WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?
A GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR CEOs
By HERBERT MEYER

FOUR MAJOR TRANSFORMATIONS
Currently, there are four major transformations that are shaping political, economic and orld events. These transformations have profound implications for American business leaders and owners, our culture and on our way of life.

1. The War in Iraq
There are three major monotheistic religions in the world: Christianity,
Judaism and Islam. In the 16th century, Judaism and Christianity
reconciled with the modern world. The rabbis, priests and scholars found a
way to settle up and pave the way forward.  Religion remained at the
center of lif e, church and state became separate. Rule of law, idea of
economic liberty, individual rights, human Rights-all these are defining
point of modern Western civilization. These concepts started with the
Greeks but didn’t take off until the 15th and 16th century when Judaism
and Christianity found a way to reconcile with the modern world. When that
happened, it unleashed the scientific revolution and the greatest
outpouring of art, literature and music the world has ever known. Islam,
which developed in the 7th century, counts millions of Moslems around the
world who are normal people. However, there is a radical streak within
Islam. When the radicals are in charge, Islam attacks Western
civilization. Islam first attacked Western civilization in the 7th
century, and later in the 16th and 17th centuries. By 1683, the Moslems
(Turks from the Ottoman Empire) were literally at the gates of Vienna. It
was in Vienna that the climatic battle between Islam and Western
civilization took place. The West won and went forward.  Islam lost and
went backward. Interestingly, the date of that battle was September 11.
Since them, Islam has not found a way to reconcile with the modern world.

Today, terrorism is the third attack on Western civilization by radical
Islam. To deal with terrorism, the U.S. is doing two things.  First, units
of our armed forces are in 30 countries around the world hunting down
terrorist groups and dealing with them. This gets very little publicity.
Second we are taking military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These actions are covered relentlessly by the media. People can argue
about whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong. However, the underlying
strategy behind the war is to use our military to remove the radicals from
power and give the moderates a chance. Our hope is that, over time, the
moderates will find a way to bring Islam forward into the 21st century.
That’s what our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is all about.

The lesson of 9/11 is that we live in a world where a small number of
people can kill a large number of people very quickly. They can use
airplanes, bombs, anthrax, chemical weapons or dirty bombs. Even with a
first-rate intelligence service (which the U.S. does not have), you can’t
stop every attack. That means our tolerance for political horseplay has
dropped to zero. No longer will we play games with terrorists or weapons
of mass destructions.

Most of the instability and horseplay is coming from the Middle East.
That’s why we have thought that if we could knock out the radicals and
give the moderates a chance to hold power, they might find a way to
reconcile Islam with the modern world. So when looking at Afghanistan or
Iraq, it’s important to look for any signs that they are modernizing.

For example, women being brought into the work force and colleges in
Afghanistan is good. The Iraqis stumbling toward a constitution is good.

People can argue about what the U.S. is doing and how we’re doing it, but
anything that suggests Islam is finding its way forward is good.

2. The Emergence of China
In the last 20 years, China has moved 250 million people from the farms
and villages into the cities. Their plan is to move another 300 million in
the next 20 years. When you put that many people into the cities, you have
to find work for them. That’s why China is addicted to manufacturing; they
have to put all the relocated people to work.  When we decide to
manufacture something in the U.S., it’s based on market needs and the
opportunity to make a profit. In China, they make the decision because
they want the jobs, which is a very different calculation.

While China is addicted to manufacturing, Americans are addicted to low
prices. As a result, a unique kind of economic codependency has developed
between the two countries. If we ever stop buying from China, they will
explode politically. If China stops selling to us, our economy will take a
huge hit because prices will jump. We are subsidizing their economic
development; they are subsidizing our economic growth.

Because of their huge growth in manufacturing, China is hungry for raw
materials, which drives prices up worldwide. China is also thirsty for
oil, which is one reason oil is now at $100 a barrel. By 2020, China will
produce more cars than the U.S. China is also buying its way into the oil
infrastructure around the world. They are doing it in the open market and
paying fair market prices, but millions of barrels of oil that would have
gone to the U.S are now going to China. China’s quest to assure it has the
oil it needs to fuel its economy is a major factor in world politics and
economics.

