This is the title of a special report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States last November. As the very title indicates, our world is undergoing some very radical changes.

“The international system – as constructed following World War II – will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of non-state actors,” the report says.

So where do we stand? What will be the future of Indonesia in the light of this report?

We could certainly contribute positively to the change, if we, along with China, India and Russia, emerge as a rising power. Can we? Yes, we can. We lag behind them in technology, but not in human and natural resources. In natural resources and biodiversity especially, we are actually richer than all three of them.

But, there is a big “but” here; are we prepared to emerge as one of the world powers, or an “emerging force” as envisioned by one of our founding fathers, Bung Karno? Are we putting enough, or rather adequate efforts to emerge as such?

If we are honest with ourselves, then the answer is: No. No, we are not prepared. We are not putting in enough and adequate efforts to emerge as a global force. Many of us are not even aware of our potential. A handful of us who are aware are busy glorifying it without using it.

As the report indicates, our world is facing many, many challenges. To list a few of them:

A globalizing economy: This is an irreversible trend. We either go along with it, or choose to be left behind. Going along with it means we contribute positively to the trend. We cannot stop multinationals operating in our country, but we must also prepare ourselves to operate in other countries.

It is frustrating to see our countrymen and women being maltreated overseas where they labor as housemaids and drivers. And it is more frustrating to see our officials calling them Pahlawan Devisa or “Foreign Exchange Heroes”.

Let us stop bullying ourselves. The fact that they must work overseas at menial jobs and in spite of such mistreatment is a proof of our incapability to provide them with adequate jobs in our own country. This is not a success story.

Some time back when I was overseas and had the opportunity to visit our mission there, I was disheartened to see the pitiable state of our trade showrooms on the ground floor. They were unkempt and clearly had not been used as such for quite some time.

If the state cannot run it, then let the non-state entities run it. That brings us to another important point in the report:

The growing influence of non-state actors: Privatization of certain businesses is a must. Undoubtedly, I realize, there are strategic businesses that must be managed by the state. Anything to do with the basic necessities, including but not limited to staple foods and water supply, must be taken care of by the state. Indeed, if need be, subsidized.

Let the trade treaties not deflect the state from its duties and responsibilities toward the citizens and residents of the country. While having an international outlook, national interest must still be upheld and not sacrificed for any reason.

The report also mentions some negative influences, such as growing religious radicalism and criminal networks.

The prospect of terrorism: It is in this particular area that Indonesia, Turkey and “forecasted” postclerical Iran must always be on guard.

These countries must distance themselves from the radical core and must “rediscover” the meaning of religion as a “blessing for all humankind”. Radicalism is forecasted to gain traction in weak states such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen. Indeed, Pakistan is already suffering from the rebirth of Taleban radicals in their Swat valley.

In its Jan. 8 issue, The New York Times refers to Pakistan as “Obama’s worst nightmare”.“What Obama now inherits in Pakistan is a fully dysfunctional relationship between that country and the United States,” writes David E. Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times. And this is caused by the dysfunctional relationship between the civilian government and the Pakistani military.

The way we have been giving energy to the radicals in our country by succumbing to their demands and not taking a stern stand against their atrocities, preaching and promotion of wrong ideologies – may harm the entire nation.

The NIC report reminds us of the decline in oil and gas production of many traditional energy producers. Saudis, Iraqis and other major producers are fast exhausting their resources. And, these are the countries that will suffer most from the water and food crisis. No wonder the Saudis are already going anywhere they can to secure their food supplies.

In the decades to come we shall experience unprecedented complexities. The Unites States, according to the NIC report, shall cease to be a dominant power. Its place shall be shared by countries like China, India and Russia … so where do we stand?

We can stand together with them, if we only have the “right intelligence” to choose our path. Any wrong path taken at this time may throw us behind the emerging forces above and turn us into their backyard. God forbid!

The author is a spiritual activist.
– Anand Krishna , JAKARTA