Archive for July 25th, 2012

Looking Backward, Planning Forward

by Robert Hutchings

In 1994, during a brief stint in the National Intelligence Council as director of its Analytic Group, I was involved in the first of the “Global Trends” exercises, organized by the then-chairman of the NIC, Joe Nye.  (The “Global Trends 2010” report was published in early 1997 under the chairmanship of Dick Cooper.)  In an essay that I wrote for the project (and later published in a book of mine called At the End of the American Century), I described a world that would remain militarily unipolar, with no power or group of powers capable of matching the global reach of the United States, but with a tripolar distribution of economic power among North America, Europe, and East Asia.  Beneath the level of these familiar yardsticks of national power, moreover, I saw not the concentration of power but its diffusion among supranational, subnational, and transnational actors beyond the control of any government.

I looked back on that essay a decade later in a speech I gave in April 2003, shortly after I became NIC Chairman and three weeks after the invasion of Iraq.  In the speech, I acknowledged that some of my earlier judgments had been overtaken by events; others were just plain wrong.  But the core argument, I contended, was still valid: “At a time when the spectacular performance of our armed forces in Iraq may tempt us to see power in predominantly military terms, it is worth recalling that our preponderance is not so great in other areas and that we continue to live in an interdependent world.  We can’t wage the war on terrorism by ourselves, and we can’t bomb the global economy into submission.  Our smart bombs aren’t that smart.”

The subtext of both the essay and the speech was that the “unipolar moment” was a dangerous illusion that would tempt us to vastly overestimate our real power and our ability to bend world events to our liking.  In a couple of other speeches I gave that year as NIC Chairman, I spoke – a bit more recklessly – about “the problem of American power,” which “may tempt us to take on more than we can handle, simply because there is nothing to stop us from doing so.”

Now, with the passage of another decade and chastened by our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, we seem to have lurched in the other direction and are now underestimating our power in a kind of declinist funk.  There are worrying indicators, to be sure, of declining education levels, a deteriorating American workforce, rising inequality, degraded infrastructure, and many others that augur poorly for our longer-term competitiveness and vitality.  Other contributors to the GT 2030 blog can comment more ably than I on those.  My focus here is how those with policy responsibility think about America’s power position and how they act upon their assumptions.

It is worth pointing out that the Global Trends projects – GT 2030 is the fifth of them – were not intended to be mere intellectual exercises in thinking about the future but rather were meant as guides to action.  By thinking systematically about future trends and their implications, we wanted to help policy makers at the most senior levels casino online decide what to do right now.

Looking out to 2030 and the kinds of challenges the United States is likely to face, amassing ever more potent military power seems among the least relevant activities we might undertake.  Our larger problem is that we quite literally have more power than we know what to do with.

Instead, we need to accentuate and develop the advanced skills needed to deal with constantly shifting coalitions of partners, diffuse threats to American interests coming from almost anywhere, and complex problems that are not often susceptible to “kinetic” solutions.  There are encouraging signs: the Obama administration has shown itself adept at applying force strategically and selectively, and it has been wise enough to see that not every challenge merits an unconditional and unlimited American commitment.

But we as a society need to do much better at understanding other cultures, mastering the techniques of statecraft, better combining the military and non-military dimensions of our power, and better coordinating the public, private, and non-profit sectors in our complex interactions around the world.

We need better diplomats, too.  For all the complex relationships we have around the world, it is striking that few American diplomats have ever taken or ever will take a course on diplomacy, strategy, or statecraft.  This is why (shameless self-promotion coming here) the LBJ School of Public Affairs has embarked on a major global initiative toward “Reinventing Diplomacy,” working with scholars and practitioners around the world to make the study of diplomacy better grounded in history, more comprehensive in scope, and more global in outlook.

Robert Hutchings is the Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.  He has previously served as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

by Larry O’Bryon

No patriotic American would like to admit that our country is in decline, but how does the evidence stack up? Time for a quick look in the mirror America, to assess what we see.

Economically, we are a society conditioned on too much debt and financial leverage. This conditioning, or addiction even, exists in Americans’ exposure to real estate and credit card debt, Wall Street’s excesses, and now an increasingly untenable fiscal situation with our federal government.

Socially, we are concerned with the American middle class struggling with stagnant real wage growth during the past decade. Poverty levels of the population are approaching levels last seen in the 1960s. Images of the suffering in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still reside in our collective memory, proof that our safety net isn’t what it should be. In education, the U.S. struggles to break the top 20 nations in high school math and science scores.

Our military is the world’s finest fighting force, and our defense budget dwarfs those of other nations. However, we have been working through an intractable conflict in Afghanistan with our NATO allies, with ambiguous prospects for the longer-term results of our nation-building efforts. We look tentative in our steps to support resolution of conflict in Syria and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In the political realm, we are demonstrating the limitations of democracy, as our two-party system grinds to a halt under divided and partisan leadership focused on campaigning, rather than governing and results-oriented action. Through contentious and inconsistent foreign and domestic policies, recent administrations have impaired our respectability abroad, and weakened our unity and strength at home.

Indeed, at first glance, American exceptionalism and global influence seem to be on the wane.

