Battle of the (Youth) Bulge

Global demographic explosions are mixing with population busts—and the consequences could be serious. As some countries get older and others younger, will demography be the key to the wars of our century?

Issue: July-Aug 2008

OVER THE next few decades, the developed countries will age and weaken. Meanwhile, dramatic demographic trends in developing nations-from resurgent youth booms in the Muslim world to premature aging in China and population implosion in Russia-will give rise to dangerous new security threats. Some argue that global demographic trends are progressively pushing the world toward greater peace and prosperity. They are wrong. The risks of both chaotic state collapse and neoauthoritarian reaction are rising.

Everyone knows that the developed world is aging rapidly. Graying workforces will become less flexible, less mobile and less innovative; rates of savings and investment will decline; current-account balances will turn negative and foreign indebtedness will grow. Rising pension and health-care costs will place intense pressure on government budgets, crowding out spending on defense and international affairs; militaries will face growing manpower shortages.

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