Washington Babylon — May 5, 2009, 8:33 am

The CIA’s Foggy Crystal Ball

In December 2000, the National Intelligence Board, under the authority of the CIA, released a report called “Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About The Future With Nongovernment Experts.” The experts included James Steinberg, who is now the deputy secretary of state, and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The report, available at this CIA website, was supposed to be a far-reaching assessment of upcoming issues and threats, compiled by the nation’s premier intelligence agency and leading intellectuals.

Global Trends proved to be more an exercise in group think and ass-covering than anything else, and events have shown the “experts” to be wrong on practically every item of fundamental importance. “The global economy, overall, will return to the high levels of growth reached in the 1960s and early 1970s,” the report predicted. “Economic growth will be driven by political pressures for higher living standards, improved economic policies, rising foreign trade and investment, the diffusion of information technologies, and an increasingly dynamic private sector.”

Other highlights:

The widespread improvement in recent years in economic policy and management sets the stage for future dynamism.

International trade and investment flows will grow, spurring rapid increases in world GDP… International capital flows, which have risen dramatically in the past decade, will remain plentiful.

Rapid expansion of the private sector in many emerging market countries—along with deregulation and privatization in Europe and Japan—will spur economic growth by generating competitive pressures to use resources more efficiently. The impact of improved efficiencies will be multiplied as the information revolution enhances the ability of firms around the world to learn “best practices” from the successful enterprises. Indeed, the world may be on the verge of a rapid convergence in market-based financial and business practices.

Also included in the report were a healthy dose of worthless platitudes obvious even to the average middle-schooler (“The information revolution will make the persistence of poverty more visible, and regional differences will remain large”), as well as weak alibis in the event they were wrong (“Potential brakes on the global economy—such as a sustained financial crisis or prolonged disruption of energy supplies—could undo this optimistic projection”).

The cost to the taxpayer for such sage analsysis? $55 billion.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer

Number of African countries with vaccination rates higher than that of the United States:

16

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A farmer in Surrey, England, was ordered by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to tear down his cannon-equipped castle, which he had built secretly and then concealed behind hay bales.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today