We have our Navy fleets protecting the sea lines, specifically the ability
to get the tankers through. It won’t be long before the Chinese have an
aircraft carrier sitting in the Persian Gulf as well.  The question is,
will their aircraft carrier be pointing in the same direction as ours or
against us?

3. Shifting Demographics of Western Civilization
Most countries in the Western world have stopped breeding. For a
civilization obsessed with sex, this is remarkable. Maintaining a steady
population requires a birth rate of 2.1 In Western Europe, the birth rate
currently stands at 1.5, or 30 percent below replacement.  In 30 years
there will be 70 to 80 million fewer Europeans than there are today. The
current birth rate in Germany is 1.3. Italy and Spain are even lower at
1.2. At that rate, the working age population declines by 30 percent in 20
years, which has a huge impact on the economy. When you don’t have young
workers to replace the older ones, you have to import them.

The European countries are currently importing Moslems. Today, the Moslems
comprise 10 percent of France and Germany, and the percentage is rising
rapidly because they have higher birthrates. However, the Moslem
populations are not being integrated into the cultures of their host
countries, which is a political catastrophe. One reason Germany
and France don’t support the Iraq war is they fear their Moslem
populations will explode on them. By 2020, more than half of all births in
the Netherlands will be non-European.

The huge design flaw in the postmodern secular state is that you need a
traditional religious society birth rate to sustain it. The Europeans
simply don’t wish to have children, so they are dying.  In Japan, the
birthrate is 1.3. As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people
over the next 30 years. Because Japan has a very different society than
Europe, they refuse to import workers.  Instead, they are just shutting
down. Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at
the rate of 300 per year. Japan is also aging very rapidly By 2020, one
out of every five Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any
idea about how to run an economy with those demographics.

Europe and Japan, which comprise two of the world’s major economic
engines, aren’t merely in recession, they’re shutting down. This will have
a huge impact on the world economy, and it is already beginning to happen.
Why are the birthrates so low? There is a direct correlation between
abandonment of traditional religious society and a drop in birth rate, and
Christianity in Europe is becoming irrelevant.

The second reason is economic. When the birth rate drops below
replacement, the population ages. With fewer working people to support
more retired people, it puts a crushing tax burden on the smaller group of
working age people. As a result, young people delay marriage and having a
family. Once this trend starts, the downward spiral only gets worse. These
countries have abandoned all the traditions they formerly held in regard
to having families and raising children.

The U.S. birth rate is 2.0, just below replacement. We have an increase in
population because of immigration. When broken down by ethnicity, the
Anglo birth rate is 1.6 (same as France) while the Hispanic birth rate is
2.7. In the U.S., the baby boomers are starting to retire in massive
numbers. This will push the elder dependency ratio from 19 to 38 over the
next 10 to 15 years. This is not as bad as Europe, but still represents
the same kind of trend.

Western civilization seems to have forgotten what every primitive society
understands-you need kids to have a healthy society. Children are huge
consumers. Then they grow up to become taxpayers. That’s how a society
works, but the postmodern secular state seems to have forgotten that. If
U.S. birth rates of the past 20 to 30 years had been the same as
post-World War II, there would be no Social Security or Medicare problems.

The world’s most effective birth control device is money. As society
creates a middle class and women move into the workforce, birth rates
drop. Having large families is incompatible with middle class living.

The quickest way to drop the birth rate is through rapid economic
development. After World War II, the U.S. instituted a $600 tax credit per
child. The idea was to enable mom and dad to have four children without
being troubled by taxes. This led to a baby boom of 22 million kids, which
was a huge consumer market. That turned into a huge tax base. However, to
match that incentive in today’s dollars would cost $12,000 per child.

China and India do not have declining populations. However, in both
countries, there is a preference for boys over girls, and we now have the
technology to know which is which before they are born. In China and
India, families are aborting the girls. As a result, in each of these
countries there are 70 million boys growing up who will never find wives.
When left alone, nature produces 103 boys for every 100 girls. In some
provinces, however, the ratio is 128 boys to every 100 girls.

