From Leon Fuerth, "Strategic Myopia: The Case for Forward Engagement":

The habit of heavily discounting the future in favor of the nearterm must be abandoned, for the simple reason that the future—defined here as the rate of incidence of major social change—is accelerating. That acceleration represents, in turn, the dramatically quickened pace of science and technology, translated into ethical, political, economic and social consequences. If we are overtaken and swamped by the accelerating rate of change, then it is likely that our society will fail to grasp major opportunities for advancement and forfeit them to others who are more alert. We will also fail to take action in time to mitigate the societal impact of major, abrupt dislocations….

Leaders are not unmindful of the need to think of the longer-term implications of their actions, but they also know that representing the interests of the future often involves significant political risk to themselves in the present. Faced with such a choice, they frequently take comfort from the bromide that it is impossible to predict the future. That is certainly true in a literal sense, but it obscures a much more important fact: that it is entirely feasible to think about the future in disciplined fashion and to reach conclusions about it that ought to be important factors in the making of contemporary policy.

Forecasting will never reach the point at which it eliminates doubt. However, it can be used as part of an orderly policymaking process to diminish risk and to maximize opportunity. Our era is destined to be marked by accelerating, deep change. In such a period it is increasingly dangerous to make policy only in the short term or to look at the universe of possibilities through the filter of ideology. An important hallmark of successful governance is the timely ability to recognize what may happen, in order to have the best possible chance of influencing what does happen. Democratic governance is at risk of losing this capacity by failing to analyze the alternative paths that lead towards futures that are desirable, or away from those that are not, and especially by failing to begin that process early enough to permit adequate time for the debate and deliberation our system requires.

During the Cold War, the United States practiced “Forward Deployment”: placing its intelligence sensors and its military forces at strategic locations chosen to improve our ability to engage the enemy as early as possible, on terms advantageous to ourselves. We should now be practicing what ought to be thought of as “Forward Engagement”: recognizing and responding to major societal challenges sooner rather than later, when our leverage over the course of events is greatest and the costs for influencing them are lowest.