Herb 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.
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 then, 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
These 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
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, a woman being brought into the workforce and colleges in
Afghanistan is good. The Iraqis stumbling toward a constitution is
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 drive prices up worldwide. China is also thirsty for oil,
which is one reason oil is now at $60 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 post-modern 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 2000 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
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
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 regards 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 understandsyou 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 post-modern 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
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, many 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 which are a real potential nightmare scenario for
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 outsources
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
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
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
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
Increasingly, the generals are saying No because their kids are in the
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
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
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
The European economy is beginning to fracture. The Euro is down.
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
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, a 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
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!