Five Trends Likely To Shape US Foreign Policy For the Next Ten Years

I read this post a few days ago and have been pondering since. Hope to get a post up about it sometime in the next few days. Until then, give it a read if you are so inclined.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

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  • If people lack confidence in the government’s ability to govern or to reform itself, they may resort to self-help measures.

    Reminds me of a quote from the Archdruid I posted recently concerning what happens when the Social Narrative by which we explain the world not longer works.

    5) The focus on Asia makes sense as a huge consumer market and competitor for resources, as well a political/military power. It does imply we feel we can deal with the rest of the world without devoting much attention to them and I’m not sure that’s a good assumption.

    4)Technology empowering NGOs is meaningful mostly because the NGOs are having to step into functions supposedly governmental – if governments did their job properly, a lot of NGO activity would not be necessary. Hi-tech as a disruptive tool may accelerate change – but the PTB also employ it to suppress change. Jury is still out on that issue.

    3) The government is dysfunctional if you assume it’s purpose is to promote and safeguard the welfare of the citizens. The owners of most of the world’s wealth probably look at governments differently, since they consider the government’s function is to promote and safeguard the welfare of the Uberrich. I hear echoes of the Declaration regarding the people’s right to replace a nonfunctional or improperly-functioning government…

    2) Increased competition for declining resources will be disruptive until the world settles into a sustainable lifestyle. This will be much harder for the Overdeveloped world to accept.

    1) The entire concept of money and its various forms and functions needs to be reformulated, widely understood and controlled/administered.


    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • Maybe as #6 I would insert bank collapses. Sooner or later, the financial industry is going to collapse and it is going to leave a mark on global credit (maybe forever.)

  • when I saw the #1 problem is the national debt. Sorry, I’m writing this asshole off as just another debt scold who dug up four other reasons so he could write about the bogeyman of the .01%.

  • agree with you that the debt scolds don’t have the better of the argument, in the sense that Daveed makes it. But I do agree with him in that the debt is something we have to face realistically, by taxing the wealthy, if we are to survive and have influence in the world. Then again, as our influence has been pretty damned pernicious the last ten years that might not be such a bad thing for the rest of the world.

    On the whole, however, I think Daveed’s post is a good jumping off point and great for discussion. I’m simply not afraid of other people’s ideas, so long as they are made in good faith. I disagree with Daveed frequently, but I do believe he argues in good faith.

    Bad decisions make good stories.

  • #5: Yeah, I can see that. I’m not as up-to-speed on this area though and don’t have as much of an opinion.

    #4: I tend to disagree with these kinds of statements, not because they’re wrong but because they’re only half right. Technological change will empower small groups and non-state actors, but it will also empower large groups and state actors as well. It potentially adds power (and therefore disruptive or repressive capability) at all levels, probably making everyone worse off if there is a conflict but better off if there is not. Some traditional state actors and large groups may have trouble adapting, but new ones will take their place. Those transitions will probably be bloody and drawn out.

    #3: Very much agree, although I don’t like the term “moderate center” since it always implies that solutions are somewhere in between two extremes. From context, I think the author meant something like “thoughtful, reasonable, and tolerant people.” The left/center/right paradigm should be thrown out, as it makes absolutely no sense anymore and cannot make sense of our current world.

    #2: I’m only half on board with natural resource scarcity. While some resources do indeed run out, we still have many options available–for energy, there are still large quantities of oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and eventually more renewables. (I agree that oil production has likely peaked.) And if you want to get sci-fi, there will eventually be fusion. Water can be purified or desalinated in large quantities with the appropriate amount of energy. Carbon emissions can be captured with the right technology. You can change the material basis of many technologies with the appropriate research–carbon and silicon are very versatile. Etc.

    The real problem is whether we are investing enough in material, labor, and research/education to meet our needs and to spread the wealth around. At this point we are not and we will not start doing so until some major crisis happens that makes us drastically revise our political and economic beliefs. I also think that, in addition to investing wisely, we also need to figure out a way to either (1) do it profitably so the private sector can work on it or (2) figure out how to get around the profit motive in meeting our needs (but substitute some other, more appropriate feedback mechanism). The requirement to turn a monetary profit is not the same thing as building something or taking a particular action that is beneficial–it’s used to drive/allow this sort of work, but I’m increasingly thinking that it’s become counterproductive in a society as complex and diverse as ours. Funny, because one of the benefits of a profit-driven monetary system is that helped us get to this level of complexity and wealth–but it’s not appropriate to continue forward with. Still kind of fuzzy on this line of thought though–I’ll need some more time to stew on it!

    #1: Completely disagree that this is even a concern, other than whatever political football our politicians turn it into. Our national debt is not the problem, our PRIVATE debt is the problem. We’re still leveraged to the hilt, and the refusal to recognize this and fix it is going to keep us in a Bright Depression (at best) for the next decade plus.

    In other words, America’s #1 problem at the moment is that it is planning to shoot itself in the foot for no good reason while it faces problems #2 – #5.

  • …challenges are largely of America’s own making. Cynical bastard that I am, the second thing that strikes me is the degree to which the other two were identified absolutely yonks ago and how at least a decade’s worth of water has been tread to little purpose.

    Why do I tend to think that even if properly identified, these are not going to be effectively addressed in the discourse around strategy? More “all of the above” as in the recent SecDef/CJCS Sunday show extravaganza, rather than hard strategic choices.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • You’re correct that the *national* debt is not a problem, it can be internally financed as necessary. However, overall debt, and particularly the trade deficit (whose growth has been underway for about 30 years) is a critical danger, as is excessive financial system engineering. And the US is doing nothing to solve either.

    Right now the US badly needs a cheaper dollar so domestic manufacture can be competitive–without this the US can’t restore job growth and wage growth, ie, no recovery. But the flip side of a cheaper dollar is more expensive oil, which will negate the benefits of a cheaper dollar.

    The answer is stimulative government expenditures on anything that will reduce the US’ energy intensity: weatherizing, rail, solar, EVs/hybrids, etc.

    Of course none of this will be done because as the author points out, our government doesn’t work any more.

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