The birth rate in Russia is so low that by 2050 their population will be
smaller than that of Yemen. Russia has one-sixth of the earth’s land
surface and much of its oil. You can’t control that much area with such a
small population. Immediately to the south, you have China with 70 million
unmarried men who are a real potential nightmare scenario for Russia.

4. Restructuring of American Business
The fourth major transformation involves a fundamental restructuring of
American business. Today’s business environment is very complex and
competitive. To succeed, you have to be the best, which means having the
highest quality and lowest cost. Whatever your price point, you must have
the best quality and lowest price. To be the best, you have to concentrate
on one thing. You can’t be all things to all people and be the best.

A generation ago, IBM used to make every part of their computer. Now Intel
makes the chips, Microsoft makes the software, and someone else makes the
modems, hard drives, monitors, etc. IBM even out sources their call
center. Because IBM has all these companies supplying goods and services
cheaper and better than they could do it themselves, they can make a
better computer at a lower cost. This is called a fracturing of business.
When one company can make a better product by relying on others to perform
functions the business used to do itself, it creates a complex pyramid of
companies that serve and support each other.

This fracturing of American business is now in its second generation.

The companies who supply IBM are now doing the same thing – outsourcing
many of their core services and production process. As a result, they can
make cheaper, better products. Over time, this pyramid continues to get
bigger and bigger. Just when you think it can’t fracture again, it does.

Even very small businesses can have a large pyramid of corporate entities
that perform many of its important functions. One aspect of this trend is
that companies end up with fewer employees and more independent
contractors. This trend has also created two new words in business,
integrator and complementor. At the top of the pyramid, IBM is the
integrator. As you go down the pyramid, Microsoft, Intel and the other
companies that support IBM are the complementors. However, each of the
complementors is itself an integrator for the complementors underneath it.

This has several implications, the first of which is that we are now
getting false readings on the economy. People who used to be employees are
now independent contractors launching their own businesses There are many
people working whose work is not listed as a job. As a result, the economy
is perking along better than the numbers are telling us.

Outsourcing also confused the numbers. Suppose a company like General
Motors decides to outsource all its employee cafeteria functions to
Marriott (which it did). It lays-off hundreds of cafeteria workers, who
then get hired right back by Marriott. The only thing that has changed is
that these people work for Marriott rather than GM. Yet, the media
headlines will scream that America has lost more manufacturing jobs. All
that really happened is that these workers are now reclassified as service
workers. So the old way of counting jobs contributes to false economic
readings. As yet, we haven’t figured out how to make the numbers catch up
with the changing realities of the business world.

Another implication of this massive restructuring is that because
companies are getting rid of units and people that used to work for them,
the entity is smaller. As the companies get smaller and more efficient,
revenues are going down but profits are going up. As a result, the old
notion that revenues are up and we’re doing great isn’t always the case
anymore. Companies are getting smaller but are becoming more efficient and
profitable in the process.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE FOUR TRANSFORMATIONS
1. The War in Iraq
In some ways, the war is going very well. Afghanistan and Iraq have the
beginnings of a modern government, which is a huge step forward.  The
Saudis are starting to talk about some good things, while Egypt and
Lebanon are beginning to move in a good direction. A series of revolutions
have taken place in countries like Ukraine and Georgia.

There will be more of these revolutions for an interesting reason. In
every revolution, there comes a point where the dictator turns to the
general and says, Fire into the crowd. If the general fires into the
crowd, it stops the revolution. If the general says No, the revolution
continues. Increasingly, the generals are saying No because their kids are
in the crowd.

Thanks to TV and the Internet, the average 18-year old outside the U.S. is
very savvy about what is going on in the world, especially in terms of
popular culture. There is a huge global consciousness, and young people
around the world want to be a part of it. It is increasingly apparent to
them that the miserable government where they live is the only thing
standing in their way. More and more, it is the well-educated kids, the
children of the generals and the elite, who are leading the revolutions.

At the same time, not all is well with the war.  The level of violence in
Iraq is much worse and doesn’t appear to be improving. It’s possible that
we’re asking too much of Islam all at one time. We’re trying to jolt them
from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once, which may be further
than they can go. They might make it and they might not.

