By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington (RushPRnews) 02/16/09â€” The most significant immediate threat to the United States is the continuing global economic crisis, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair says. â€œTime is probably our greatest threat. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,â€ Blair said in prepared testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 12.â€œRoughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown.â€
The U.S. intelligence community makes an annual report to Congress on the most significant global threats facing the nation. Blair, who was appointed to the post and confirmed by the Senate in January, framed his analysis for the Senate Intelligence Committee by identifying key areas of risk, concern and opportunity that could affect the lives of Americans. Blairâ€™s appearance before the committee is the first time that the national intelligence director has testified without other intelligence agency chiefs also testifying.
Blair testified that the bulk of anti-state demonstrations have occurred in Europe and in the nations of the former Soviet Union. While about two-thirds of the countries in the world have enough funds and other resources to limit the economic recessionâ€™s impact in the short term, much of Latin America, the former Soviet states and sub-Saharan Africa lack enough cash reserves, access to international credit, or other means of coping with the mounting crisis, he said.
Sophisticated analysis shows that the risks of regime-threatening instability increase dramatically over a one- to two-year economic crisis, he said.
â€œBesides increased economic nationalism, the most likely political fallout for U.S. interests will involve allies and friends not being able to fully meet their defense and humanitarian obligations,â€ Blair said. And potential refugee migrations to the United States from the Caribbean region could impact U.S. homeland security, he said.
Industrialized nations are already in recession. Growth in emerging-market countries, once thought to be immune from financial crises in industrialized countries, is faltering and many have gone into recession, he said.
China and India have seen their dynamic growth engines slow as they try to cope with falling demand for their exports, Blair said. Other nations are trying various economic measures to either jump-start their economies or lessen the impact of recessions.
â€œRecessions are a relative game, and historically the United States has proven more adroit at responding to them than most. The U.S. tradition of openness, developed skills and mobility probably puts it in a better position to reinvent itself,â€ Blair said.
TURNING A CORNER ON TERRORISM
In 2008, foreign terrorist groups were not able to conduct another major attack on the U.S. homeland, Blair said. Where significant progress has been made in the struggle against international terrorism is in public opinion shifting against terrorist groups like al-Qaida, he said.
â€œOver the last year and a half, al-Qaida has faced significant public criticism from prominent religious leaders and fellow extremists, primarily regarding the use of brutal and indiscriminate tactics … that have resulted in the deaths of Muslim civilians,â€ he said.
Al-Qaida today is less capable and effective than it was a year ago, Blair testified.
While climate change, energy, global health and environmental security are often intertwined and not traditionally thought of as threats, they will impact the United States in many ways, Blair testified.
â€œAccess to relatively secure and clean energy sources and management of chronic food and water shortages will assume increasing importance for a growing number of countries,â€ he said. â€œAdding well over a billion people to the worldâ€™s population by 2025 will itself put pressure on these vital resources.â€
And a significant percentage of the worldâ€™s population will be migrating from rural areas to major urban centers to seek greater personal security and economic opportunity, he said. These actions will strain limited resources even further.
Blair said the already stressed resource sector will be further complicated and exacerbated by climate change, â€œwhose physical effects will worsen throughout this period.â€
The complete text of Blairâ€™s remarks (PDF) can be obtained from the director of national intelligenceâ€™s Web site.
What foreign affairs actions should President Obama consider? Comment on America.govâ€™s blog.