Swelling populations and a global tide of immigration will present new security challenges for the United States by straining resources and stoking extremism and civil unrest in distant corners of the globe, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in a speech yesterday.
The population surge could undermine the stability of some of the world’s most fragile states, especially in Africa, while in the West, governments will be forced to grapple with ever larger immigrant communities and deepening divisions over ethnicity and race, Hayden said.
Hayden, speaking at Kansas State University, described the projected 33 percent growth in global population over the next 40 years as one of three significant trends that will alter the security landscape in the current century. By 2050, the number of humans on Earth is expected to rise from 6.7 billion to more than 9 billion, he said.
“Most of that growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it, a situation that will likely fuel instability and extremism, both in those countries and beyond,” Hayden said.
With the population of countries such as Niger and Liberia projected to triple in size in 40 years, regional governments will be forced to rapidly find food, shelter and jobs for millions, or deal with restive populations that “could be easily attracted to violence, civil unrest, or extremism,” he said.
European countries, many of which already have large immigrant communities, will see particular growth in their Muslim populations while the number of non-Muslims will shrink as birthrates fall. “Social integration of immigrants will pose a significant challenge to many host nations — again boosting the potential for unrest and extremism,” Hayden said.
The CIA director also predicted a widening gulf between Europe and North America on how to deal with security threats, including terrorism. While U.S. and European officials agree on the urgency of the terrorism threat, there is a fundamental difference — a “transatlantic divide” — over the solution, he said.
While the United States sees the fight against terrorism as a global war, European nations perceive the terrorist threat as a law enforcement problem, he said.
“They tend not to view terrorism as we do, as an overwhelming international challenge. Or if they do, we often differ on what would be effective and appropriate to counter it,” Hayden said. He added that he could not predict “when or if” the two sides could forge a common approach to security.
A third security trend highlighted by Hayden was the emergence of China as a global economic and military powerhouse, pursuing its narrow strategic and political interests. But Hayden said China’s increasing prominence need not be perceived as a direct challenge to the United States.
“If Beijing begins to accept greater responsibility for the health of the international system, as all global powers should, we will remain on a constructive, even if competitive, path,” he said. “If not, the rise of China begins to look more adversarial.”