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The U.S. Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil: “One of the Greatest Material Prizes in World History”

The U.S. Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil: “One of the Greatest Material Prizes in World History”

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following is a research sample from The People’s Book Project. It is unedited and in draft format, but is intended as an excerpt of some of the research that is going into the book. This research sample is drawn from a recently written chapter on the history of American imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. Please support The People’s Book Project by contributing a donation to The People’s Grant to reach the target goal of $1,600 to fund two major chapters in the book on a radical history of race and poverty.

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In the midst of World War II, Saudi Arabia secured a position of enormous significance to the rising world power, America. With its oil reserves essentially untapped, the House of Saud became a strategic ally of immense importance, “a matter of national security, nourishing U.S. military might and enhancing the potentiality of postwar American hegemony.” Saudi Arabia welcomed the American interest as it sought to distance itself from its former imperial master, Britain, which it viewed with suspicion as the British established Hashemite kingdoms in the Middle East – the old rivals of the Saudis – in Jordan and Iraq.[1]

The Saudi monarch, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al Saud had to contend not only with the reality of Arab nationalism spreading across the Arab world (something which he would have to rhetorically support to legitimate his rule, but strategically maneuver through in order to maintain his rule), but he would also play off the United States and Great Britain against one another to try to ensure a better deal for ‘the Kingdom’, and ensure that his rivals – the Hashemites – in Jordan and Iraq did not spread their influence across the region. Amir (King) Abdullah of Transjordan – the primary rival to the Saudi king – sought to establish a “Greater Syria” following World War II, which would include Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and not to mention, the Hejaz province in Saudi Arabia. The image and potential of a “Greater Syria” was central in the mind of King Abdul Aziz. The means through which the House of Saud would seek to prevent such a maneuver and protect the ‘Kingdom’ was to seek Western protection. As the United States had extensive oil interests in the Kingdom, it seemed a natural corollary that the United States government should become the ‘protector’ of Saudi Arabia, especially since the British, long the primary imperial hegemon of the region (with France a close second), had put in place the Hashemites in Transjordan and Iraq.[2] For the Saudis, the British could not be trusted.

The Saudi King rose to power and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1927 and made formal ties with the United States in 1931. An oil concession was soon granted to the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil of California, and thereafter, large quantities of oil were discovered in the Kingdom, thus increasing the importance of the Saudi monarch. This was especially true during World War II, when access to and control over petroleum reserves were of the utmost importance in determining the course of the war. In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged as much when he signed Executive Order 8926, which stated that, “the defense of Saudi Arabia [is] vital to the defense of the United States.”[3] United States Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, several months earlier, suggested to President Roosevelt that the United States be more involved in organizing oil concessions in Saudi Arabia not only for the war effort, but “to counteract certain known activities of a foreign power which presently are jeopardizing American interests in Arabian oil reserves.” That “foreign power” was Great Britain. In fact, there was immense distrust of British intentions in the Middle East, and specifically in Saudi Arabia, on the part of the State Department’s Division of Near East Affairs (NEA). A great deal of this tension and antagonism, however, emerged from Saudi diplomacy which sought to play off the two great powers against one another in the hopes of securing for itself a better deal.[4]

Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary (and later Prime Minister), wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill in September of 1943 that, “our difficulty is to keep the Americans in line,” in relation to Saudi Arabia. As Roosevelt’s Executive Order categorized Saudi Arabia as “vital to the defense of the United States,” this allowed Saudi Arabia to qualify for the Lend-Lease program during the war, reducing Saudi dependency upon the British, and which included arms sales to the Kingdom. Following this event, British Foreign Office officials lamented, “We would not dream of entertaining a direct application for arms from a South American country for example, without at once consulting the American arms representative in London and deferring to his views.” This, of course, was a reference to Latin America in the context of the Monroe Doctrine – America’s “backyard” – and thus, was implying, that the Middle East was Britain’s “backyard.”[5]

Adolf A. Berle, Roosevelt’s Assistant Secretary of State explained to the British the objective of American designs for the Middle East. As Simon Davis summarized, European imperial “spheres of influence were to give way to open political and economic circumstances in which Americans interests were not to be demarcated by other great powers.”[6] In short, it was to be the demise of formal imperialism for the rise of informal empire, led by the United States. The “open political and economic circumstances” desired by American officials were in no small part influenced by petroleum concerns. Technical studies had been undertaken which pointed to the Middle East as the most oil-rich region in the world. At the time, Saudi Arabia was the only country in which American oil interests had established themselves prior to World War II. The British had actually approached the United States on behalf of the House of Saud in the early 1940s to secure funds for the Saudi government, as the British were stretched thin by the war in Europe. The United States had at first rejected the proposals, suggesting that Saudi Arabia was British responsibility. The American Minister in Cairo, Alexander Kirk, complained that such a move suggested to the Arab world that the United States was “resigning to the British all initiative in the Near East generally and in Saudi Arabia particularly.” The Saudis then approached American oil companies for support in 1942, who in turn approached the State Department’s Division of Near East Affairs, raising fears that leaving “responsibility” for the Near East and Saudi Arabia to the British would eventually mean a loss of oil concessions in Saudi Arabia to British interests. At the same time, Saudi officials were also quietly approaching the British to increase their interest in the Kingdom, suggesting that the Americans were attempting to maneuver the British out of the Near East. The Saudi Foreign Minister told a British official in December of 1942 that, “although [King Ibn Saud’s] relations with United States are friendly both in themselves and because United States is Britain’s ally… yet his relations with United States could never be so close and friendly as with His Majesty’s Government with whom he has so many interests in common.”[7]

