Ideas for a better world in 2011

To start the new year off right, the Monitor asked various thinkers around the world for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We talked to poets and political figures, physicists and financiers. The results range from how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to ways to revamp Hollywood.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

Dennis Brack/Newscom
The seal in the lobby of the CIA in Langley, VA.

ROLF MOWATT-LARSSEN, former top CIA counterterrorism expert on weapons of mass destruction, now a lecturer at Harvard University

Idea: A CIA for the world

Weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, organized crime, people smuggling, cyberattacks, climate change. These conflicts girdle the globe and cannot be solved by one nation. They must be addressed collectively. What's needed, says Mr. Mowatt-Larssen, is a sort of global CIA or Russian FSB but without the clandestine shenanigans – something to analyze and understand what's happening at a deeper level. He calls for the formation of a "global intelligence institution, conceived and built to the specifications of today's and tomorrow's problems."

The idea isn't to usurp the CIA, but to build a modest-sized international organization that will share its findings on contemporary and common threats. He says, for instance, major "gaps" in understanding remain over the 18 known cases of the smuggling of nuclear materials. A new global agency could focus on the criminal or other networks involved. Such a unit, he suggests, might be located under the auspices of the United Nations or perhaps the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Rapid information sharing; far less secrecy; a devaluation of the role of espionage in favor of confidential sources who see themselves helping the world, not working against individual countries, is what we need," he says. "There has to be recognition that if you give this organization information, it will go to the US, but then you're also going to give it to Iran or the Libyans or whoever you don't like, too."

• Contributing to this report were staff writers Gregory M. Lamb, Mark Clayton, Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, and Christa Case Bryant in Boston; Robert Marquand in Paris; Scott Peterson in Istanbul, Turkey; Ben Arnoldy in New Delhi; Sara Miller Llana in Mexico City; and Gloria Goodale in Los Angeles; as well as film critic Peter Rainer in Los Angeles; and correspondents Harry Bruinius in New York; Jane Arraf in Baghdad; Todd Wilkinson in Boseman, Mont.; Brendan O'Neill in London; Stephen Humphries in Los Angeles; Jina Moore in San Francisco; and Nora Dunne in Boston.

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