Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence’

The Future of Global Politics: NIC’s Dreary 2025 Forecast

Posted by proliferationpr on November 20, 2008

Yes, there is another big report to draw attention to today.

The National Intelligence Council, the US government’s intelligence policy thinktank, released an updated edition of its ‘Global Trends 2025’ series yesterday—highlighting trends that will shape the international system and frame American foreign policy.

While the report does offer hope for American energy independence, worries over nuclear weapons proliferation and use, climate change, global poverty and conflicts over ever-diminishing natural resources will mount increasing challenges to global stability.

AFP provides an excellent summary of the report:

The use of nuclear weapons will grow increasingly likely by 2025, US intelligence predicted Thursday in a report on global trends that forecasts a tense, unstable world shadowed by war. 

“The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” said the report. 

“Widening gaps in birth rates and wealth-to-poverty ratios, and the uneven impact of climate change, could further exacerbate tensions,” it concludes. 

Called “Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World,” the 121-page report was produced by the National Intelligence Council, a body of analysts from across the US intelligence community. 

It has good news for some countries. Among its conclusions: 

— A technology to replace oil may be underway or in place by 2025;

— Multiple financial centers will serve as “shock absorbers” of the world financial system;

— Global power will be multipolar with the rise of India and China, and the Korean peninsula will be unified in some form. 

But the report also says some African and South Asian states may wither away altogether, organized crime could take over at least one state in central Europe; and the spread of nuclear weapons will heighten the risk they will be used. 

“The likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used will increase with expanded access to technology and a widening range of options for limited strikes,” it said.

The report’s introduction is the best place to see what the report aims to achieve, and how it arrived at its conclusions:

We prepared Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World to stimulate strategic thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where they seem to be headed, and how they might interact. It uses scenarios to illustrate some of the many ways in which the drivers examined in the study (e.g., globalization, demography, the rise of new powers, the decay of international institutions, climate change, and the geopolitics of energy) may interact to generate challenges and opportunities for future decisionmakers. The study as a whole is more a description of the factors likely to shape events than a prediction of what will actually happen. 

By examining a small number of variables that we judge probably will have a disproportionate influence on future events and possibilities, the study seeks to help readers to recognize signposts indicating where events are headed and to identify opportunities for policy intervention to change or lock in the trajectories of specific developments…An even more important message is that leadership matters, no trends are immutable, and that timely and well-informed intervention can decrease the likelihood and severity of negative developments and increase the likelihood of positive ones. 

Global Trends 2025 is the fourth installment in the National Intelligence Council-ledeffort to identify key drivers and developments likely to shape world events a decade or more in the future. Both the product and the process used to produce it benefited from lessons learned in previous iterations. Each edition of Global Trends has tapped larger and more diverse communities of experts. Our first effort, which looked out to 2010, relied primarily on expertise within the US Intelligence Community. There was some outreach to other elements of the United States Government and the American academic community. For Global Trends 2015, we engaged more numerous and more varied groups of non-US Government experts, most of whom were American citizens.

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US Intelligence: Did December’s NIE Get It Wrong on Iran?

Posted by K.E. White on February 8, 2008

The Wall Street Journal discusses Intelligence Director Michael McConnell’s recent Senate testimony. The editorial portrays McConnell as back-pedaling on last December’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that found Iran backing off its nuclear weapons program. The editorial paints the December NIE the work of fervent anti-Bush partisans with—even worse—State Department connections. 

Whether right or wrong, the editorial illustrates one point painfully: America has yet to effectively collect and release intelligence into the public; and, as a result, the corrosive politicization of intelligence continues. 

From the editorial:

The December NIE made headlines the world over for its “key judgment” that in 2003 “Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programs” — programs that previously had been conducted in secret and in violation of Iran‘s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.

This was a “high confidence” judgment, though the intelligence community had only “moderate confidence” that the program hasn’t since been restarted. The NIE also waded into speculative political and policy judgments, such as that “Tehran‘s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.”

He expressed some regret that the authors of the NIE had left it to a footnote to explain that the NIE’s definition of “nuclear weapons program” meant only its design and weaponization and excluded its uranium enrichment. And he agreed with Mr. Bayh’s statement that it would be “very difficult” for the U.S. to know if Iran had recommenced weaponization work, and that “given their industrial and technological capabilities, they are likely to be successful” in building a bomb.

The Admiral went even further in his written statement. Gone is the NIE’s palaver about the cost-benefit approach or the sticks-and-carrots by which the mullahs may be induced to behave. Instead, the new assessment stresses that Iran continues to press ahead on enrichment, “the most difficult challenge in nuclear production.” It notes that “Iran‘s efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue” — a key component of a nuclear weapons capability.

All this merely confirms what has long been obvious about Iran‘s intentions. No less importantly, his testimony underscores the extent to which the first NIE was at best a PR fiasco, at worst a revolt by intelligence analysts seeking to undermine current U.S. policy. As we reported at the time, the NIE was largely the work of State Department alumni with track records as “hyperpartisan anti-Bush officials,” according to an intelligence source. They did their job too well. As Senator Bayh pointed out at the hearing, the NIE “had unintended consequences that, in my own view, are damaging to the national security interests of our country.” Mr. Bayh is not a neocon.

Admiral McConnell’s belated damage repair ought to refocus world attention on Iran‘s very real nuclear threat. Too bad his NIE rewrite won’t get anywhere near the media attention that the first draft did.

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