A deceptive diplomatic game between the United States, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia ensued. As the Americans shifted their interest in Saudi Arabia in 1943, Gordon Merriam, the assistant chief of the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs suggested in January of 1943 that the possibility of the British pushing their way into America’s oil concessions in the Kingdom after the war “has been very much on our minds.” Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote that, “It should be kept clearly in mind that the expansion of British facilities serves to build up their post-war position in the Middle East at the expense of American interests there.”[8]

Britain, however, was not trying to exclude the United States, but to include it in an Anglo-American approach to the region. British Foreign Office documents stressed that the British were “by no means prepared to sacrifice a century of hard-earned political influence in the Middle East to their upstart American cousins,” however, the British sought to “coopt rather than preempt US interests.”[9] Churchill even wrote to Roosevelt to stress “the fullest assurance that we have no thought of trying to horn in upon your interests and property in Saudi Arabia.” The British even acknowledged in their internal correspondence that, “it seems probably that sooner or later the United States will become the foreign power most concerned with Saudi Arabian affairs.” The aim of the British, then, was not to expand their influence at the expense of the Americans, but to maintain their influence as the U.S. increased its own.[10]

In July of 1944, British diplomat Lord Halifax wrote to the United States, “We have made it perfectly plain that we have no wish to oppose increased American influence in Saudi Arabia so long as it does not seek to crowd us out. But it would be helpful if the Americans would realize that they cannot hope to achieve overnight quite the same position that we have built up over long years.” The United States was pressuring Britain to replace their representative in Saudi Arabia, S.R. Jordan, over State Department fears that Jordan was the primary British antagonist of expanding American influence in the Kingdom. Jordan was ironically, at that time, writing in cables to the British that, “Strategically, it would appear that we have little to fear from the presence of increasing US participation in Saudi Arabian affairs.” What became most frustrating to the British, however, was not the expansion of American power, but rather the perspective of Americans at the State Department (with fears stoked by the oil companies and Saudis) that the British were trying to keep the US out of Middle Eastern affairs. As the British Minister of State in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, observed, “I am afraid it is another of the many cases we have had in the Middle East where the local American idea of cooperation is that we should do all the giving and they all the taking.” As the British realized the Saudi role in creating these fears among the Americans, Moyne wrote, “It has subsequently turned out that the Finance Minister and the King’s Syrian advisers have been furnishing misleading figures and exploiting their position for political ends.”[11]

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a memo to the American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East in which he made clear: “The Middle East is an area in which the United States has a vital interest.” That interest, of course, was oil. Roosevelt made assurances that Middle Eastern oil belonged to the Western imperialist nations and not the Middle East itself, as he wrote that “the objective of the United States” in the Middle East “is to make certain that all nations are accorded equality of opportunity,” and that “special privileges… should not be afforded to any country or its nationals.” This was, of course, indirectly referring to France and especially Great Britain, the imperial hegemons of the Middle East. The “equality of opportunity” to exploit the resources of the Middle East was simply referring to the expansion of America’s “vital interest” in the region.[12]

In 1945, the British were increasingly frustrated with the American approach to Middle East relations. Some internal documents from the British Foreign Office reflected the varied positions of their diplomats:

The Americans are commercially on the offensive… we shall enter a period of commercial rivalry, and we should not make any concession that would assist American commercial penetration into a region which for generations has been an established British market.

For some years the United States have been showing an increasing interest in the Middle East. They worried us by an obstructive and disapproving attitude, the basis and reason of which remained obscure… On the American side there is the lively conviction that the USA have the right to go where they wish and to the extent that they wish… But we, on our side, feel that the Americans, irrespectively of any suspicion on their part that we are trying to exclude them, are trying by means that seem to us both aggressive and unfair to build up a position for themselves at our expense, or at any rate without regard to our established interests.[13]

It seemed, then, that both the Americans and the British feared and suspected each other of attempting the same thing: to increase their own influence in the region and decrease that of the other power. The Saudis, in the middle, were playing a game between two great powers in the hopes of securing their own interests. And they had good leverage which allowed them to play such a game: oil.

