Making Policy in the Shadow of the Future
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The National Intelligence Council's (NIC's) 2008 report Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World projects what the world will look like in 2025 based on recent trends. However, as an intelligence organization, the NIC limits its report to describing the impacts of future trends on the United States — it cannot explore the important question: How should U.S. policy adapt now to account for these trends and the future that will result from them? This paper takes on that task. It focuses on important issues for which a long-term perspective leads to different immediate choices for U.S. policy than would result from only a short-term perspective. These include energy and climate change; defense policy, including the diffusion of nuclear weapons and the movement to abolish them; the reshaping of international law and institutions; the structure of the federal government; and the U.S. relationship with Mexico. For some other issues, long- and short-term thinking produce similar conclusions; yet for still others, the two perspectives seem difficult to reconcile.