Intelligence report, U.S. power to wain in next 20 years?

COPY OF: Paul Renolds, BBC

The latest offering from the US intelligence community paints a picture of a fragmented world over the next 20 years.

U.S. Power in the World

The predictions are contained in a report called Global Trends 2025 from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which brings together all the US intelligence agencies. The Global Trends reports are issued every five years and this is the fourth of its kind.

Among its predictions: the US will remain the most powerful country but will be less dominant; power will shift from West to East; the appeal of al-Qaeda will lessen; a multipolar world will emerge with China, India and others playing greater roles; an "arc of instability" will stretch round the world among countries with young populations.

This report will be welcomed round the world and by many in a United States that has just elected a new president committed to changing the way America does business. It puts an end to talk that came to the fore just before the Bush administration took office in 2001 - which was that a "New American Century" was at hand, in which the US would use its power to assert its beliefs for the good of the world as it saw fit.

The report says that the Western model of economic liberalism, democracy and secularism "may lose its lustre". The implication of that is we will hear less about democracy as a way of justifying policy than we have in recent years.

That will not be welcome to those for whom democracy is a beacon. But it is probably a realistic expectation.