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Tom Engelhardt: Apocalypse When?

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Throw in climate change -- and the "success" of fracking in keeping us on a fossil fuels diet for decades to come -- and tell me you can't imagine the odd apocalyptic scenario or two, and a few shocking surprises as well.

A Wishing Well on the Global Mall

Think of Global Trends 2030 as a portrait of an aging, overweight Intelligence Community (and the academic hangers-on who work with them) incapable of seeing the world as it is, let alone as it might be. The National Intelligence Council evidently never met an apocalypt or a dreamer it didn't want to avoid.  Its movers and shakers seemingly never considered putting together a panel of sci-fi writers, and in all their travels they evidently never stopped in Uruguay and paid a visit to the radical writer Eduardo Galeano, or even consulted his 1998 book Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World.

At one point, discussing global consumerism -- and remember this was the year after the first Global Trends report came out -- he wrote:

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"Consumer society is a booby trap.  Those at the controls feign ignorance, but anybody with eyes in his head can see that the great majority of people necessarily must consume not much, very little, or nothing at all in order to save the bit of nature we have left.  Social injustice is not an error to be corrected, nor is it a defect to be overcome; it is an essential requirement of the system.  No natural world is capable of supporting a mall the size of the planet... [If] we all consumed like those who are squeezing the earth dry, we'd have no world left."

With the rising powers of "the South" and "the East," we'll now have a chance to see for ourselves, perhaps by 2030, just how accurate Galeano might have been about the fate of this ever more crowded, ever more resource-pressed, ever hotter and more tumultuous planet of ours.  We might learn up close and personal just what it means to add a billion or two extra "middle class" consumers at such a moment.  By then, perhaps we'll be able to take our pick from extremities of all sorts, ranging from old standbys like revolution or fascism to new ones that we can't even imagine today.

But don't read Global Trends 2030 to find out about that.  After all, the nightmare of every bureaucracy is surprise.  We're not spending $75 billion on "intelligence" and giving up what were once classic American rights and liberties to encounter a bunch of unsettling surprises.  No wonder the NIC folks can't bear to imagine a fuller range of what might be coming.  The Washington bubble is too comfortable, the rest too frightening.  They may be living off our fear, but don't kid yourself for a second, they're afraid too, or they could never produce a document like Global Trends 2030.

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As a portrait of American power gone remarkably blind, deaf, and dumb in a world roaring toward 2030, it provides the rest of us with the functional definition of the group of people least likely to offer long-term security to Americans.

Boil it all down, in fact, and you have a single, all-too-clear New Year's wish from the U.S. Intelligence Community: please, please, please make 2013, 2014, 2015... and 2030 not so different from 2012!

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, his history of the Cold War, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050You can see his interview with Bill Moyers on supersized politics, drones, and other subjects by clicking here.

[Note to readers: This is the second piece I've written recently on what to make of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The first, which appeared on December 16th, was "The Visible Government, How the U.S. Intelligence Community Came Out of the Shadows."]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse's The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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