Future Global Risks

Via today’s WPR Media Roundup, the WaPo reports on a U.S. intelligence forecast of future global risks being prepared for the next president. Not a whole lot you couldn’t get from the recent crop of books on the post-American world (although I’d point out that “reduced dominance” is still dominance). But there’s also this:

In the new intelligence forecast, it is not just the United States that loses clout. Fingar predicts plummeting influence for the United Nations, the World Bank and a host of other international organizations that have helped maintain political and economic stability since World War II. It is unclear what new institutions can fill the void, he said.

In the years ahead, Washington will no longer be in a position to dictate what new global structures will look like. Nor will any other country, Fingar said. “There is no nobody in a position . . . to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system,” he said.

That sounds to me like a recipe for regional multilateralism at best and regional rivalry at worst. Good news for energy- and resource-independent powers (Russia), but bad news for those whose vital interests are too farflung to fall back on a regional sphere of influence (U.S., China).

This kind of forecast, which I find compelling, also underlines the limitations of the idea that we can somehow magically return to the unipolar/multilateral global governance model of the 1990’s. There might be exceptions to the rule (in the case of atrocious humanitarian crises, for instance), but the consensus needed for it to function will be increasingly hard to come by.

What’s needed are new models and probably new institutions. John McCain has offered up the League of Democracies, which to my mind simply replaces the 1990’s with the 1980’s as the model to aim for. But at least it’s an idea, even if it’s a bad one. An expanded G8 might work, but there’s a whole tier of Middle Powers that would probably be left out. Hopefully it won’t take a period of instability and conflict to create the political will needed to accept the compromises that a new global governance system will require. Then again, they don’t call it the post-War order for nothing.