There was continuous reference to Britain’s apparent ‘right’ to the Middle East, drawing the comparison to the United States Monroe Doctrine (of 1823) declaring a U.S. ‘right’ to Latin America. As one British official wrote, “The U.S. hasn’t invited us to share her influence in Panama… we are entitled to our Monroe Doctrine in the Arab countries.”[14]

In 1945, President Roosevelt held a formal meeting with the Saudi King aboard the USS Quincy. The issue of Palestine was an important one in discussions, and was viewed as a major challenge to the cause and potential of Arab nationalism across the Middle East. Roosevelt informed Aziz that the U.S. would make “no decision altering the basic situation of Palestine… without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews,” and that, “he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no hostile move to the Arab people.” Aziz, in the meeting, also stressed the issue of Syrian and Lebanese sovereignty, seeking to ensure they kept separate from a potential Hashemite “Greater Syria,” to which Roosevelt ensured that if Saudi sovereignty were ever under threat, the United States would undertake “all possible support short of the use of force.”[15]

King Ibn Saud asked Roosevelt, inquiring on the future of Saudi-US ties, “What am I to believe when the British tell me that my future is with them and not with America? They constantly say, or imply, that America’s principal interest in Saudi Arabia is a transitory war-interest… and that America, after the war, will return to her preoccupations in the Western Hemisphere… and that Britain alone will continue as my partner in the future as in the early years of my reign.” To this, Roosevelt assured the King that the United States would maintain an interest and added that the America wanted freedom and prosperity for all, while the British wanted “freedom and prosperity” which was marked: “Made in Britain.” The King replied, “Never have I heard the English so accurately described.”[16]

American interest in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East more broadly did not die with Roosevelt. His successor, Harry Truman, was just as eager to “open the door” to the Middle East. A 1945 memorandum to President Truman written by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. State Department, Gordon Merriam, stated: “In Saudi Arabia, where the oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history, a concession covering this oil is nominally in American control.”[17] Adolf A. Berle, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisers, particularly in relation to the construction of the post-War world, years later remarked that controlling the oil reserves of the Middle East would mean obtaining “substantial control of the world.”[18]

For King Abdul Aziz, his main concerns continued to be focused on his rivals, the Hashemites, and the possibility of “Greater Syria.” This naturally increased his interest in promoting the Palestinian cause of self-determination, and thus also put him at odds with the United States on issues related to Palestine. Abdul Aziz had spoken out against policies in Palestine, and was increasingly framing himself as the leader of the Arab world. The rivalry between the Arab kingdoms of Transjordan and Iraq on one side, and Saudi Arabia on the other, prevented the Arabs from uniting on the issue of Palestine. The American Minister to Saudi Arabia, James Rives Childs, warned that, “Unless we proceed with the utmost circumspection in considering all phases of the possible repercussions of the Palestinian question… we may raise difficulties for ourselves in this most strategic area of vital national interest which will plague the United States constantly in years to come.” However, while King Abdul spoke out publicly against Western interference in Palestine, he privately informed American officials that he intended “never to let Palestine interfere with his relations with the United States… I’m talking big because everyone else is… it seems to be the most effective course.”[19]

King Abdul was increasingly worried about the British possibly supporting Jordan’s King Abdullah in his plan for a “Greater Syria” as they sought to end the British Mandate in Palestine and find a new alternative to the “Palestinian question.” Between 1946 and 1947, Saudi princes relayed the King’s concern to President Truman that there existed a British conspiracy with the Hashemites to depose him and destroy the Saudi dynasty. The State Department informed the Saudis that the United States had no information “which would cause it to believe that the British government was giving support to any scheme for the extension of British influence in the Middle East through the establishment of a Greater Syria.” Abdul Aziz was not convinced, and felt “that the development of strong economic ties with the United States offers the greatest possible available insurance from invasion.” As the British handed the Palestine Mandate to the United Nations in 1947, the Saudi King relayed to the United States that the question of Palestine, and thus ‘Greater Syria,’ was “the only thorn in Saudi-American relations.”[20] However, as the United Nations partitioned Palestine, despite Saudi protests against the United States on the issue, King Abdul Aziz wrote:

I occupy a position of preeminence in the Arab world. In the case of Palestine, I have to make a common cause with the other Arab states. Although the other Arab states may bring pressure to bear on me, I do not anticipate that a situation will arise whereby I shall be drawn into conflict with friendly western powers over this question.[21]

In 1948, after a great deal of diplomatic back-and-forth on the Palestine issue, the Arab states invaded after months of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population by militant Zionists in the British Mandate. Saudi Arabia, together with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and even Jordan and Iraq, invaded Palestine immediately after the Zionists declared the State of Israel in May of 1948. However, as the Arabs were distrustful of one another, their incursion was doomed to failure, and they grossly underestimated the military strength of the Zionists, which was built up under the British Mandate.

