Fred Kaplan exaggerates just a wee bit

In Slate, Fred Kaplan has an assessment of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 report — about which I’ve blogged before. He’s puzzled about a few things: The report has received modest press attention the past couple weeks, mainly for its prediction that, in the year 2020, “political Islam” will still be “a potent force.” Only ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

In Slate, Fred Kaplan has an assessment of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 report -- about which I've blogged before. He's puzzled about a few things:

In Slate, Fred Kaplan has an assessment of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 report — about which I’ve blogged before. He’s puzzled about a few things:

The report has received modest press attention the past couple weeks, mainly for its prediction that, in the year 2020, “political Islam” will still be “a potent force.” Only a few stories or columns have taken note of its central conclusion:

The likely emergence of China and India … as new major global players—similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century—will transform the geopolitical landscape with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries….

The trends should already be apparent to anyone who reads a newspaper. Not a day goes by without another story about how we’re mortgaging our future to the central banks of China and Japan. The U.S. budget deficit, approaching a half-trillion dollars, is financed by their purchase of Treasury notes. The U.S. trade deficit—much of it amassed by the purchase of Chinese-made goods—now exceeds $3 trillion. (emphasis added)

A few minor corrections to Kaplan’s essay:

1) The U.S. trade deficit is big, but it is most certainly not $3 trillion. The November trade deficit was $60.3 billion. 2004’s trade deficit will be in the neighborhood of $600 billion. In 2005 it’s expected to grow in size to around $670 billion (see this John Quiggin essay for more). These are all very big numbers and it’s worth wondering about the macroeconomic implications — but they’re not $3 trillion. I have no idea where Kaplan got that figure, but it’s just wrong. 2) I suspect one reason that the mainstream media didn’t cover the trend that Kaplan stressed is that this was not new analysis. From what I can see, the NIC based their projections on a Goldman Sachs paper by Dominic Wilson and Roopa Purushothaman entitled, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050” — which was released in late 2003. I remember it because I referenced it in this TNR Online essay. The danger with such projections, of course, is that too often they are straight-line extapolations from recent history — remenber, in the early eighties, it was projected that Japan’s economy would be bigger than ours right now. As Arthur Chrenkoff points out when discussing potential rivals to American power:

To anyone familiar with Indonesia or Brazil to posit that these two states might as early as 15 years from now pose a challenge to the United States (even if in combination with others) might seem a wildly extravagant claim. China and India are in a much better position to eventually end the “unipolar moment”, but both countries still face tremendous challenges in translating their considerable human and natural resources into sustainable and significant international reach.

I’m not saying that the NIC projections should be ignored — but perhaps they should not be given the status of certified fact that Kaplan would like to stamp on them.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.