Nobody knows for sure. The point is, we don’t know how the war will turn
out. Anyone who says they know is just guessing. The real place to watch
is Iran. If they actually obtain nuclear weapons it will be a terrible
situation. There are two ways to deal with it. The first is a military
strike, which will be very difficult. The Iranians have dispersed their
nuclear development facilities and put them underground The U.S. has
nuclear weapons that can go under the earth and take out those facilities,
but we don’t want to do that.

The other way is to separate the radical mullahs from the government,
which is the most likely course of action. Seventy percent of the Iranian
population is under 30. They are Moslem but not Arab. They are mostly
pro-Western. Many experts think the U.S. should have dealt with Iran
before going to war with Iraq. The problem isn’t so much the weapons, it’s
the people who control them. If Iran has a moderate government, the
weapons become less of a concern.

We don’t know if we will win the war in Iraq. We could lose or win.  What
we’re looking for is any indicator that Islam is moving into the 21st
century and stabilizing.

2. China
It may be that pushing 500 million people from farms and villages into
cities is too much too soon. Although it gets almost no publicity, China
is experiencing hundreds of demonstrations around the country, which is
unprecedented. These are not students in Tiananmen Square. These are
average citizens who are angry with the government for building chemical
plants and polluting the water they drink and the air they breathe.

The Chinese are a smart and industrious people. They may be able to pull
it off and become a very successful economic and military superpower. If
so, we will have to learn to live with it. If they want to share the
responsibility of keeping the world’s oil lanes open, that’s a good thing.
They currently have eight new nuclear electric power generators under way
and 45 on the books to build.  Soon, they will leave the U.S. way behind
in their ability to generate nuclear power.

What can go wrong with China? For one, you can’t move 550 million people
into the cities without major problems.  Two, China really wants Taiwan,
not so much for economic reasons, they just want it.  The Chinese know
that their system of communism can’t survive much longer in the 21st
century. The last thing they want to do before they morph into some sort
of more capitalistic government is to take over Taiwan.

We may wake up one morning and find they have launched an attack on
Taiwan. If so, it will be a mess, both economically and militarily.  The
U.S. has committed to the military defense of Taiwan. If China attacks
Taiwan, will we really go to war against them? If the Chinese generals
believe the answer is no, they may attack. If we don’t defend Taiwan,
every treaty the U.S. has will be worthless.  Hopefully, China won’t do
anything stupid.

3. Demographics
Europe and Japan are dying because their populations are aging and
shrinking. These trends can be reversed if the young people start
breeding. However, the birth rates in these areas are so low it will take
two generations to turn things around. No economic model exists that
permits 50 years to turn things around. Some countries are beginning to
offer incentives for people to have bigger families. For example, Italy is
offering tax breaks for having children. However, it’s a lifestyle issue
versus a tiny amount of money. Europeans aren’t willing to give up their
comfortable lifestyles in order to have more children.

In general, everyone in Europe just wants it to last a while longer.

Europeans have a real talent for living. They don’t want to work very
hard. The average European worker gets 400 more hours of vacation time per
year than Americans. They don’t want to work and they don’t want to make
any of the changes needed to revive their economies.

The summer after 9/11, France lost 15,000 people in a heat wave. In
August, the country basically shuts down when everyone goes on vacation.

That year, a severe heat wave struck and 15,000 elderly people living in
nursing homes and hospitals died. Their children didn’t even leave the
beaches to come back and take care of the bodies. Institutions had to
scramble to find enough refrigeration units to hold the bodies until
people came to claim them. This loss of life was five times bigger than
9/11 in America, yet it didn’t trigger any change in French society.

When birth rates are so low, it creates a tremendous tax burden on the
young. Under
those circumstances, keeping mom and dad alive is not an attractive
option. That’s why euthanasia is becoming so popular in most European
countries. The only country that doesn’t permit (and even encourage)
euthanasia is Germany, because of all the baggage from World War II.

The European economy is beginning to fracture. Countries like Italy are
starting to talk about pulling out of the European Union because it is
killing them. When things get bad economically in Europe, they tend to get
very nasty politically. The canary in the mine is anti- Semitism.

When it goes up, it means trouble is coming. Current levels of
anti-Semitism are higher than ever.