The United States took a stated position of neutrality amid the conflict, in order to prevent upsetting its relations with the Arab world, which already were so damaged as a result of recognizing the state of Israel, an act which had created immense protest and condemnation from the State Department. In January of 1949, a cease-fire was signed between Israel and Egypt, and Israel emerged the obvious victor in the 1948-49 war. Thereafter, the United States lifted its arms embargo to the Middle East to provide the Saudis with military aid. The United States had emerged from the birth of Israel with a deeply scarred image in the Arab world, and with that, increased fear over Soviet expansion into the area led the U.S. to conclude that it had to support “strong men” in the region, such as Abdul Aziz. In 1949, a U.S. survey mission was sent to Saudi Arabia to examine the potential for building up a strong Saudi military force. King Abdul desired “a military force equal to or greater than the forces [of] Jordan and Iraq.” The U.S. mission recommended “the training and equipping of a Saudi defensive force totaling 43,000 officers and men, composed of 28,000 combat troops and 15,000 Air Force support and logistic personnel.”[22] Thus, a strong Saudi-American relationship was established as one of the main outposts of U.S. influence in the Middle East, control over oil, and containment of the Soviet Union.

The aim, as articulated by State Department strategists, was to maintain “substantial control of the world” through control of Middle Eastern oil: “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” In a 1948 State Department Policy Planning Paper written by George Kennan – the architect of the ‘containment’ policy toward the USSR – it was explained that following World War II, America held 50% of the world’s wealth, yet had only 6.3% of the world’s population, a “disparity [which] is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia,” thus, destined to create “envy and resentment.” The real task for America, then, wrote Kennan:

is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.[23]

 

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Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), page 257.

[2]            Ibid, pages 257-258.

[3]            Ibid, pages 259-260.

[4]            Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), page 253.

[5]            Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), page 96.

[6]            Ibid, page 97.

[7]            Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), pages 254-255.

[8]            Ibid, page 256.

[9]            Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), pages 97-98.

[10]            Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), pages 257-258.

[11]            Ibid, pages 260-261.

[12]            Letter from President Roosevelt to James M. Landis, American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East, Concerning the Vital Interest of the United States in the Middle East, Foreign Relations of the United States, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, 6 March 1944.

[13]            Amikam Nachmani, “‘It’s a Matter of Getting the Mixture Right’: Britain’s Post-War Relations with America in the Middle East,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 18, No. 1, January 1983), pages 120-121.

[14]            Ibid, page 117.

[15]            Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), pages 260-261.

[16]            Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), pages 125-126.

[17]            Report by the Coordinating Committee of the Department of State, “Draft Memorandum to President Truman,” Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Near East and Africa, Vol. 8, 1945, page 45.

[18]            Lloyd C. Gardner, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II (The New Press, 2009), page 96; Noam Chomsky, “Is the World Too Big to Fail?” Salon, 21 April 2011: http://www.salon.com/2011/04/21/global_empire_united_states_iraq_noam_chomsky/

[19]            Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), pages 264-265.

[20]            Ibid, pages 266-268.

[21]            Ibid, page 270.

[22]            Ibid, pages 274-279.

[23]            George F. Kennan, “Review of Current Trends U.S. Foreign Policy,” Report by the Policy Planning Staff, 24 February 1948.

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From Global Crisis to “Global Government”

From Global Crisis to “Global Government”
US Intelligence: A Review of Global Trends 2025
Global Research, December 19, 2008

Introduction

The United States’ National Intelligence Council has released a report, entitled Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World“. This declassified document is the fourth report of  the Global Trends 2025: The National Intelligence Council’s 2025 Project,

The report outlines the paths that current geopolitical and economic trends may reach by the year 2025, in order to guide strategic thinking over the next few decades. The National Intelligence Council describes itself as the US Intelligence Community’s “center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking,” with the tasks of supporting the Director of National Intelligence, reaching out to non-governmental experts in academia and the private sector and it leads in the effort of providing National Intelligence Estimates.

The report was written with the active participation of not only the US intelligence community, but also numerous think tanks, consulting firms, academic institutions and hundreds of other experts. Among the participating organizations were the Atlantic Council of the United States, the Wilson Center, RAND Corporation, the Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, Texas A&M University, the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House in London, which is the British equivalent of the CFR.[1]

Among the many things envisioned in this report to either be completed or under way by 2025 are the formation of a global multipolar international system, the possibility of a return of mercantilism by great powers in which they go to war over dwindling resources, the growth of China as a great world power, the position of India as a strong pole in the new multipolar system, a decline of capitalism in the form of more state-capitalism, exponential population growth in the developing world, continuing instability in Africa, a decline in food availability, partly due to climate change, continued terrorism, the possibility of nuclear war, the emergence of regionalism in the form of strong regional blocks in North America, Europe, and Asia, and the decline of US power and with that, the superiority of the dollar.

