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Making Policy in the Shadow of the Future

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Occasional paper

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This analysis takes the NIC document as a starting point and does what the NIC could not do draw implications for U.S. policy. It focuses on issues for which attention to 2025 suggests policies different from those that would be pursued absent that long-range thinking. The shadow of the future falls across current policymaking in several other ways. Some policies that are appropriate for 2025 also are also the right ones now. For instance, the NICs vision of a multipolar world in 2025, in which transnational actors are much more important, implies a style of leadership in which the United States would visibly consider other major states-interests in framing its own approach. Yet that also seems the right style of leadership now, especially in dealing with the global economic crisis. So, too, the NIC vision of China in 2025-continued growth and, with it, an increased stake in the international order-seems to call for U.S. policies, both now and in the future, that will accommodate Chinese power, trying to steer it toward constructive engagements with both the United States and international institutions. In other cases, the current agenda is driven by very current problems, which policy aims to try to reconfigure. For them, the required long-term thinking may be as much backward as forward, drawing on historical perspective to set reasonable long-term aspirations. For instance, in neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan are the options attractive. Both are on the wrong side of the NICs trends, standing, for instance, outside the general trend-driven by growth and declining fertility-of reduced youth bulges of unemployed young men that afflict poor countries.

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  • Government and Political Science

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