Computers may head off world clashes in year 2000

Computers, data banks, political crisis early warning systems - these are the tools which soon could track world political forces, forestall short-term international flareups and prepare for long-term challenges.

And there will be plenty of challenges, agree delegates to the 1982 World Congress of the International Political Science Association.

Looking ahead two decades to the year 2000, the experts -- from national and regional political science organizations, research institutions, and 1,000 individual members from 60 countries -- see prospects for cataclysm and for exciting new methods to prevent it.

The problems are legion, says Asher Arian, a Tel Aviv scholar: ''Burgeoning and baffled bureaucracy; expectations which have continued to rise although potential has stagnated or shrunk; unemployment and inflation rising simultaneously.''

Even without major turmoil, the next two decades will prove a tough slog, the experts say.

''It is likely that malaise of late 20th-century government will be most notably cited by the historians of the future,'' says Mr. Asher. ''The buoyancy and optimism with which different ideologies faced the post-World War II era faded.''

The conference is the 12th in an every-three-year series begun in 1949, when the major world task was to build a political and economic system on the rubble of World War II.

Despite a conviction that the world political task is growing tougher, a hopeful spirit runs through the congress.

Many feel a breakthrough is imminent. Just as in recent years economic models have been able to track economies, so new computer systems are being put in place to trace political variables. Public opinion, world trade, support for governments, security shifts measured by verbal exchanges and troop movements are part of the new political lexicon.

''The growth in knowledge is going to be tremendous,'' says Richard Merritt, a University of Illinois political scholar, ''in the amount of data about relevant political events, in data retrieved, and the development of analytical techniques so we can relate, through mathematical formulas, expectable results.

''The techniques are experimentally being developed now. In the next two decades, they will be applicable to world needs. Once you learn what the model is, you can influence the outcome by political action.''

Early predictions are already turning out startling pictures of the international scene ahead.

''We now predict,'' says Karl Deutsch, the eminent Harvard University scholar who directs Berlin's Wissenschaftszentrum, ''based on data from 1960 to 1975, that there will be a dramatic world militarization. There are 24 million soldiers in the world today. By the end of the century there will be 50 million soldiers, with most of the increase in the third world.''

''Today six nations admit to having nuclear weapons, and two (South Africa and Israel) probably do. By the end of the century we predict 12 to 15 countries will have nuclear weapons.''

Another Wissenschaftszentrum-Deutsch finding: despite growth in world trade and communication, countries will continue to to be self-preoccupied. National politics will remain a higher priority than international relations.

''Political careers are still going to be made inside countries, not in the international sector,'' Mr. Deutsch says. ''I see a growing cleavage -- between increasing interdependence among nations in information services, sciences, key commodities on the one hand, and decreasing interdependence among countries in regard to domestic politics.''

Dampening speculation about an emerging one-world order, Deutsch says: ''the weight of domestic forces is not being exchanged for the weight of international forces. The pressure of domestic matters has increased dramatically. . . . In 1890, government participation in national spending was 8 or 10 percent in Germany -- now it's over 40 percent. In the US, the public sector was 3 percent in 1900 -- now it's 35 percent. This means a statesman must know his own country first.''

Deutsch presides in Berlin over the development of the ''globus'' world politics model, a $1 million-a-year project run by a dozen computer experts. Data from the project will come out next spring.

''A lot of problems cannot be dealt with at the national state level [alone] -- energy, food, security, and capital,'' Deutsch says. ''We have to know the lead times for such problems. Generally it's 10-to-20 years, and sometimes 30.

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