The Economics of Change

The discussion of global economics begins with analyzing the potential repercussions of the current global financial crisis. It states that the crisis “is accelerating the global economic rebalancing.  Developing countries have been hurt; several, such as Pakistan with its large current account deficit, are at considerable risk.  Even those with cash reserves—such as South Korea and Russia—have been severely buffeted; steep rises in unemployment and inflation could trigger widespread political instability and throw emerging powers off course.” However, it states, “if China, Russia, and Mideast oil exporters can avoid internal crises,” they may be able to buy foreign assets, provide financial assistance to struggling countries and “seed new regional initiatives.” It says that the biggest change for the West will be “the increase in state power.  Western governments now own large swaths of their financial sectors and must manage them, potentially politicizing markets.” It continues in saying that there is a prospect for a new “Bretton Woods,” to “regulate the global economy,” however, “Failure to construct a new all-embracing architecture could lead countries to seek security through competitive monetary policies and new investment barriers, increasing the potential for market segmentation.”[2]

The report states that as a result of the major financial disruptions under-way and those still to come, there is a need to rebalance the global economy. However, “this rebalancing will require long-term efforts to establish a new international system.”[3] It states that major problem to overcome will be a possible backlash against foreign trade and investment by corporations, particularly in “emerging economies,” with the potential of fueling “protectionist forces” in the US; an increasing competition for resources between emerging economies such as Russia, China, India and even Gulf states; a decline in democratization, as the China-model for development becomes attractive to other emerging economies, authoritarian regimes and even “weak democracies frustrated by years of economic underperformance”; the role of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) in providing more financial assistance to developing countries than the World Bank and IMF, which could lead to “diplomatic realignments and new relationships” between China, Russia, India and Gulf states with the developing world; the loss of the dollar as the “global reserve currency,” as “foreign policy actions might bring exposure to currency shock and higher interest rates for Americans,” and a “move away from the dollar” which would be precipitated by “uncertainties and instabilities in the international financial system.”[4]

The dollar’s decline as a “global reserve currency” will be relegated to “something of a first among equals in a basket of currencies by 2025. This could occur suddenly in the wake of a crisis, or gradually with global rebalancing.”[5]

It states that for the first time in history, the financial landscape will be “genuinely global and multipolar,” and that, “redirection toward regional financial centers could soon spill over into other areas of power.”[6] It states that there is potential for a divide within the West between the US and EU, so long as they continue divergent economic policies, where Europe is more state-centric and with the US as more market-based. However, “the enhanced role of the state in Western economies may also lessen the contrast between the two models.”[7] This enhanced role of the state in economic matters is largely due to the current financial crisis.

Latin America

In outlining Latin America’s path for the next two decades, the report states that many countries will have become middle income powers, however, “those that have embraced populist policies, will lag behind—and some, such as Haiti, will have become even poorer and still less governable.” It says Brazil will become the major power of the region, but that, “efforts to promote South American integration will be realized only in part.  Venezuela and Cuba will have some form of vestigial influence in the region in 2025, but their economic problems will limit their appeal.” However, it said that many parts of Latin America will remain among “the world’s most violent areas,” and that, “US influence in the region will diminish somewhat, in part because of Latin America’s broadening economic and commercial relations with Asia, Europe, and other blocs.”[8]

Europe

In discussing the issue of Muslim immigration into the European Union, the report states that, “Countries with growing numbers of Muslims will experience a rapid shift in ethnic composition, particularly around urban areas, potentially complicating efforts to facilitate assimilation and integration.” Further, “the increasing concentration could lead to more tense and unstable situations, such as occurred with the 2005 Paris suburban riots.” This mass immigration and reactions of Europeans, among other factors, “are likely to confine many Muslims to low-status, low-wage jobs, deepening ethnic cleavages.  Despite a sizeable stratum of integrated Muslims, a growing number—driven by a sense of alienation, grievance, and injustice—are increasingly likely to value separation in areas with Muslim-specific cultural and religious practices.”[9]

The report also states that by 2025, Europe “will have made slow progress toward achieving the vision of current leaders and elites: a cohesive, integrated, and influential global actor able to employ independently a full spectrum of political, economic, and military tools in support of European and Western interests and universal ideals. The European Union would need to resolve a perceived democracy gap dividing Brussels from European voters and move past protracted debate about its institutional structures.” In other words, the move toward a European superstate will revolve around convincing the public that it is not a threat to democracy or sovereignty.

It further states that Europe should and likely will take in “new members in the Balkans, and perhaps Ukraine and Turkey. However, continued failure to convince skeptical publics of the benefits of deeper economic, political, and social integration and to grasp the nettle of a shrinking and aging population by enacting painful reforms could leave the EU a hobbled giant.”[10]

Russia: Boom or Bust?

The report’s focus on Russia stresses two possible scenarios. One in which Russia triumphs as an international player in the new international system, with the “potential to be richer, more powerful, and more self-assured in 2025 if it invests in human capital, expands and diversifies its economy, and integrates with global markets. [Emphasis added]” However, Russia could also take another path, where “multiple constraints could limit Russia’s ability to achieve its full economic potential,” such as a shortfall in energy investment, an underdeveloped banking sector, and crime and corruption. It also points out that a “sustained plunge in global energy prices before Russia has the chance to develop a more diversified economy probably would constrain economic growth.”[11] Could this be a veiled threat to Russia to either join into and merge with the international system, which is directed by Western elites, or face a possible economic backlash, perhaps in the form of manipulating oil prices? This strategy has not by any means been unheard of, as a look at the 1973 oil crisis and the lead up to the first Gulf War in 1991 have proven.

