the door to chaos, and no one country is capable of stepping in to restore order.
Titled "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds," the report paints an bleak picture of the post-unipolar world.
At one time in this world, there were two superpowers: the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Both had the power to end life as we know it, yet neither used their power for such a dastardly end. Instead, they existed face to face as it were, each stockpiling weapons to keep the other check until finally, the U.S.S.R. couldn't keep up any longer and the U.S. emerged as the lone superpower.
It was 1991, and it was now a unipolar world.
From that point until now, the U.S. refined it's image as a peacekeeper and, at times, a peacemaker. And although we were criticized for trying to be the world's policeman in filling both these roles, we executed them well (and in some cases, we executed them flawlessly).
But those days are over, according to the National Intelligence Council, whose report now sees a world where unipolarity fades like a setting sun, and we embark on a brave new era where the world's policeman may be sorely missed.
According to the report, changing economies, driven by shortages of water, energy, and food, will be exasperated by a growing world population, and especially a burgeoning global middle class. (While a middle class is the backbone of capitalist nations like the U.S., the report foresees problems arising as capitalistic nations move toward a more socialistic construct during the next two decades and find themselves where Greece or Spain can be found right now -- a place where paying for cradle-to-grave government services for the middle class is proves impossible to do.)
The report also lists climate changes, discrepancies in technological change, and the possession of technology, as factors that could lead to turmoil.
All of these things are in addition to the unforeseeable results of an economic realignment in which the U.S. and Japan are eclipsed by China before 2030 even arrives, according to the report.
Ironically, the report indicates that one factor which could turn probable cataclysms into actual ones would be a U.S. decline that takes place too quickly. In other words, the world needs the U.S. to remain the world's policeman to one degree or another until we get much closer to 2030.
In the short term, the U.S. has to stay strong enough to affect the "outcome of [things like the] North Korean and Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons." Then, in the long term, the U.S. can slip from unipolarity slowly -- over a period of time -- so that other nations, states, and alliances can step in to take up slack.
When at last the unipolarity is gone, this world will be a very dangerous place indeed.