The title of this post is a bit misleading; there’s no way to peer into the future. But we can see patterns, and make predictions–or at the very least, decipher vague trajectories–about the way we’re heading. The National Intelligence Council, a think tank reporting to the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence, recently published “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.” Peter Goodspeed at the National Post summarizes its basic ideas pretty well, so I won’t bother. It’s ironic how even the United States government is now in the business of American declinism–the genre of political science that imagines the post-American world. Of course, if you read the National Review or The Weekly Standard, you wouldn’t know it. They’d probably just blame it all on pansy Democrats and the Marxist-Islamist President Obama.

On a serious note, the NIC’s central predictions are:

* The whole international system—as constructed following WWII—will be revolutionized. Not only will new players—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
* The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
* Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
* The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.

But how drastically will this shift in global power change the rules of the game? I’m inclined to believe that the rising powers accept the American-inspired values of the current global order–that is, economic competition as the main manifestation of Great Power rivalry. The post-WWII system, including Bretton Woods and the United Nations, established by America assumed, as Americans always have throughout their history, that commerce ought to be the main driving force of international relations. It was that naivete belief that drove Jefferson to impose an embargo on Great Britain and France during the Napoleonic Wars, hoping that economic force alone would penalize the two powers. And that was precisely the motive behind the Marshall Plan, which didn’t punish Europe, but made it richer and viable for trade.

Kishore Mahbubani, former senior Singaporean diplomat, argues that the rising powers don’t want to re-create the global order, but to replicate it and to gain a stake in it through more power in the great councils of the world: the IMF, the G-7, and the UN Security Council.