In contemplating Russia’s likely future, the report states that with a more “proactive and influential foreign policy” Russia could become an “important partner for Western, Asian, and Middle East capitals; and a leading force in opposition to US global dominance.” However, it states that, “shared perceptions regarding threats from terrorism and Islamic radicalism could align Russian and Western security policies more tightly.” In other words, perhaps increased incidents of terrorist activity in or near Russian territory can force it to align more closely with the West, if only at first in security integration. It also elaborates on the other potentiality for Russia, saying that it is “impossible to exclude alternative futures such as a nationalistic, authoritarian petro-state or even a full dictatorship.”[12]

Iran

The report states that there are alternatives with Iran. In one instance, “political and economic reform in addition to a stable investment climate could fundamentally redraw both the way the world perceives the country and also the way in which Iranians view themselves.” This could move Iran away from “decades of being mired in the Arab conflicts of the Middle East.”[13] Or the other option is Iran starts a nuclear arms race, continues to become the object of Western alienation, and may even become unstable and mired in conflict.

A Post-Petroleum World?

The report states that by 2025 there will likely be a “technological breakthrough that will provide an alternative to oil and gas, but implementation will lag because of the necessary infrastructure costs and need for longer replacement time.” In this instance, it states that “Saudi Arabia will absorb the biggest shock,” and “In Iran, the drop in oil and gas prices will undermine any populist economic policies,” and that, “Incentives to open up to the West in a bid for greater foreign investment, establishing or strengthening ties with Western partners – including the US – will increase.” The report also states that, “Outside the Middle East, Russia will potentially be the biggest loser, particularly if its economy remains heavily tied to energy exports, and could be reduced to middle power status.  Venezuela, Bolivia, and other petro-populist regimes could unravel completely, if that has not occurred beforehand because of already growing discontent and decreasing production.”[14] Again, this raises the issue of the manipulation or control of oil prices for political purposes, as the states all likely to be affected negatively by a plunge in oil prices also happen to be the states most at odds with the West, and specifically, the United States.

Africa: More of the Same

The report starts off by saying that “Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the most vulnerable region on Earth in terms of economic challenges, population stresses, civil conflict, and political instability.  The weakness of states and troubled relations between states and societies probably will slow major improvements in the region’s prospects over the next 20 years unless there is sustained international engagement and, at times, intervention.  Southern Africa will continue to be the most stable and promising sub-region politically and economically.” This seems to suggest that there will be many more cases of “humanitarian intervention,” likely under the auspices of a Western dominated international organization, such as the UN.

Further, the region will “continue to be a major supplier of oil, gas, and metals to world markets and increasingly will attract the attention of Asian states seeking access to commodities, including China and India.” However, “Poor economic policies—rooted in patrimonial interests and incomplete economic reform—will likely exacerbate ethnic and religious divides as well as crime and corruption in many countries.”

It also states that there will likely be a democratic “backslide” in the most populous African countries, and that, “the region will be vulnerable to civil conflict and complex forms of interstate conflict—with militaries fragmented along ethnic or other divides, limited control of border areas, and insurgents and criminal groups preying on unarmed civilians in neighboring countries.  Central Africa contains the most troubling of these cases, including Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, and Chad.”[15]

Resurgent Mercantilism and the “Arc of Instability”

The report states that there is a likely possibility of the resurgence on the world stage of mercantilist foreign policies of great powers, as access to resources becomes more limited. Perceptions of energy scarcity “could lead to interstate conflicts if government leaders deem assured access to energy resources to be essential to maintaining domestic stability and the survival of their regime.” In particular, “Central Asia has become an area of intense international competition for access to energy.”[16]

The report also states that, “The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will remain a geopolitically significant region in 2025, based on the importance of oil to the world economy and the threat of instability.” It gives a positive and negative scenario. In the positive, where economic growth becomes “rooted and sustained,” regional leaders will ensure stability both economic and political. However, “in a more negative scenario, leaders will fail to prepare their growing populations to participate productively in the global economy, authoritarian regimes will hold tightly to power and become more repressive, and regional conflicts will remain unresolved as population growth strains resources.”

The report elaborates that, “youth bulges, deeply rooted conflicts, and limited economic prospects are likely to keep Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and others in the high-risk category.  Spillover from turmoil in these states and potentially others increases the chance that moves elsewhere in the region toward greater prosperity and political stability will be rocky.  The success of efforts to manage and resolve regional conflicts and to develop security architectures that help stabilize the region will be a major determinant of the ability of states to grow their economies and pursue political reform.” In other words, expect continued destabilization of the region.