Germany won’t launch another war, but Europe will likely get shabbier,
more dangerous and less pleasant to live in. Japan has a birth rate of 1.3
and has no intention of bringing in immigrants. By 2020, one out of every
five Japanese will be 70 years old Property values in Japan have dropped
every year for the past 14 years. The country is simply shutting down. In
the U.S. we also have an aging population. Boomers are starting to retire
at a massive rate. These retirements will have several major impacts:

Possible massive sell off of large four-bedroom houses and a movement to
condos.

An enormous drain on the treasury. Boomers vote, and they want their
benefits, even if it means putting a crushing tax burden on their kids to
get them. Social Security will be a huge problem. As this generation ages,
it will start to drain the system. We are the only country in the world
where there are no age limits on medical procedures. An enormous drain on
the health care system. This will also increase the tax burden on the
young, which will cause them to delay marriage and having families, which
will drive down the birth rate even further.

Although scary, these demographics also present enormous opportunities for
products and services tailored to aging populations. There will be
tremendous demand for caring for older people, especially those who don’t
need nursing homes but need some level of care. Some people will have a
business where they take care of three or four people in their homes. The
demand for that type of service and for products to physically care for
aging people will be huge.

Make sure the demographics of your business are attuned to where the
action is. For example, you don’t want to be a baby food company in Europe
or Japan. Demographics are much underrated as an indicator of where the
opportunities are. Businesses need customers. Go where the customers are.

4. Restructuring of American Business
The restructuring of American business means we are coming to the end of
the age of the employer and employee. With all this fracturing of
businesses into different and smaller units, employers can’t guarantee
jobs anymore because they don’t know what their companies will look like
next year. Everyone is on their way to becoming an independent contractor.

The new workforce contract will be: Show up at the my office five days a
week and do what I want you to do, but you handle your own insurance,
benefits, health care and everything else. Husbands and wives are becoming
economic units. They take different jobs and work different shifts
depending on where they are in their careers and families. They make
tradeoffs to put together a compensation package to take care of the
family.

This used to happen only with highly educated professionals with high
incomes. Now it is happening at the level of the factory floor worker.
Couples at all levels are designing their compensation packages based on
their individual needs. The only way this can work is if everything is
portable and flexible, which requires a huge shift in the American
economy.

The U.S is in the process of building the world’s first 21st century model
economy. The only other countries doing this are U.K. and Australia. The
model is fast, flexible, highly productive and unstable in that it is
always fracturing and re-fracturing. This will increase the economic gap
between the U.S. and everybody else, especially Europe and Japan.

At the same time, the military gap is increasing. Other than China, we are
the only country that is continuing to put money into their military.
Plus, we are the only military getting on-the-ground military experience
through our war in Iraq. We know which high-tech weapons are working and
which ones aren’t. There is almost no one who can take us on economically
or militarily.

There has never been a superpower in this position before. On the one
hand, this makes the U.S. a magnet for bright and ambitious people. It
also makes us a target. We are becoming one of the last holdouts of the
traditional Judeo-Christian culture. There is no better place in the world
to be in business and raise children. The U.S. is by far the best place to
have an idea, form a business and put it into the marketplace.

We take it for granted, but it isn’t as available in other countries of
the world. Ultimately, it’s an issue of culture. The only people who can
hurt us are ourselves, by losing our culture. If we give up our
Judeo-Christian culture, we become just like the Europeans.

The culture war is the whole ballgame. If we lose it, there isn’t another
America to pull us out.

This is a paper presented several weeks ago by Herb Meyer at a Davos,
Switzerland meeting which was attended by most of the CEOs from all the
major international corporations — a very good summary of today’s key
trends and a perspective one seldom sees. Herbert E. Meyer served during
the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central
Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council.
In these positions, he managed production of the U.S. National
Intelligence Estimates and other top-secret projections for the President
and his national security advisers. Meyer is widely credited with being
the first senior U.S. Government official to forecast the Soviet Union’s
collapse, for which he later was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence
Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor.
Formerly an associate editor of FORTUNE, he is also the author of several
books

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About Well of Knowledge Tour Guide

I am a public policy thinker and amateur historian. My interests are seeking knowledge in all areas of life.
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