However, further reflection is necessary. The U.S. has significant geographic advantages, including a bounty of natural resources. Our country continues to have the highest per capita GDP mobile casino on a PPP basis of the world’s major economies. In addition, many of our challenges are within our own ability to control. For example, the Annual SOC 2 Type II Audit Reports verify our qualification to handle enterprise-class recoveries and support those customers who must maintain compliance with free file recovery software privacy and free file recovery software security regulations such as:Its simple. year-end 2012 fiscal cliff, driving concerns of renewed recession, is avoidable through politicians’ taking responsible actions to reform our tax code and address our twin deficit and debt challenges. The U.S. remains the destination that millions of productive immigrants aspire to emigrate to enjoy our meritocratic, freedom-loving society, a continuing source of strength for our nation. Our universities and higher education opportunities remain the model for the rest of the world.  From a global perspective, the EU, China and the other BRICs have economic, political and societal challenges that exceed our own.

The risk of America’s decline is real, but with these strengths and our comparative advantages, it is by no means inevitable. Left unchecked, however, the above noted issues will contribute to a diminishing of the United States’ power and influence in the evolving world order. Mitigating this risk requires the nation to come together under united leadership to achieve goals and objectives consistent with our national interests, domestic needs, and international responsibilities. Our leaders need to look beyond elections to confront these challenges, and embrace opportunities available to us to renew America’s strength and character. We have some work to do, and we better get to it.

Larry O’Bryon is a Graduate Fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, and previously worked for two decades in international engineering & construction and investment banking in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The Decline of American Education

by Miha Vindis

The world has changed in many ways since the Cold War ended. The internet and mobile communication have opened up new possibilities across the world. As high-tech, high-value generating industries are no longer bound by national borders or access to restricted resources, a new world order has began to emerge. In this new world education has become even more important. The United States – and the West as a whole – has seen its advantage in economic, technological and defense arenas erode, because we are beginning to fall behind the rest of the world. While the political establishment debates, increasingly on ideological grounds, the future of America is at risk.

The problem begins very early in the national academic system.Beginning in elementary school many students are already behind the nationally accepted standards.  For example, one study found that only 31 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and by eighth grade this number is virtually the same (33 percent). If the average student is not an efficient reader, how can we expect them to excel? One can find similarly alarming statistics for math and the problems compound by the time students are in high-school. In fact, according the Heritage Foundation about one in three American students fail to graduate from highschool. What is most worrying is that the numbers are getting worse in relative and absolute terms. In 2008, the United States was the only developed country with a higher percent of 55- to 64-year-olds with high school degrees than 25- to 34-year-olds.

The data for college level education is also not positive. Just over 40 percent of American’s earn a college a degree – a number which has not changed in decades – while other nations have been catching up. Consider this fact: when the baby boomer generation was completing college in the 70s, more than 30 percent of all college graduates in the online casino world were Americans, but today, that number is only 20 Percent. While part of this can be explained by rapid population growth rates mobile casino When I pay the cashier with money, we have extinguished our free-credits-report.com /debt relationship. in some countries (for example, China’s proportion of college graduates tripled in the last two decades) data clearly shows that the United States is beginning to lag in higher education. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) significant progress has been made in China, Korea, Mexico and Brazil… countries often seen as up and coming geopolitical competitors.

The problem is not necessarily one of quality in higher education. Many foreigners (this author included) still choose to come to the United States because the value offered by American universities is very high, despite very high costs (international students have limited options in terms of funding or student employment). As a Slovenian living in the United States, I constantly contrast America with Europe. And while I am willing to pay the extra cost for an American higher education, I see no such incentive for primary or secondary education. Simply put, American college education may be the most expensive in the world, but it also offers some of the best employment and earnings opportunities. The problem, therefore, is not quality or potential, but rather the small number of Americans earning degrees in critical areas and the even smaller number who are prepared for rigorous study in those fields.

The most serious problem is in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), where there are almost 3 million unfilled jobs, but only about 300,000 graduates annually. This shortage of U.S.-born STEM workers gives companies two choices: import costly foreign labor, or move operations abroad. In fact, according to the OECD the United States has less PhD STEM graduates (per million population) than many other developed countries. The picture is even bleaker when one considers that many of those advanced degrees are awarded to foreigners. For example, about half of all engineering doctoral degrees are awarded to non-U.S. nationals. The implications of this shortfall are not only economic, but also a national security concern as it will become increasingly difficult to fill sensitive security-related jobs.

Most policy-makers would not dispute these facts: education in the United States is falling behind. Identifying the problem and recommending a solution, however, is becoming increasingly ideological. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are all too eager to turn critical issues into an ideological battle rathen seek a realistic compromise.  The United States desperately needs an overhaul of the education system, but given today’s political reality it is not clear when that will happen.

It would be foolish to pinpoint any one issue as the sole problem with education. The education system doesn’t need tweaks and fixes, it needs a serious overhaul. The system needs to be adjusted to attract qualified, motivated teachers through fair compensation; national and state curriculums need to be updated to reflect the realities of the post-Cold War era; school testing norms need to be redesigned; and effective means of motivating students have to be implemented. What is at stake if far more than just increasing reading or math test scores; without a well educated population the American advantage in just about every field will continue to erode. The world may be in the hands of the current power elite, but the future is in the hands of the next generation. No country serious about its future can afford to forget that and no patriotic policy maker should ignore that.

Miha Vindis is a Slovenian doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and previously spent a decade in the international oil industry.