It states of Iran, that its “fractious regime, nationalist identity, and ambivalence toward the United States will make any transition from regional dissenter toward stakeholder perilous and uneven.  Although Iran’s aims for regional leadership—including its nuclear ambitions—are unlikely to abate, its regional orientation will have difficulty discounting external and internal pressures for reform.”[17]

In relation to Afghanistan, the report states that, “Western-driven infrastructure, economic assistance, and construction are likely to provide new stakes for local rivalries rather than the basis for a cohesive Western-style economic and social unity.” Further, as “Globalization has made opium Afghanistan’s major cash crop; the country will have difficulty developing alternatives, particularly as long as economic links for trade with Central Asia, Pakistan, and India are not further developed.” It states that sectarian conflicts will continue and increase.

The report describes Pakistan as a “wildcard,” especially in relation to conflict in Afghanistan. It states that its Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas “will continue to be poorly governed and the source or supporter of cross-border instability.” It states that, “If Pakistan is unable to hold together until 2025, a broader coalescence of Pashtun tribes is likely to emerge and act together to erase the Durand Line,” and fractionalize Pakistan into ethnic divides. Essentially, expect Pakistan to be broken up into ethnically divided countries and territories.

It also stipulates that Iraq will continue to be plagued by sectarian and ethnic conflicts, which will spillover into other countries of the region, as “Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia will have increasing difficulty staying aloof. An Iraq unable to maintain internal stability could continue to roil the region. If conflict there breaks into civil war, Iraq could continue to provide a strong demonstration of the adverse consequences of sectarianism to other countries in the region.”[18] Put another way, Iraq will collapse into civil war, break up and become an example to the rest of the region regarding what happens to countries that pursue divergent policies from those of the West.

Nuclear War

The report states that there is a likely increase in the risk of a nuclear war, or in the very least, the use of a nuclear weapon by 2025. “Ongoing low-intensity clashes between India and Pakistan continue to raise the specter that such events could escalate to a broader conflict between those nuclear powers.” Further, “The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran spawning a nuclear arms race in the greater Middle East will bring new security challenges to an already conflict-prone region, particularly in conjunction with the proliferation of long-range missile systems.” The report also brings up the prospect of nuclear terrorism as an increased risk.[19]

Terrorism

The report states that terrorism will by no means disappear from the international stage by 2025. It interestingly postulates that there is a possibility of Al-Qaeda’s influence as a terrorist group greatly diminishing, or all together disappearing, being replaced with new terrorist threats.[20]

It discusses the actions that will likely be pursued by countries in reaction to terrorist threats, saying that many governments will be “expanding domestic security forces, surveillance capabilities, and the employment of special operations-type forces.” Counterterrorism measures will increasingly “involve urban operations as a result of greater urbanization,” and governments “may increasingly erect barricades and fences around their territories to inhibit access. Gated communities will continue to spring up within many societies as elites seek to insulate themselves from domestic threats.”[21] Essentially, expect a continued move towards and internationalization of domestic police state measures to control populations.

Global Pandemic

The report states that there is a distinct possibility of a global pandemic emerging by 2025. In this case, “internal and cross-border tension and conflict will become more likely as nations struggle—with degraded capabilities—to control the movement of populations seeking to avoid infection or maintain access to resources.” It states that such a likely candidate for a pandemic would be the H5N1 avian flu.

It states that in the event of a global pandemic, likely originating in a country such as China, “tens to hundreds of millions of Americans within the US Homeland would become ill and deaths would mount into the tens of millions,” and “Outside the US, critical infrastructure degradation and economic loss on a global scale would result as approximately a third of the worldwide population became ill and hundreds of millions died.”[22]

A New International System Is Formed

In discussing the structure and nature of a new international system, the report states that, “By 2025, nation-states will no longer be the only – and often not the most important – actors on the world stage and the ‘international system’ will have morphed to accommodate the new reality. But the transformation will be incomplete and uneven.”

The report states that under a situation in which there are many poles of power in the world, yet little coordination and cooperation between them all, it would be “unlikely to see an overarching, comprehensive, unitary approach to global governance. Current trends suggest that global governance in 2025 will be a patchwork of overlapping, often ad hoc and fragmented efforts, with shifting coalitions of member nations, international organizations, social movements, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, and companies.” In other words, by 2025, there won’t be an established global government, but rather an acceleration of the processes and mechanisms that have been and currently are underway in efforts to create a world government.

The report also interestingly points out that, “Most of the pressing transnational problems – including climate change, regulation of globalized financial markets, migration, failing states, crime networks, etc. – are unlikely to be effectively resolved by the actions of individual nation-states. The need for effective global governance will increase faster than existing mechanisms can respond [Emphasis added].”[23] In other words, due to the growing threat of international problems, which are essentially the result of Western political-economic-intelligence activities and policies, the solution is a move toward international governance, which will be overseen and run by those same Western interests.

