Almost four years ago whilst I was still with BMMI I was invited to a conference in Pennsylvania in the US. Most of the participants were recently retired three- and four-star officers in the US Military. Due to their length of service all of them had spent many years in the Middle East and Afghanistan as a result of the ‘War on Terror’ declared by President Bush after the 9/11 attack.
The purpose of the meeting was to work out future scenarios that may transpire based upon all the past experiences of the participants and current events taking place across the world. For me, it was a very interesting workshop and I was relieved to know my contribution was viewed as valuable and helpful when it came to future predictions.
Before flying out to the workshop, I had prepared a presentation which concluded with four possible future outcomes. Now that almost four years have passed since I prepared the presentation, I decided to revisit what I had written.
The scenario Stalled Engines was viewed as the most plausible worst-case scenario resulting in increased interstate conflict. It also predicted that the US would move towards being a more inwardly focused country.
Unfortunately, political violence and protest are both growing in more countries. These trends show few signs of decline in 2019, as conflict and unrest threaten to expand in scope and scale going forward.
The second point predicting that the US would become more inwardly focused has certainly happened since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president in January 2017. Under his leadership and his ‘America First’ slogan, relationships with many international trading partners has become strained, especially with China.
The Meeting of Minds scenario which was viewed as the most plausible best-case outcome with China and the US collaborating on a range of issues leading to a broader global co-operation is dead in the water.
The Genie out of the Bottle scenario predicted inequalities exploding and resulting in big winners and losers. Ethnic inequalities within countries would increase causing social tension. Also predicted was a diminishing role of the US as the world’s policeman.
There is no doubt many ethnic groups have suffered and social tensions across both the developing and the developed world have markedly grown. The middle ground has suffered as more people are adopting polar-opposite positions on many emotive issues.
The final scenario predicted a Non-State World that was due to new technologies and non-state players taking the lead when it comes to confronting global challenges. Whilst organisations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and other web-based companies are growing in influence, they are not yet taking the lead when confronting global issues.
Four years later, there is no doubt the Stalled Engines scenario dominates. Whilst some elements of the other three scenarios could be considered to have partly materialised, they do not match up to the Stalled Engines scenario.
Looking forward the Stalled Engines scenario has not reached an end point and I predict that the situation will not improve in 2020.
Regrettably, the most plausible worst-case scenario has come true.