In discussing the rise of the emerging powers, particularly China and India, the report observes that their economic progress has been “achieved with an economic model that is at odds with the West’s traditional laissez faire recipe for economic development.” So the question is, “whether the new players – and their alternative approaches – can be melded with the traditional Western ones to form a cohesive international system able to tackle the increasing number of transnational issues.” It continues, saying that “the national interests of the emerging powers are diverse enough, and their dependence on globalization compelling enough, that there appears little chance of an alternative bloc forming among them to directly confront the more established Western order. The existing international organizations – such as the UN, WTO, IMF, and World Bank – may prove sufficiently responsive and adaptive to accommodate the views of emerging powers, but whether the emerging powers will be given – or will want – additional power and responsibilities is a separate question.”[24] So, as the new powers emerge, as a result of Western elite-directed globalization, they will likely merge with the Western controlled world order as opposed to becoming an alternative or opposition force to it.

Regionalism

The report discusses the topic of regionalism in different areas of the world: “Greater Asian integration, if it occurs, could fill the vacuum left by a weakening multilaterally based international order but could also further undermine that order. In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a remarkable series of pan-Asian ventures—the most significant being ASEAN + 3—began to take root.  Although few would argue that an Asian counterpart to the EU is a likely outcome even by 2025, if 1997 is taken as a starting point, Asia arguably has evolved more rapidly over the last decade than the European integration did in its first decade(s).” It further states that, “movement over the next 15 years toward an Asian basket of currencies—if not an Asian currency unit as a third reserve—is more than a theoretical possibility.”

The report elaborates on the concept of regionalism, stating that, “Asian regionalism would have global implications, possibly sparking or reinforcing a trend toward three trade and financial clusters that could become quasi-blocs (North America, Europe, and East Asia).” Such blocs “would have implications for the ability to achieve future global World Trade Organization agreements and regional clusters could compete in the setting of trans-regional product standards for IT, biotech, nanotech, intellectual property rights, and other “new economy” products.”[25] So these three main regional blocs will make up the initial structure of international governance by 2025, progressing toward the ultimate goal of a global government.

The Decline of Democracy

The report states that with democratization around the world, “advances are likely to slow and globalization will subject many recently democratized countries to increasing social and economic pressures that could undermine liberal institutions.” Part of this reasoning is that “the better economic performance of many authoritarian governments could sow doubts among some about democracy as the best form of government.  The surveys we consulted indicated that many East Asians put greater emphasis on good management, including increasing standards of livings, than democracy.” Of great significance, the report also states that, “even in many well-established democracies, surveys show growing frustration with the current workings of democratic government and questioning among elites over the ability of democratic governments to take the bold actions necessary to deal rapidly and effectively with the growing number of transnational challenges.”[26]

This is a very important point, as among many “well-established democracies” are the United States, which is already experiencing a massive shift away from democracy. China, which has been able to emerge rapidly as a result of Western-controlled globalization, and which remains authoritarian, can essentially be viewed as a model for the international system being shaped, as democracies take a turn toward authoritarianism and other rising powers choose to pursue development in the same manner. Essentially, the new international system will mark a move away from democracy and towards international authoritarianism.

Conclusion

It is important, when reviewing the above information provided by the report, to understand the perspective of the authors. The US intelligence community worked closely with businesses, prominent academic institutions and powerful think tanks, all of which play extremely significant roles in shaping our current world order. Thus, the perspectives outlined in the report come with an inherent bias, and so it is important to “read in between the lines.” The report does NOT state what the objectives of the US intelligence community, academic institutions, businesses or think tanks will be in this future 2025 scenario, but you can be assured that they will not play backseat roles and merely observe situations. These are among the most powerful players in the international arena, and this vision of 2025 is the world they are shaping.

So when the report suggests the likely fractionalization of Pakistan, they do not say that it is a US objective to do so, but rather that it is a likely possibility that such a scenario will occur. Thus, it is important to comprehend this information with an understanding that those who wrote the report, have been, are currently, and will in all likelihood, continue to be among the most powerful actors shaping the world order and the new international system. They have been behind the great “transnational issues” and are now proposing their “international solutions.”

Notes

[1]        NIC, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. The National Intelligence Council’s 2025 Project: November, 2008: Acknowledgements

[2]        NIC, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. The National Intelligence Council’s 2025 Project: November, 2008: 10

[3]        Ibid, 11

[4]        Ibid, 11-12

[5]        Ibid, 94

[6]        Ibid, 12-13

[7]        Ibid, 13-14

[8]        Ibid, 15

[9]        Ibid, 25

[10]      Ibid, 32

[11]      Ibid, 31

[12]      Ibid, 32

[13]      Ibid, 36

[14]      Ibid, 46

[15]      Ibid, 56

[16]      Ibid, 63

[17]      Ibid, 65

[18]      Ibid, 72-73

[19]      Ibid, 67

[20]      Ibid, 69-70

[21]      Ibid, 70-72

[22]      Ibid, 75

[23]      Ibid, 81

[24]      Ibid, 82

[25]      Ibid, 83

[26]      Ibid, 87